I have been talking and reading a lot about protein and protein powders with people lately. My husband is trying to gain weight (not fair), a friend is trying to get more toned, another friend is trying to lose weight after having a baby. I do not eat meat, but I lift weights a lot. So, getting enough protein can be tricky and confusing.
The Purpose of Protein
Our body needs protein for many different reasons. For our muscles to repair and get stronger, we need to consume protein. Protein also contains amino acids that are essential to our bodies. When you work out, especially weight training, you are actually breaking down your muscles. They are repaired after you work out. In order for them to repair themselves and get stronger, you need to eat protein. If you want a more in-depth article on protein, check out this article from bodybuilding.com.
How Much Protein
How much protein a person needs is a somewhat controversial number. People who are sedentary do not need as much protein as those who are active. People, like my husband, who are trying to put on weight/muscle, need a lot of protein. Sedentary women need about 45 g/day and men need about 65g/day. I workout 5-6 days a week, doing running, weightlifting, HIIT, and yoga. I do not want to lose any muscle, and would also like to get stronger. So, I try to get about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight (I weight about 120 lbs, so I aim for 120 grams of protein a day.) This may seem like a lot, but if I don’t get around that, I can feel it. I am hungry at night and feel weak. Depending on how active you are, you may need more protein than you think.
Sources of Protein
I think the best sources of protein are from animal sources. Lean meats and fish are a great way to go- chicken, salmon, and lean red meats. Eggs are also a great source of protein. Eggs and fish are not only a great way to get protein, but they also have healthy fats that are essential for our bodies.
Since I don’t eat meat (it’s a texture thing, I really wish I liked it and am working on it), I have to get my protein from other places. I use protein powder once or twice a day. I also eat protein bars. Eggs, tofu, and tempeh are regulars in my diet. I don’t eat a lot of dairy, but I will add cottage cheese to my protein shakes sometimes to thicken it up-to make it more like a shake. Greek yogurt mixed with protein powder is a really yummy treat that packs a huge protein punch.
When it comes to protein powders, there are so many out there, it can be incredibly overwhelming. Not only are there different brands, but so many different kinds.
This type of protein is a basic type that is found in a lot of powders. It is a great place to start if you are new to the protein powder world. It is a good protein for pre or post workouts, but not the best option for before bed.
Whey Isolate is absorbed quicker than whey concentrate. It is also a great pre or post workout option. This is a good option for people who are trying to eat a low carb diet. They can be a bit more pricey than whey concentrate.
This is the most expensive type of protein on the market right now. The way it was described to me was that the protein is “chopped up into tiny pieces so it is absorbed very quickly.” It is best to drink this within 15-30 minutes post-workout to get the benefits of this type of protein.
Casein Protein is the slowest to break down. If you want a supplement to take before bed, this is your guy. It is also a good option during the day to help you stay full longer.
A great option for vegans, vegetarians, and those with food allergies. It also has a lot of BCAA’s to help your body recover from a workout. This protein can be used both pre and post workout. It also is easier to digest than most whey proteins.
There are many more types of protein, but these are the ones I have read about. I try a lot of different protein powders and there are a lot of good options. Right now I am using this one: V-Core Vantage Protein Powder. It has a combination of some of the above mentioned types of protein. It also contains BCAA’s which help your muscles repair. (I’ll do a post on BCAA’s soon). I like the Vanilla because I can make a lot of different types of protein shakes with it. My husband likes the chocolate and their best seller is the orange cream, which is also delicious!