There was once a time when protein shakes were relegated to the weights section of the local body building gym. However today, after a boom in the supplement industry across the past 10-15 years, protein supplements are common fare and are generally considered a staple in most active people’s pantry.
Despite their popularity, many are still confused about the type of protein supplements available, how to use them and which one is right for them. Today we are going to dive in to the supplement pool and find out what you need to know.
Protein is essential in our diet, so how can we get enough?
It can be consumed by eating many foods, without the need for a supplement. Protein is rich in animal products such as meats, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs. However, we can also ingest protein from plant sources. Whether you follow a vegan/vegetarian diet or not, plants which contain higher levels of protein include soy, peas, quinoa, legumes, nuts and hemp.
Protein is not only essential for maintain structure in our body (muscle, skin, hair and nails)…
Protein is also necessary to consume adequate amounts to assist with weight maintenance, feeling full and for building muscle. As a rule of thumb, sedentary people should be aiming for about 0.8g of dietary protein per kilo of body weight. This number goes up for people who might be trying to lose weight or who are more active with between 1.5-2g per kilo of body weight being a good general target.
In modern times where life is go go go, consistently eating a variety of wholefoods is sometimes impossible as we navigate between work, life, family and friends. In the cases when people may be too busy to stay 100% vigilant with their diet, may follow a plant-based diet and struggle to meet their protein needs or are super active and have higher protein requirements, when supplementation is a very viable option.
This could be the busy mum who only has one hand to feed herself with while holding a bub so makes a breakfast smoothie, the stressed-out executive who is eating on the run and needs to bump up protein intake to stay full or the active gym-goer who is looking to maximise muscle building and can’t be bothered to eat a whole meal.
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So, let’s talk protein supplements….
When it comes to protein supplement choice there are a few things to keep in mind, but generally it will come down to personal preference.
Let’s start by looking at what even are protein supplements?
Protein supplements are produced by isolating the protein component from wholefoods and processing them into a powder from that can be easily consumed when added to water or other fluids, or added to cooking to boost protein content.
For example, the whey protein contained in milk is one of the most popular and well-researched protein supplement bases. To extract the protein, the liquid component that occurs during cheese manufacturing is kept as it is high in protein. The whey containing fluid is dehydrated leaving the whey protein solids. This is then further processed, removing most of the sugar and fat components (because milk contains a mix of fats, proteins and sugars). What is left is a food derived protein product that can be left as it is, or in the case of the commercial protein supplements we see in shops, flavoured and sweetened to enhance the taste.
The next question is, what are the differences between protein sources?
As described earlier we can roughly break up protein sources into animal and plant-based proteins. The next piece of information needed to assist you in understanding choices is to know that proteins are made up of smaller units called amino acids. You know how there are 26 letters in the alphabet which we use to make up many different words? Well in the case of proteins, there are 20 amino acids which our body can use to make up numerous proteins in our bodies, from hair, to skin to cells. Humans are about 20% protein, so if it is a structure in our body, chances are it will have some type of protein component requiring amino acid building blocks.
My top picks for protein supplements:
The Body Science Clean Vegan Protein incorporates plant proteins from pea protein with an ancient grain blend of proteins including amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, millet and chia). This blend hits the mark for essential amino acids, while also being high in fibre to maximise feelings of fullness and warding off those 3pm sugar cravings.
If you are just generally active and are looking to reap the benefits of increasing lean muscle mass, then a whey protein blend, such as Body Science’s Lean 5 protein would be a great option. It contains a blend of whey protein and casein, another milk derived protein source.
So while there are many ways to meet protein requirements each day, it comes down to individual needs and preferences as to how you do it. While a balanced diet can be adequate in meeting protein needs, we can also look to some strategically placed protein supplements in our morning smoothies, or post training to assist us in optimising our diet and health outcomes.
This article was written by By Harriet Walker, Body Science Sports Dietician
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