Many of us are using protein powders each day, but are they doing us any good? And, do we really know what’s in them? Which one is the best?
These are questions that I have heard a lot. Unfortunately, there isn’t one right answer. Everyone has different needs, so what works for your friend may not work for you. Read on to learn a bit more about some of the options and which one, if any, is the right one for your needs.
The first question is whether we need any protein supplement at all. And let’s be clear, protein powders are NOT a food, they’re a supplement.
The currently accepted range for protein consumption is wide. Adequate consumption should be based on individual factors such as growth, activity level, and muscle maintenance requirements. Recent science is supporting a higher protein intake for adults of about 25-30g protein per meal.
Breakfast is often where we fall short with many people grabbing high carbohydrate foods such as toast and cereals. In addition, a vegan diet can result in inadequate protein consumption if foods choices aren’t made very carefully.
In my opinion, your protein sources should come in a nutrient-rich package from a variety of sources such as high-quality meats, eggs, legumes, nuts, and vegetables rather than protein powders. And, if you’re already eating sufficient protein in your diet, more is not necessary. In fact, excess protein is associated with an increased demand on the kidneys.
Want to grab some quick and easy recipes that will balance your macronutrient needs? Check out this plan here.The second question is what else is in my protein powder? Sugar, colours, flavours, and caffeine can all make their way into protein powders.
Avoid protein supplements with these “extras”, since sugar, caffeine and other additives are associated with negative health consequences. It’s as important to read the labels on your protein powders as it is when buying foods in the grocery store! Also, look for brands that regularly test their products for unwanted contaminants such as pesticides and heavy metals that won’t be listed on the label.
Common Protein Supplements
Creatine monohydrate is not actually a protein, but a compound formed in protein metabolism to provide energy. The monohydrate form is the most studied, and other forms have not shown increased benefits. It works to increase energy for short, high-intensity exercise allowing top athletes to train harder. Results are better if taken with a carbohydrate and protein snack and be sure to take with extra water to prevent dehydration.
Whey protein is a common protein supplement used as it is good for increasing muscle mass and immune function. It can benefit the body by helping to increase glutathione. The best option would be from a clean, grass-fed source. The downside is that whey can be difficult to digest for many people and dairy is a common food allergen.
Collagen is my personal favourite as it dissolves completely in any beverage, and it provides the amino acid profile to build collagen in the body. This will help to support your hair, skin, nails, and joints. I use the Great Lakes brand and purchase it here.
Soy protein products are mainly genetically modified, therefore pesticide exposure is an important issue to consider when choosing a soy protein. Also, soy can be difficult to digest making this a less favourable option.
Rice protein is incomplete as it is low in the amino acid lysine. Another undesirable characteristic is the gritty texture and strong taste that many people dislike.
Hemp powders are generally lower in protein versus the alternatives, although they do contain beneficial healthy fat and fiber. My opinion is to go with the straight hemp seeds over the processed product.