The health and fitness industry can be so controversial, it’s no wonder no-one knows these days what to believe and what to take with a pinch of salt.
One topic in particular is that surrounding protein intake, shakes and powders. Are they really necessary? Are they a must to lose weight and build muscle? Will taking protein make girls big and bulky?
There are so many nonsense myths out there that are so engrained in our beliefs that most people don’t question them. I am here to bust through the protein myth.M/p>
Myth #1: You need to eat ridiculously high levels of protein to get results.
I heard a girl say she eats 180g of protein a day, 30g of carbs and 30g of fat.. EXCUSE ME!? This is happening all too often, people prioritizing protein at the expense of other macronutrients. The average person actually needs an adequate balance of carbs and fats alongside protein in their diet.. and probably need no more than around 1.2-1.7g of protein per kilo of bodyweight to build and maintain muscle.
So for a 70kg person, that would be about 84g-120g of protein a day.
Myth #2: Protein will make you bulky
For many people, particularly women, there is this misconception that protein shakes will make you “bulk up” or gain weight. This is not true. Especially as females we have less testosterone than males, which makes it much more difficult to build muscle. However, for both genders, it still takes weeks – months even – of consistent training and good nutrition to build visible muscle.
Myth #3: Protein Shakes will make my muscles grow quicker.
Unfortunately, this also is not true, for the same reason aforementioned above. Muscle building takes time, consistent training and good nutrition. The biggest advantage of protein shakes, is the convenience, and also how cost effective they are. And they are super easy when you’re in a rush or on the go.
I like to add a scoop to my post workout porridge or to my mid-morning snack to increase the protein content and to help with active recovery. They also make a great addition to healthy desserts and baking to add a bit of sweetness.
Myth #4: You need to eat protein within 30 minutes of a workout.
I am forever seeing people literally slugging back their shakes the minute they finish their workouts. I’ve been subject to a filthy look or 2 at the water fountain before because someone needs to take their shake immedietly.
Not necessarily. Your body doesn’t miraculously stop absorbing protein after half an hour. Just try and get a balanced meal in within a few hours if you can. Instead of focusing solely on this “anabolic window”, ensure you’re getting in enough protein throughout the day as a whole.
The Different Proteins
Many people seem to worry that they’re “unnatural” or processed foods. As they are a powder, they are a byproduct of food so yes they are processed to some extent – but it doesn’t make them any less real.
Although it’s always best to take a ‘food first’ approach to getting protein in your diet from foods like lean meat, egg whites, fish and dairy and if you can meet your protein needs through real food, then it is not necessary to include supplementation in your diet.
However, protein powders can be supplemented in to help you meet your daily requirements if not.
Most protein powders on the market are made of whey, a protein derived from dairy. For those that don’t suffer from a food intolerance, then I would say that Whey protein is the gold standard when it comes to protein supplements. It has an excellent amino acid profile that will help to stimulate muscle growth and recovery, as well as being quickly and easily digested and absorbed by the body. Opt for a whey protein isolate for a good quality protein boost.
You can buy this type of protein in essentially every flavour you can dream of from the classic vanilla and chocolate, to the more weird and whacky flavours like birthday cake and custard cream
Like whey protein, casein is also a derivative of milk. The main difference is the speed at which the body digests them. Casein is a slow digesting milk protein, which provides a continuous release of amino acids over a longer period of time. Casein is best consumed at night time to provide a steady supply of amino acids while you sleep. Casein can also be quite creamy in texture. However, if you’re choosing between whey and casein for nutritional support, I would recommend whey due to it’s faster absorption rates for post-workout nutrition.
Pea protein is a 100% plant based protein. It is perfect for vegans, or those with allergies to dairy, but it has an incomplete amino acid profile which means it does not contain all essential amino acids. However you can enhance the nutritional profile of pea protein by mixing it with other proteins such as eggs, egg white protein, brown rice protein or hemp protein. One downside is that it doesn’t come in as many fantastic flavours as whey or casein, and on it’s own it doesn’t taste great. However you can easily improve the flavour with stevia flavoured drops or other sweeteners.
Brown rice protein
Brown rice protein is derived from the whole rice grain. As it is plant-based, it’s not a complete protein, but as we know that does not make it redundant as a protein supplement – similar to the pea protein simply combine it with other protein powders or protein sources.. Brown Rice Protein is the ideal protein choice for anyone looking to increase daily protein intake but avoid dairy and soy protein sources or for vegans and anyone looking to avoid specific allergens such as wheat, gluten, eggs, dairy and soy. This protein powder has a bit of a chalk-like texture so when I use it I tend to blend it up with some frozen banana or creamy coconut yogurt to improve the taste and feel!
Nutritionally, compared to the other plant-based proteins, hemp protein is probably the best in terms of amino-acid profile. It also contains omega-3 and omega-6 healthy fats and a ton of fibre. The downside of hemp protein is the taste – and it’s not that easy to hide! I find the taste of hemp is best disguised mixed with chocolate or cacao powder and it actually makes really delicious protein brownies.
Egg white protein
Egg white protein is a great non-dairy protein powder as it contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. As it is lactose free, it is a great alternative for those intolerant to dairy. Again, the taste isn’t amazing.
Vegan Blend protein
It is a mix of Pea Protein, Brown Rice protein and Quinoa flour.
This one is ideal for those suffering with being Lactose intolerance.
And ladies, take note: Protein supplements aimed at women tend to have added ingredients, such as green tea extract, that claim to be fat burners. In other words, protein supplements marketed to women are actually protein supplements that may (or indeed may not) aid weightloss, make sure not to fall into that trap.
The type of protein supplement that you choose will vary depending on the time of day that you take it, your lifestyle situation, your budget, and digestive tendencies. I always recommend buying online. Supermarkets, pharmacies and health food stores tend to sell protein supplements for very high prices compared to online.