Protein Supplementation: Is It Right for You? The Brief Basics: Part I

If you are an active person and are following a nutritious diet plan, you may wonder if protein supplementation is right for you.  In most cases, protein supplementation may help you reach your health and fitness goals. However, when contemplating the decision to incorporate any new diet modification, you should schedule a consultation with your physician.

Questions to Ask Yourself:

Once cleared by your physician, and before purchasing a protein powder there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. The questions that should cross your mind are: What are my health and fitness goals? Why do athletes/fitness enthusiasts prefer to supplement with protein? Is it right for me? Will supplementing with protein help me reach these goals? What types of protein should I be consuming? 

Answering these questions, will not only help you figure out what you would like to achieve but it may steer you into the direction of how to achieve these goals.

This article will focus on different types of protein powders and how incorporating one or more types of these powders into your diet may fit into your lifestyle.

Convenience

A major benefit of protein powders are that they can be incorporated into many recipes, though they are mainly used to make shakes. Shakes are very convenient and cost-effective.

Athletes who usually consume protein after a workout do so to make sure they replace nutrients lost during their workout. Research has proven that carbohydrate and protein supplementation before and after a workout enhances the anabolic hormone state compare with a non supplemented state. This means that the body can concentrate on building muscle and not repairing the muscle. (Clark, 427). Shakes are a quick and easy way to get the essential nutrients quickly to the muscles.  This shake will offer satiety until they can eat their next meal.

Protein Categories:

There are two major categories of proteins: animal source proteins and vegetable source proteins.

Animal source proteins include: milk protein derivatives such as whey and casein, goat’s milk and egg albumin.

Vegetable source proteins include: Soy, rice, pea and hemp.

Now let’s break each type of protein down to help you understand their benefits and/or limitations.

Protein Types:

Whey Protein

Whey protein is derived from milk and is the most popular type of protein powder because of taste, quality, cost, and it’s effect on the immune system. It has two varieties. Concentrate and Isolate.

Concentrate (more affordable per gram) has a low lactose level and usually is well tolerated with people suffering from lactose sensitivity. Concentrate powders absorb into the body at a moderate pace, best for in-between meals or meal replacement.

Isolate is lower in fat and lactose free and has a thinner consistency. Isolates absorb quickly into the body and are usually best post-workout to deliver nutrients quicker to “hungry” muscle cells.

You will also find many quality protein powders that will have a blend of both types of proteins.

Casein

Casein is another milk-derived protein. Milk protein is 80% casein. Casein protein is absorbed slowly into the digestive system and is used mainly as athletes last meal before bedtime. However, people do consume this protein during the day because of the satiety it provides and its constant delivery of protein over a 5-7 hour period.

Casein is a fantastic protein to bake with because of the consistency it takes on when cooked/heated. There are many recipes that use casein protein as baking alternative.

Vegetable Proteins

These proteins are suitable for anyone but especially vegetarians and/or vegans.

Soy Protein is the most popular vegetable protein powder. This type of protein provides the 8 essential amino acids. Hemp protein is the only other vegetable based protein that provides the 8 essential amino acids.

Soy protein also provides antioxidants and heart health benefits. Usually the taste is quite different when consuming soy protein, so you want to make sure you find a flavor you enjoy!

Sweeteners/Flavorings

Another important reason when choosing the right protein powder, I believe, for the consumer is the addition of sweeteners and flavorings. Protein powders usually fall under 3 categories when flavoring their products. The powders either contain: artificial flavors, sweeteners and/or colorings, a combination of artificial and natural flavors, sweeteners and colorings, or only natural flavors, sweeteners and colorings. So make sure you read the ingredients on the label if this is an important factor for you.

Conclusion

This article explained the different types of protein powders (very briefly) used for supplementation into one’s diet. In the next article, I will break down protein’s role in the body a little more in-depth along with how much (based on your type of activity/activity level) you should be consuming.

References:

Clark, M.A., Lucett, S.C., Corn, R.J. NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2008, 426-428.

Harvard School of Public Health Website http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/protein/

Medline Plus: National Institute of Health Website http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002467.htm

Taylor, M.G., Choosing a Protein Powder.www.nutritionexpress.com/article+index/authors/mark+g+taylor+ms/showarticle.aspx

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One thought on “Protein Supplementation: Is It Right for You? The Brief Basics: Part I

  1. […] Supplementation has its benefits and drawbacks. Benefits include: cost effectiveness and convenience while one of its drawbacks include overconsumption. Check out a more in-depth explanation of protein supplementation in my earlier post: Protein Supplementation: Is it Right for You: The Brief Basics. […]

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