Lately I’ve been getting asked more questions about protein powder, so I thought I’d write a post about it. As someone who initially shunned the idea of protein powder (while watching my husband consume it nearly 3 times per day), I’ve come to realize that it can be beneficial for particular situations.
First and foremost, let’s talk about protein consumption. How much do we actually need? Well, the average person only needs about 0.4 to 0.6 grams of protein per pound of body weight. So for a 150-pound female, around 75 grams is a good target. Now, for athletes who are actively trying to build muscle, 0.6 to 0.9 grams is the recommendation. So if that same 150-pound female was lifting weights and wanting to build muscle, a better target is around 112 grams of protein.
In the big picture, Americans are actually generally consuming too much protein. Overconsumption of protein is hard on your kidneys and can lead to problems with calcium absorption, so don’t overdo it. But for those of us who focus on a mainly plant-based diet (this girl!), protein powder can be a favorable addition to the everyday diet.
There are two main reasons why I use protein powder:
1) Post-workout, for muscle repair. After working out (weights, or anything involving strength training), your body needs high-quality protein to help rebuild the cells and the muscle tissue. This is the most crucial time for consuming protein and amino acids, so your shake should be consumed no more than 60-minutes post workout. High-quality protein right after working out is what allows you to gain muscle, lose fat, keep your metabolism elevated, and recover faster.
2) To balance out my macros in a fruit smoothie in the AM. I also add protein to a fruit or green smoothie if I am having one in the morning or for breakfast. The “macros” breakdown (carb/protein/fat breakdown) of a fruit or green smoothie is very high in carbs, and extremely low in fat and protein, so it goes through your system pretty fast. Which is great for absorption of nutrients, but not so great if you are left feeling hungry after an hour! I’ll add a scoop of protein for the smoothie to be more “filling”.
A few recommendations when it comes to choosing your protein powder:
1) Think about what you’ll be mixing it in. If you plan on having it on it’s own, chocolate is always a good choice. But if you prefer to mix it into a smoothie, a more versatile flavor like vanilla is probably a better fit for you.
2) Choose one that aligns with your diet choices. Ten years ago there were really only 2 main choices when selecting a protein powder: whey and casein, which are both derived from milk. For anyone with a milk allergy, they were really left out! Nowadays you can select from protein powders derived from soy, eggs, potato, pea, and they even sell protein powders made from beef (um, weird)!
3) Select a high-quality protein powder. Keep in mind, protein powder is still considered a processed food. The protein is isolated, and other ingredients are added to shape the consistency and flavor of the product. Remember, if you are purchasing the cheapest powder you can find, then are you consuming cheap “fillers” and low-quality isolated protein. Treat your body like your temple and invest in a high-quality product. I use Nutrimeal Free.
I hope this answers most of your questions about protein powder. If there is something I didn’t cover, please feel free to ask a question in the comments below. Cheers!
[Image Via: EatSeed]