Shakes, supplements, sports drinks go hand in hand with any sports and workouts. Protein is probably the most well-known supplement there is. It seems like everyone is taking it in some form or another.
Since eating tons of meat and other protein-rich foods is often not really an option, supplements and especially protein powder come in handy.
You definitely have heard about it, maybe even used it, but do you know what exactly it is, what it does and how to get the maximum of this popular supplement that’s just as common among athletes as coffee is among office workers.
What It Is and Why You Need It
Protein powders are usually made of either soy, whey or casein. Since whey is water-soluble, it’s often the preferred choice. Soy is better suited for vegan people; however, it doesn’t taste very well.
These powders are an excellent source for quality protein, which gives your body all the benefits that lean protein, like chicken, fish, meat or dairy products give. In fact, it is even better as you don’t have to consume it nearly as much. Instead of cooking 5-6 carefully planned meals per day, you simply need to have a glass of your protein shake to fuel your workouts.
A healthy adult, no matter if he is an amateur or a professional athlete, can get most of his protein from food, but there are also cases where protein shakes are irreplaceable. For example, teenagers or those who are just starting out with their exercise program need more protein to build muscle and fuel their workout sessions.
When you are working out more than usual, to prepare for an important competition, a triathlon, marathon or some other event, your body also needs more protein. Since protein helps muscles to heal faster, it is also recommended to use protein powder after injuries.
Last but not least, if you are an athlete who is also vegan, a protein supplement is your only chance to get enough protein to be able to compete against other, non-vegan athletes.
How Much To Take?
Beginners often tend to think that the more protein they consume, the faster their muscle will grow and performance will improve. But it isn’t quite like that in real life. It only takes about 10-15 extra grams of protein to start building muscle.
Many powders contain way more than that, some even up to 100 mg of protein in a serving. You don’t really need all that, besides, it is bad for your liver and kidneys.
Here is a simple guide to follow about how much protein you need:
- Teenage athletes – 0.9-0.10 g per lb
- Recreational athletes – 0.5-0.75 g per lb
- Competitive athletes – 0.8-0.9 g per lb
- Bodybuilders – 0.7-0.9 g per lb
Most nutrition experts agree that adults (or teenagers) should not take more than 0.9 g of protein per one pound of their body weight. Still, there are also some professionals who say that effective dosage starts at around 1-1.5 g to even as much as 2 g if you really want to gain muscle mass.
Now, do your math and find out how much protein do you need per day, in total. Then take a look at your menu and see if it covers all that. If not, head out to the sports nutrition shelf in the local grocery store or pharmacy.
How and When To Take Protein Powder
Now that you know how much protein supplement to add to your diet, how to get the most benefits out of it? When to take it and how to do it?
Most people would tell you to have a protein shake after a workout, and that’s that. However, they are not quite right. Instead of protein, your body needs carbs to keep it going. For every 20 grams of protein you take, you also need 80 grams of carbs.
The best way to consume your protein supplement is to include protein snacks, drinks and shakes in your diet throughout the day. They make great meal replacements, especially if you only use them to replace 1-2 meals per day.
Which Brand to Choose?
There are so many different brands of protein powder on the market. Some are quite cheap; others seem to cost a fortune.
Good news is that instead of looking at the price tag and thinking that the more expensive a product is, the better its results. You should know that as long as they contain the same amount of protein, the two products are equally effective.
As long as you pick a reputable brand that has been on the market for a while, you should be just fine.
Protein is important. It fuels your workout sessions and helps your muscles to develop. The fastest way to consume enough protein is to do it by using protein supplements.
But if you are not a youngster, recovering from an injury, or preparing for the Boston Marathon, you should be able to get all your needed protein from food as well.