The Scoop On Protein Powders
A protein supplement is comprised primarily of protein only and is the best suited for use in smoothie recipes or in a shaker cup as an on-the-go option that does not require blending. Since most smoothie recipes have other ingredients as the source of fat and carbohydrates such as avocado or nut butters and fruit respectively, using a protein powder avoids adding more fat or carbs to the recipe. They can also be used to increase the protein content of recipes of pancakes, muffins or yogurt and fruit bowls, etc. You can choose whey, casein, egg or beef protein as animal-based options. Pea, hemp, rice, soy or pumpkin are common plant-based selections.
You should consider the following points when purchasing a protein powder:
- It should be free of artificial sweeteners including sucralose, aspartame and acesulfame potassium.
- Look at the amount of protein per scoop. If it offers 20 grams of protein per 30-gram scoop, that is a much better option than one that provides 33 grams of protein per 65 gram scoop. There are other ingredients in there that you may not need.
- If you eat soy, rice, or egg foods in your diet, I recommend selecting an alternate protein source as your protein supplement so you can vary your intake of proteins and reduce the risk of food sensitivities.
- Avoid those with gluten or added fibre if you have digestive issues or bloating.
- Use a whey isolate if you are lactose intolerant rather than a whey concentrate.
- When opting for plant-based proteins such as pea, rice, or soy, use a blend of pea and soy, or rice and pea, to obtain a complete source of protein that will be similar to whey.
- For increasing muscle mass casein, soy and whey have been shown in studies to offer the most favourable results. Contrary to popular belief, soy has not been found to increase the risk of breast cancer.
- If you’re sensitive to, or intolerant of, certain dairy products, you may find that you can tolerate whey but not casein, or vice versa. Do a test. Try each of them on a different day and pay attention to how you feel after consuming the drink and the next day as well, on rising in the morning. These are the two times food sensitivity reactions are most noticeable.
- Avoid those with added BCAAs if you are not looking to build muscle. They may increase weight gain and some studies show a link between increased intake of these and metabolic syndrome.
- Select a protein powder that is low carb (less than five grams of carbs or sugar per serving and consider the best form to meet your goals:
- Concentrates: Protein is extracted from animal or plant-based foods by using high heat and acid or enzymes. This is the least processed form of protein and they typically contain 35 – 80 percent protein, with the rest being made up by carbohydrates and fats. If you are looking for fat loss, this is not the best type for you.
- Isolates: Protein isolates go through an additional filtration process that reduces the amount of fat and carbohydrates, leaving 90 percent or more protein by weight. Much of the lactose is removed from whey using this method of production. It is faster-digesting and helpful when fat loss is your goal.
- Protein hydrolysates: Using this method of manufacturing, the protein undergoes extra processing with heat, enzymes, or acid, to further break apart the protein chains into shorter peptides and makes it more easily digested and absorbed. With such rapid absorption, these are often the best post workout for muscle repair. One issue with this type is the cost.
- Casein is the best slow-release protein for the support of muscle hypertrophy but avoid this if you are sensitive to dairy. You can also look for a combination of casein and whey protein to enjoy the benefits of both proteins.
- Some protein powders include added supplements, such as creatine, extra BCAAs, omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, digestive enzymes, and probiotics. How well these products work when formulated along with the protein powder is not known and typically the amount in the powder is not adequate for clinical effect. For instance, consider creatine. If it is present in less than five grams in the protein powder, you need to opt for a creatine supplement instead to reach the level used in studies that benefits energy and performance.
- Grass-fed products may still be treated with growth hormone and antibiotics, so looking for a certified organic protein powder could be a better option if you would like to avoid exposure to these compounds.
- You do not have to consume a protein powder or protein shakes if you do not want to. If you are, however, struggling to meet your protein goals — whether because of convenience or appetite — then a protein powder (or two) may be just what you need. I suggest trying different ones until you find your winner, which is likely the one you prefer the taste of best and does not cause any adverse reactions such as bloating, fatigue, or inflammatory reactions such as headaches or joint pain. You could alternate your selections as well.
Is a meal replacement the same as protein powder?
The simple answer is no. A meal replacement contains protein, but also contains additional ingredients to make it a complete meal. Contrary to protein powders that are fat free and usually contain less than five grams of carbs, a meal replacement provides a whole feast in a glass – including protein, a higher carb count, fats, fibre and possibly a multivitamin. In addition, your best choices should meet this nutrition profile per serving consumed mixed in water or low-carb milks (almond, coconut, or cashew) so as to avoid additional carbs or fats:
o Protein: 12 – 16 grams (which could be pea, rice, soy, or whey – based)
o Carbs: 15 grams or less
o Fibre: 6 – 8 grams or more
o Fat: 6 grams or less
o Multivitamin – useful if you are not taking one already. I do not recommend a meal replacement containing a multivitamin during pregnancy. In this case, your prenatal multivitamin is enough.
To improve the effectiveness of your meal replacement options, be sure to add an additional scoop of protein or 15 grams of a collagen supplement that contains vitamin C to meet your protein needs. Do this unless, of course, you are consuming a food source of protein on the side or plan to top up your protein intake with a scoop of protein powder at bedtime.
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