Protein Powder has almost become a mandatory staple in every fitness plan. We’ve become conditioned that we need protein powder in our diet to be able to put on muscle, drop body fat, and live a healthier life. In fact, we have been led to believe that we need to have a protein shake as soon as we finish our workout to begin the recovery process immediately and get great results.
So, is Protein Powder the elite source of protein that we must be using? What is protein powder anyways? And is it essential for our success?
Let’s start with what Protein Powder is before going too far. The most common type of Protein Powder we’ll find is a Whey Protein. Whey is a protein found in dairy products but the powder is a byproduct of the cheese making process. Whey Protein Powders can be separated into whey isolate (more pure protein content) and whey concentrate (still contains fat & sugar) powders available from manufacturers.
There are multiple different types of protein powders however which include Casein (a slow digesting dairy-based powder), Pea Protein, Hemp Seeds, and Soy Based Products (among others).
So why is protein powder so good? Well simply put, it is almost straight protein for consumption. The diversity of protein is also quite appealing as we can mix it in a shake for quick consumption and we can add it into baking to help with macronutrient balances. Protein powder is also convenient, easily transportable, and relatively inexpensive per serving. Whey protein is also a complete protein, which means it contains a complete amino acid profile.
Sounds pretty good right? Protein Powder should be our go to protein, right?
Well, not exactly…
If we are simply getting our protein in from powdered forms, we are potentially missing out on important nutrients that we need for our health and wellness. Like many supplements and nutrients, getting protein through whole foods can be much more beneficial. When we consume whole foods, not only do we get protein content, but we also get fats, carbohydrates, and our micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) which helps with our overall health and well-being.
With meats we get nutrients like iron, with fish we get omega-oils, while beans & lentils will give us fibre and vitamins. They don’t just have better nutritional value, but they also taste better. Many people dislike the texture of protein, or the chalky taste which can put people off the product all together.
Contrary to popular belief, Protein Powder is not an elite version of protein that will magically help us gain muscle quicker, burn off body fat, and build our immune system faster than other proteins. Protein is protein, whether you get it from powders, or from whole foods.
While vegetable sources of protein are incomplete (lacking certain amino acids, the building blocks of protein) compared to animal or dairy based proteins, they can easily be pared with other foods to get a complete amino acid profile.
Realistically, this Edmonton Personal Trainer doesn’t believe we need Protein Powder in our diet. It is a nutritional supplement, which are intended to supplement our nutritional intake, not be a cornerstone of it. If we can get enough protein in our diet from whole sources, we should strive to do it, as there are so many more nutritional benefits to this approach.
However, if we are struggling with eating enough protein from whole foods, Protein Powder can be a highly beneficial way to increase our intake. For vegans and vegetarians especially, Protein Powder can be a really great way to balance out macronutrients as many of the foods being taken in that have protein in them will be primarily fat or carbohydrate based.
When it comes down to it, whole foods will always be the best way to go. So no, Protein Powder isn’t the be-all-end-all in the fitness realm, but it can be beneficial when we are lacking protein intake.
Some good sources of protein include:
Lean Proteins (Chicken, Turkey, Fish)
Lean Cuts of Beef & Ground Beef
Dairy (Greek Yogurt, Cottage Cheese and Milk)
Nuts & Seeds
Beans & Legumes
Tofu & Tempeh
Helping You Live Life To The Fullest,
Rich, RK Athletics