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Of all the questions I’m asked as a registered dietitian nutritionist, questions surrounding protein are near the top of the list. Considering that protein plays such a large role in our internal bodily processes and provides the building blocks for muscle, skin, hair, bones, and organs, it’s understandable why there’s such a health halo surrounding it. According to the 2018 Food & Health Survey from the International Food Information Council Foundation, protein is perceived as the most beneficial food or nutrient concerning health issues – even more so than vegetables!
Even though meeting our daily needs is relatively easy for most, our nation seems to have an overwhelming interest surrounding how to power up with more. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 g/kg of body weight per day for sedentary individuals, which is designed to maintain nitrogen balance in the body for the average adult; a negative nitrogen balance would mean that the muscle is being broken down. However, it’s important to keep in mind that “adequate” does not equal “optimal.” Protein needs increase alongside increased physical activity – and new studies estimate that we may need more protein than we originally thought to help preserve lean muscle mass and support healthy aging.
Studies have also shown that distributing protein intake out throughout the day is key for muscle building. Important times throughout the day to pump up the protein include (1) post-exercise, when muscles are most sensitive to nutrient intake, and (2) breakfast, primarily because typical American breakfast foods just don’t contain a lot of it – think: pastries, toast, cereal, and fruit. As a general rule of thumb, include a high-quality protein source in each meal or snack.
While I consider myself to be a “food first” advocate –meaning I usually recommend people opt for whole food protein sources such as Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, almonds, salmon, soy milk, edamame, flax seeds, lentils, or peanut butter first – I also recognize that protein powders can be a great option for helping to meet nutrient needs.
With so many options available (whey, egg white, soy, brown rice, pea), it can be hard to know which protein powder to choose. Here are the basics on what to look for when shopping for a protein powder.
Below are three protein-powerhouse smoothies that highlight a combination of whole food proteins alongside our Organic Pea Protein Blend!
McKenzie is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, nutrition writer and communicator, who truly loves meeting and connecting with people. Grounded in science with an integrative and holistic approach, she aims to make the world a healthier, happier place by helping people feel their best from the inside out and encouraging others to restore a judgment-free relationship with food. McKenzie has been a contributing editor for the award-winning publicationEnvironmental Nutrition and her numerous articles, nutrition tips, and recipes can be found in publications such as The Chicago Tribune, Today’s Dietitian, Food and Nutrition Magazine, and more.
McKenzie graduated magna cum laude from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo with a degree in Nutrition and completed her dietetic internship at Bastyr University in Seattle. She is a member of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a member of the dietetic practice group, Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine. When she’s not dishing out nutrition tidbits, you can find McKenzie cooking in her sunny kitchen, hiking along with her favorite Southern California trails, or packing her bags and heading out for her next adventure.