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We all need protein. Regardless of body types and lifestyles, we all need to consume this macronutrient every day in order to function at our best. However, we sometimes struggle to get in ample protein in one day. That’s where protein powders can help. With an increase in availability and popularity, protein powders became an effective way to boost the consumption of protein. Let’s face it – it’s easier to blend up a protein smoothie than it is to grill chicken!
There are many options when it comes to protein powders. To help you make the best decision for your lifestyle, let’s walk through the various types of protein powders available to us.
Whey protein powder is considered the gold standard of all the protein powders. Whey is a complete protein, which means it contains all nine essential amino acids. Our bodies absorb and assimilate whey protein more efficiently than it does any other protein powder. Most whey protein powders contain approximately 20 grams of protein per scoop. Adding one scoop to your morning smoothie can power your metabolism and your energy to start your day! Adding one scoop to a glass of unsweetened almond milk after a strenuous workout can also assist in muscle repair and replenishment.
Soy is a great alternative for vegetarians or those who are sensitive to whey. It’s also a complete protein. In fact, it’s the only plant protein that’s complete. Soy contains beneficial isoflavones, which help control inflammation and free radical damage. Soy also improves bone health. Soy protein powder tends to have a grittier consistency and a stronger flavor than whey, so it’s best used in smoothies to mask the strong flavor. Before using soy protein, be sure to consult a dietitian if you’re at risk for breast cancer, have had breast cancer, or are taking thyroid medication.
Pea protein has been shown to promote satiety, making you eat less. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that individuals who consumed 20 grams of pea protein thirty minutes before a meal ate less food than those who had the same amount of whey protein. Whey protein absorbs quickly, which is a fabulous tool for recovery, but pea protein absorbs more slowly to help keep you full for a longer period of time.
This protein powder comes from the seeds of the hemp plant. It has approximately 9 grams of protein and is loaded with fiber. Again, it’s not a complete protein so you’ll have to eat other sources of protein throughout your day to fill in the gaps. Still, hemp protein powder is high in omega 6 fatty acids that provide health benefits such as reducing inflammation, promoting brain function and lowering risk for heart disease.
Brown rice is a whole grain. Inside this whole-grain nutrient powerhouse is protein that’s processed into this powder. It also happens to be rich in fiber, iron and B vitamins. If you’re lactose intolerant or allergic to soy, this is a good choice. Rice protein is very easy to digest, which makes it a great option for anyone with gastrointestinal distress. It has half the amount of protein (10 grams) compared to whey, but using it throughout the day is a good way to include more protein in your diet.
There are some things to consider when looking at protein powder brands. Because protein powder is a highly popular dietary supplement right now, manufacturers take advantage of this by creating some subpar products. Here are some tips on how to read labels and important ingredients to be aware of.
Once you pick your sources of protein, decide how to work them into your diet. The mistake some individuals make when adding more protein to their diets is consuming too much later in the day and not enough early in the day. Protein assists with muscle fiber repair. Since we use our muscles the most during the day, it only makes sense to consume protein regularly throughout the day rather than just in the evening when we use our muscles less. By consistently consuming smaller amounts of protein throughout the day, we can fuel our bodies more efficiently, provide ourselves with constant energy and keep us feeling fuller and satiated for longer.
Whether you’re a body builder or a 9-to-5 working mom of two, you can benefit from the convenience and health benefits of protein powders. There are many options available that are suitable for a variety of diets and lifestyles. Be sure to consult with a dietitian to pick the one that’s best for you and build a plan that incorporates both protein powders and food sources of protein into your healthy and balanced diet.
Jenn Giles, R.D., C.S.S.D. is all about health and wellness. She has over 15 years’ experience, including a dual master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. She is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She supplements all of this with her spin instructor certification and USATriathlon Level I Coach Certification.
Jennifer is passionate about (actually, obsessed with) the sport of triathlon. She has been personally participating in triathlons since 2000 and running road races since 1992. She is a two-time Ironman finisher and has completed countless numerous marathons. She has been a member of Power Bar Team Elite since 2006 and competed as a member of the 2006 Aquaphor/Active.com Sponsored Athlete Team. She was ranked as USAT All American Honorable mention in 2006 and 2011. Jennifer does all of this along side of her husband, Patrick, who is an equally accomplished triathlete and runner. They try as hard as they can to do all of their training and racing together.
She will tell you, however, that her most important, most rewarding and most challenging job is as a mother of four. She knows first hand the challenges of maintaining optimal fitness, overall good health and achieving goals while raising a family - of which good nutrition is the cornerstone.
Most importantly, she knows how to motivate, inspire and challenge athletes based on their own abilities, strengths and everyday lifestyles. She believes there is an athlete in everyone - no matter what their abilities are – and if those abilities are manifold, then there is an even better athlete in there!