I get asked this question so often……what protein do I need?
Whilst I personally don’t use powders to meet my protein needs, I know a lot of you do and probably need to. I know it can be super confusing when looking at what type and for what.
Why do you need protein?
Well to begin with, it isn’t about growing giant muscles. We need it everyday to keep our metabolism running, our energy levels up and our blood sugar levels stable. Protein is used in every single cell in our body and supports neurological function, aids digestion and balances hormones. It supports building muscle mass but more importantly, stops catabolising it (stops the breakdown of muscle for energy). Protein also helps prevent weight gain, since they make us feel full and require energy to digest it. Protein is used everyday in our bodies from growing new hair, skin and immune system antibodies. They are constantly broken down and need replacing.
I am going to talk about the most common protein powders and what the main differences between them are. If you do choose to supplement your diet with a protein powder, always remember to read the ingredient label carefully as many of them can be filled with artificial ingredients and other additives (not ideal!).
Serving sizes of protein will differ from one individual to another. A common misconception is that consuming protein will cause you to ‘bulk up’ or look ‘manly’. While this is fine for all the guys, not so much for us girls. Just keep in mind that protein is an essential nutrient that our body needs. Protein can help your muscles to recover after a workout but I want you to know it is not imperative that you consume it in powder form post workout. Post workout snacks that contain natural forms of protein, such as lean chicken breast, Greek yoghurt and nuts do the job just nicely when you know how much to have.
So what are the most common types of protein powders?
Whey is one of the most popular protein powders on the market today. It is the liquid by-product of cheese production, but can also be separated from milk. Whey protein is a complete protein and contains all nine essential amino acids. These are the amino acids that our body cannot produce on its own.
Whey is quickly absorbed by the body and is relatively cheap in comparison to other types of protein powders. There are different types of whey protein available, so when you are looking for one to buy, it is a good idea to know what each of them are.
Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC)
This is generally the cheapest type of whey protein because it has the lowest amount of protein per 100 grams when compared to the other two. In saying that, it still has quite a high percentage of protein, which can vary from about 60-90%. The rest is typically made up of fat, carbohydrates (lactose) and other peptides.
Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)
This whey protein has a protein content of about 90-95%, with minimal lactose and fat. It is one of the most popular forms of protein and it is my preferred choice of protein if I were to use it.
Whey Protein Hydrolysate (WPH)
This type of whey is the one with the highest amount of protein per 100 grams at 99%. This type of protein is usually the most expensive and can have a stronger flavour, which may make it harder to mask with other ingredients.
Soy protein is made from soybeans and is one of the few plant-based protein powders that contain all nine essential amino acids. It is generally made after the soybeans have been hulled, dried, and then turned into soy flour.
It can help to supplement your body especially in conjunction with a regular exercise regime because it is filled with high amounts of beneficial amino acids. However, soy protein use is also associated with some controversy as it is often genetically modified to produce more crops. Others believe that large scale use of soy products may have negative effects on health if used long-term, but research in this area is still inconclusive.
This is a popular protein choice for both vegetarians and vegans, which is made out of yellow split peas. This type of protein generally doesn’t have many additives or artificial ingredients, so it’s one of the few proteins that is as close to the whole food source as possible. It is also free from soy, gluten and lactose, so it may suit those who have food allergies.
Your body can absorb pea protein quite easily and it has a high amount of protein content for a plant based protein, making it a great choice for those wanting to stay away from animal products.
Rice protein comes from rice, commonly brown rice. While it does contain protein, the fact that rice is a grain means that it has a higher carbohydrate content in comparison to other protein powders. However, it is certainly another suitable choice for vegetarians or vegans.
Unlike whey and soy, both pea and rice proteins do not contain all nine essential amino acids. So if you are planning on using either of these as protein supplements, you may need to incorporate other foods to make sure that you are meeting your body’s protein needs. This also highlights why protein powders should not be used to completely replace protein foods, but only to compliment a healthy diet.
These are just a few examples of protein powders and ultimately it is an individual preference as to which one you go for. If you haven’t used protein before it may be a bit of trial and error until you find one that suits your tastes, needs and how you plan to incorporate it into your diet. They certainly can be useful as sometimes it is difficult to meet your protein needs, especially as an athlete.
I can help you work out your specific protein needs per gram.
It definitely makes a difference in your recovery from training, but also your ability to keep training stronger and faster.