With so much buzz created around protein, almost every person starting a diet or going on a bulk puts protein on a pedestal. That is, protein comes before anything else and the more the better. The other nutrients are also important, but nothing comes close to protein, when it comes to fitness goals. In the pursuit of attaining that dream physique, it is almost inevitable for you to get introduced to the protein powders.
Protein powders come in many forms and sizes (literally). The most common and well-known is whey protein, which is derived from milk. About 20% of the protein in milk is whey and 80% is casein, which is the second most popular option. Another great alternative is egg protein, although it seems that most people prefer to eat eggs as opposed to consume it under powder form. If you cannot tolerate dairy products or you are vegan, then you might consider vegetable proteins, such as soy, hemp, pea protein. On the other hand, some people prefer the more unusual option – beef protein. Each protein type has its own features, so it really comes down to your personal preference and budget.
And here comes the question – “If protein powders are made of real food, then why don’t I just consume the real food?”. There are a number of benefits for consuming protein powders that align with your fitness goals, and they are as follows:
Convenience – This is probably the undisputed benefit that everyone will agree on. It is much easier to drink 200 ml of protein shake (containing 25g of protein) than sit and eat 200g of chicken. No fork, knife, spork, etc. needed. A shaker and some water are more than enough.
Speed of absorption – Needless to say, liquid food is much easier to digest than solid. Yes, it is not as filling, but powders are usually used for their speed of absorption, rather than for filling you up. This makes protein powders ideal after your workout when your body needs nutrients as quickly as possible to start rebuilding the lost tissue.
Satisfy Cravings – Let’s face it, protein food doesn’t always taste like candy (if ever). This is where protein powders come into play. Some brands have gone through extensive research and months and months into developing the particular flavour, so that it tastes like the real thing. Chocolate Truffle, Peanut Butter Marshmallow, and Red Velvet Cake to name a few, are simple examples of how far the supplement industry has gone from about a decade ago when all you could find was Chocolate and Vanilla flavours and they tasted quite far from the real thing. Sometimes taking a shake is not as much for the performance benefits, as it is to help you not indulge on some sweet treats.
Getting Enough Protein – Let’s get something clear. You need to get the majority of your protein through solid food. Protein powders are plan B, that is when you are out and cannot consume a solid meal or when something prevents you from hitting your protein target. In theory, you would be consuming whey after your training and slow-digesting casein before bed. That’s two servings of protein powder per day. You can add one more in the morning, but anything more than that and you are probably going into excess. For example, three servings a day will give you approximately 70-80g of protein, which might be anything from half of your daily protein needs to a third (for some protein fans it might a fourth of their daily intake!)
So, are protein powders worth it? Absolutely! They can be a very convenient way to satisfy your protein needs, as well as provide you with performance benefits. If you ever spend money on a supplement, make sure that protein powder is on the top of the list.