I always get asked why I use protein powders and "what if I don't workout at the gym? Are they "safe" to take for anyone"? Today, I'm covering all your FAQs about protein powders, why it might be something for you to consider using, and what source of protein is best for your body.
WHAT'S SO IMPORTANT ABOUT PROTEIN?
The biggest deficiency that I see in my practice is people not consuming enough protein. Because meat is sometimes deemed "bad" for our health, many people try to avoid it on a daily basis or even permanently. The good news is, we CAN survive without animal meats(and get protein from plant sources instead), but regardless, many people just are not consuming enough protein throughout their day. Often, I find myself having conversations with clients about their health, and I hear them using the words "meat" and "protein" interchangeably. But they're NOT the same! Protein is something we need to consume every single day, preferably throughout the day, but animal meats are not.
I get it though...we often see athletes eating large amounts of protein and drinking protein shakes to enhance muscle development, so it may make us think "if I'm not an athlete, then I don't need to eat like that". The other false notion is often that eating protein(especially animal sourced proteins) are going to make us gain weight if we don't work out. Actually, it's the opposite, and the right amount of protein can contribute to weight management for your body. The truth is, protein IS needed for muscle development, but if you're a human being, whether you work out or you don't, you still need protein for that purpose. Additionally, protein helps to stabilize our energy levels(so we're not feeling super energized one moment, and then experience a crash shortly after), helps keep our mood balanced(so we don't feel "hangry") and helps us to maintain hormone balance through blood sugar management. *check out the post "Good Mood Foods" on this blog for a breakdown of how protein helps with all of these.
WHY PROTEIN POWDERS?
Just like the name tells us, it's in powder form(duh!), making it easy to add to your diet to make sure you're getting enough throughout the day. Usually, protein powders come with a scooper on the inside, and the nutritional facts will tell you how much protein you're getting per scoop(usually about 20g). That number may sound big, but for an average person, who's moderately active and not an athlete, we want to aim for about 20g of protein per meal, throughout the day(3 meals a day x approx. 20g protein = approx. 60g per day). If you're comparing that to a portion of chicken, it would be a size about the palm of your hand.
WHAT CAN YOU ADD PROTEIN POWDER TO?
For me, the quickest and yummiest way I use my protein powders is in a smoothie. And I'm not just talking about a scoop of protein powder in water or milk! I mean, really making your smoothies into a complete meal that is going to sustain you for several hours afterwards! Often, I buy a protein powder that is vanilla flavoured or no flavour, so that I can add as many other delicious ingredients as I want to it. So I add one scoop of protein powder to almond milk, coconut milk or even just water, throw in a handful of spinach(I promise, it won't taste like spinach when you're done!), 1-2 tablespoons of hemp hearts(also good source of protein and healthy fats), 1/4-1/2 an avocado(you also won't taste this!), 1/4 cup of frozen berries(optional), and a little bit of honey if I'm feeling like extra sweetness. I blend that all for 30 seconds, and then voila! I have my quick and easy breakfast, and I know that it contains at least 20g of protein, plus I added all the other important nutrients in there too(fibre, anti-oxidants, fat, etc).
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE WORDS "VEGAN" AND "PLANT BASED" WHEN IT COMES TO PROTEIN POWDERS? AND WHAT IS WHEY PROTEIN MADE OF?
In the world of protein powders, the words "vegan" and "plant-based" are often one in the same. It just means that the protein doesn't come from an animal source or dairy source, but rather from a plant source. Where as whey protein is derived from cow's milk, so it does contain dairy.
WHICH ONE SHOULD I USE THEN? PLANT-BASED OR WHEY PROTEIN?
Because whey protein comes from a dairy source, many people who are sensitive to dairy(gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, etc) choose vegan or plant-based options so it's more suitable for their digestion. If you are okay with dairy, and you're choosing a whey protein, try looking for one that comes from grass-fed cows, no antibiotics, and no artificial sugars added. You can find these types of protein powders at your local health food store typically.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY DIGESTIVE SYSTEM LIKES DAIRY?
Everyone's different, but our bodies are always giving us signals. If you've been having dairy products/whey proteins for a long time, an easy way to test it out is to take a bit of a break from dairy for a few days. Then introduce it back in and see how you feel. Pay attention to digestive symptoms(diarrhea, gas, bloating), headaches, skin issues(rashes, eczema flare ups, acne breakouts, etc). If you experience any of these after re-introducing, then dairy might not be your thing.