Protein powders have become a fitness buzzword. Does your body really need them and what are the benefits of taking them? We debunk all the myths in this girl’s guide to protein.
Why do we need protein?
It’s important to remember that our body doesn’t exclusively require protein. Focusing on a nutritious and balanced diet is key - this includes carbohydrates, fibre, minerals, fats as well as protein.
Protein is what our muscles, blood, skin and hair is made of. Your body uses it to repair itself, build tissue, produce hormones, enzymes as well as other chemicals within our bodies. Not eating enough protein may result in a slow metabolism, fatigue, slow healing wounds, low immunity among many others.
What are the different types of protein powders?
The most common types of protein powders are whey, soy and casein – the most widely used of which is whey as it is water-soluble milk protein. This means that you can mix it with water or you can add it into a smoothie, it’s very versatile.
Do I need extra protein?
Generally you can get your recommended daily intake of protein by leading a healthy lifestyle and focusing on a balanced diet with meat, fish, poultry and pulses such as peas, beans and lentils on the menu. Depending on our lifestyle and life stage, we need a varying amount of protein. You might want to consider including protein shakes in your diet if:
- You are a teen and you are still growing and developing
- You are starting on a vegan or vegetarian diet, and are not getting enough protein from your diet.
- You’ve just started a workout programme and are keen on starting to build muscle
- You are going into an advanced workout routine – imagine you’ve signed up for a charity run, a half marathon or even a marathon!
- If you suffered an injury – protein can help aid the healing process
How much protein do I need?
This doesn’t mean that protein shakes should replace meals or that they should be over-used. Too much protein can be harmful for our kidneys and may put stress on your heart. While everyone’s protein intake should be different, depending on their age and weight, according to The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake), an average man should take 56 grams per day and a woman - 46 grams per day. This equates to roughly 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
Evaluate your situation and see if you actually need more protein in your diet. If you feel generally fatigued after workouts, you notice that it takes you overly long to heal and that your metabolism has slowed down, a protein shake may be just the right thing for you.
When should I take protein?
While a lot of gym goers prefer to take pure protein shakes to their workouts, it is recommended that you drink protein shakes mixed with carbohydrates. This is because before and after workouts your body is craving carbohydrates as well as protein.
If you like to drink your protein shake around your trip to the gym, make sure the ration of carbohydrates is much higher than protein.
Food sources of protein
- Bone broth protein
- Salmon, mackerel, tuna and other wild fish
- Pulses such as Peas, Beans and Lentils
- Organic chicken
- Cheese, especially Swiss, Parmesan, low fat Cheddar, and Cottage Cheese
Will I look bulky if I drink protein shakes?
This is a very common myth. The intensity, type and frequency of your workouts paired with your diet are what can make you look bulky rather than just protein shakes.