Protein powders are hugely popular, with new ones hitting the shelves all the time, but just because a product is popular doesn’t mean it’s necessary, or that they’re all created equal. How can you know, then, if you can benefit from a protein powder supplement and, if so, which one you should use? There are several factors you should consider.
Very few people are actually protein deficient, even vegans, as long as they’re planning their diets responsibly. However, there are a few groups who can benefit from using protein powder, including people who work out intensely or who are starting a new fitness program, people recovering from sports injuries, and teenagers who are going through major growth spurts. New vegans may also want to use a protein powder supplement as they work to adjust their diets.
While the above groups can benefit from increased protein intake, knowing how much protein you need is also an important factor when deciding whether or not to supplement with protein powder. Typically, dieticians recommend that people get about 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. However, if you’re trying to gain muscle, you’ll want to get substantially more – between 0.5 and 0.9 grams per pound of body weight. That level of protein intake can be hard to achieve without using a protein supplement, which is why they’re so popular with body builders.
Choosing A Product
If you’ve evaluated your diet and nutritional needs and determined that you could benefit from a protein powder supplement, then you have to choose the right one from a crowded marketplace – and that opens up a whole new set of questions. So, what kind should you choose?
The most popular form of protein powder on the market are whey protein isolates. Derived from milk, whey protein isolate is highly purified, which makes it easy for your body to use and ideal for athletes trying to build lean muscle or recover from workouts. Other whey protein powders have similar benefits, but are less easily used by the body.
Another kind of popular protein powder is pea protein. Pea protein is a nearly complete protein, which is why it has supplanted other products like soy for vegetarians and vegans. Many vegan protein powders also combine multiple different protein sources, such as hemp and rice protein, for the greatest benefit.
Skipping The Supplements
Protein powder is rarely necessary, but when your choice is between grabbing a smoothie on the run or finding ways to cram more whole food sources of protein into your diet, sometimes it’s a good tool to have at your disposal. After all, you can mix up a protein shake on your way from the gym to work, but you can’t fry eggs on the freeway. So, while you should up your protein with nutrient rich sources like almonds, yogurt, lean meat, and grains like quinoa and oats, adding a little protein powder can tip the scales in your workout or help bridge the gaps in your diet on a busy day. That’s a good enough reason as any to always keep some in your cabinet.