Protein powder used to be a supplement used mainly by bodybuilders and athletes. Today, protein supplements have gone mainstream.
Worldwide protein powder sales were worth USD 18.91 billion in 2020 and are expected to grow at an 8.4 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2021 to 2028.
However, not all protein powder brands are created equal, in fact, they can be as different as night and day.
Many protein powders are loaded with sugar and may contain junk ingredients, binding agents, artificial sweeteners, flavourings, colourings, and synthetic nutrients to name a few.
What’s more, choosing between non-organic vs organic and certified organic can make shopping for a healthy protein powder somewhat confusing.
Use this checklist to determine whether you require such protein supplements and to learn how to use them effectively.
Deciding Whether to Use Protein Powder:
1. Increase muscle
Wanting to build bigger and stronger muscles is still the most common reason for using protein powder. Many studies suggest that these food supplements can be effective in maintaining muscle mass and growing muscle mass when combined with intense workouts. The amino acids present from the protein will be available in your bloodstream during your workout to help your body encourage ‘muscle protein synthesis’ (MPS). This is a signal telling the body to grow muscle and recover from exercise stress.
2. Pre and Post-Workout
Drinking a protein shake before exercise helps maintain muscle mass during training and reduces muscle damage.
Post-workout, a high bio-availability protein shake can be an ideal aid to help your body recover quickly. You’ll also be replenishing water levels in the body. Hydration is important for optimal muscle growth and recovery.
3. Energy and Vitality
Instead of eating carbs for breakfast, a great way to boost your energy levels is to start your day with a protein powder shake. Protein ingestion instructs the pancreas to release Glucagon into the bloodstream. Glucagon is a hormone that is involved in controlling blood sugar (glucose) levels. Glucagon also breaks down stored fat (triglycerides) into fatty acids for use as fuel by cells.
4. Lose weight
High protein diets have become popular for weight loss because they tend to suppress appetite and help you shed fat instead of muscle. It can be an effective strategy.
That said, many protein brands contain significant amounts of sugar. If you are not aware of how much sugar is in a serving, you could, in fact, end up gaining weight gain instead of losing it.
5. Recover from Injuries
For minor injuries, protein may help your body to repair itself faster. Make protein part of your recovery plan, along with adequate rest and following your doctor’s recommendations.
6. Age gracefully
It can be difficult for OAPs and seniors to get all the nutrients they need on a restricted diet and compensate for muscle loss and the loss of bone mineral density that accompanies growing older. Protein powder can help with both well-being goals.
7. Better Skin, Hair, and Nails
Protein is essential for generating healthy skin, hair, and nails. The amino acids from protein help maintain the elasticity and firmness of the skin. Having high amounts of protein on a regular basis prevents hair loss and promotes hair growth. Supplementing with protein powder is a convenient way to keep your hair, skin, and nails healthy.
8. Talk with Your Doctor
Share any concerns you have with your doctor. Protein supplements are not recommended for teens or anyone with kidney conditions. There’s no reason for those with diabetes to shy away from protein shakes. Choose your protein brand wisely. Read the label, and determine the sugar content. What you add to them may also affect your blood sugar.
Knowing How to Use Protein Powder:
1. Know your protein limits
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that the average individual should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram or 0.35 grams per pound of body weight per day for general health. So, a person who weighs 75 kg (165 pounds) should consume an average of 60 grams of protein per day.
Keep in mind that excessive protein can strain your kidneys and cause you to become dehydrated.
2. Dairy or Other
Whey and casein are the main ingredients in many protein shake brands. They’re both complete proteins suitable for adults who eat dairy products.
However, they also have drawbacks. Apart from causing gastrointestinal problems in lactose intolerant people, they are also known for causing bloating, gas, constipation, body odour, or bad breath in some people.
You might not want them in your diet if you are into longevity. The extraction process often leaves behind residue from chemicals and metals like hexane or aluminium, which have been linked to cancer. Commercial milk farming practices often sacrifice humane animal welfare to keep their stakeholders happy.
3. Stay vegan
If you’re a vegan or avoid animal products for any reason, you still have a number of convenient options. Look for brands with ingredients like soy, peas, or hemp.
That said, like whey, both soy and hemp may cause digestive disruption in some people. The soy used in protein supplements often comes from GMO crops. GMO have their myths, pros, and cons, but commercial farming of soy encourages deforestation and damages the natural habitat. While hemp is generally safe, it can cause side effects or adverse reactions in some people.
Not all pea protein is made from the same type of peas. They vary significantly and digest differently.
4. Add flavour
You may need to experiment until you find a brand you like, especially with soy products that can have an especially strong taste. Many powders may also seem more palatable when mixed with nut milk instead of water. Protein smoothies with fruits, berries, seeds and Greek yoghurt or nut milk are all the rage.
5. Read the label
Industry deception is rife within the protein supplements sector. Not all countries regulate protein supplements, but there are independent organizations with a long history of quality testing. To avoid contaminants and other risks, check that the label has seals from NSF International, UL, USP or the Organic Food Federation.
Certified Organic protein powder is considered to be a healthy choice because every ingredient is documented to ensure they are 100% clean.
6. Consume after workouts
There are different opinions about the most effective way to eat after a workout. Still, consuming anything high in protein along with some complex carbohydrates is a winning strategy.
7. Spread it Out
It’s important to space out your protein consumption, so your body can digest it safely and successfully. That usually means 30 grams or fewer for each meal or snack. Frequent, small servings of protein may also speed up your metabolism and help you lose weight faster.
8. Make your own
If the high price of protein powder is holding you back, you can achieve the same results much more cheaply at home. Visit your local library or browse online for recipes for making your own supplements. It can be as simple as adding almonds to nut milk.
However, protein powder added to nut milk or blended with fruits and seeds in a smoothie is a quick and convenient way to fill the gaps in your diet support muscle toning, and recovery, and help with your weight management goals.
9. Next-generation protein powder
Protein derived from many plant sources provides a wider range of amino acids, including all the essential ones. I recommend buying ‘certified organic’ Protein Max. Not only is it a very comprehensive nutrient-dense formula from 100% natural and certified sources, but contains a protein blend whereby the yellow pea protein is the driving force and another 20% comes from the protein found within spinach, kale and legumes.
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