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We’ve heard it time and time again: protein is crucial if you’re looking to shed fat and build muscle.[i] But what does protein really do? And what kind of protein should you be eating? Are whole foods best? Or should you be eating protein supplements? It’s hard to know what’s best for us with all the information out there, particularly since protein supplements have now become all the rage! Health stores, grocery stores, and heck, even convenience stores now offer a variety of bars, shakes, and powders to help you “get what you need.” The question is “what do you actually need”?
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for adults is approximately 0.8 grams of protein per kilograms of bodyweight.[iv] For those involved with intense exercise, it is generally advised that you eat 1.3 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.[v]
Protein is crucial if you’re looking to achieve tangible, sustainable weight loss results. It’s also now become clear that protein supplements, which were once thought to be a short-term fad, are now being recognized as a long-term, sustainable trend – because let’s face it – we may not always have enough time or energy to eat or prepare whole foods that are high in protein.
Some people may have a hard time getting enough protein into their diet without a little help. Protein supplements generally contain 15-30 grams of protein per serving and are fortified with vitamins and minerals. They come in a variety of forms – such as nutritional drinks and meal replacements, bars, powders, and chips – and they can often taste pretty amazing with flavours such as strawberry, peanut butter chocolate, brownie, and even lemon coconut!
While whole foods are generally best, I personally recommend protein supplements for post-workout nutrition. After working out, I prefer a whey protein supplement because of its high biological value (BV). The higher the biological value, the more amino acids and nitrogen your body retains from the food you eat. This means there’s more potential for muscle growth and strength. I also recommend protein supplements as a “grab and go” option for anytime life seems to get in the way. Because protein supplements don’t require refrigeration, they’re portable, easy-to-stash in your purse or bag, and therefore the perfect solution anytime you catch yourself in a bind.
Additional advantages of protein supplements:
• They are generally a more complete and balanced protein source
• They are often fortified with vitamins and minerals, making them a multi-dimensional protein food
• Many protein foods can serve as a low-calorie means to satisfy your sweet tooth
Protein supplements come in various forms. The three most common sources of protein are whey, soy, and casein, but there are others that are becoming increasingly popular as well! Here is a breakdown of the pro and cons of various different sources of protein:
|Whey protein[vi]||Promotes lean muscle growth and fat loss. Processed quickly by the body, which makes it great for post-workout recovery.||Many people are sensitive to the lactose found in milk – this can cause bloating, gas, and discomfort.|
|Casein protein||Similar to whey protein, but it digests much more slowly, which makes it a great choice before bed.||Digests slowly so it’s not great for post-workout recovery. It also tends to include additives to make it taste better.|
|Rice protein||Good source of complex carbohydrates, vitamin B1 and B6, and fibre.||Deficient in some amino acids, so it shouldn’t be the primary source of protein.|
|Soy protein||Helps support immune function.[vii]||Often a GMO product and can have a distinct after taste.|
|Hemp protein||Considered a “superfood” because it contains all essential amino acids.[viii]||Tends to be expensive compared with alternatives.|
|Egg protein||Rich in vitamins and minerals.||Tends to be expensive compared with alternatives.|
When it comes to protein supplements, there really is something for everyone. Just keep in mind that when it comes to buying protein, as in life, "you get what you pay for." Low-cost proteins often use inexpensive protein blends that may not be very digestible by the body. My recommendation? Test out various sources and quantities of protein to see what works best for you and your body! And yes, while I’m all about convenience, I don’t suggest you replace all whole foods with protein supplements entirely. They’re called “supplements” because they’re meant to supplement an already-healthy diet of nutrition whole foods.
This article has been sponsored by BOOST®, but all comments and opinions are my own.
[i] Thomas M Longland, Sara Y Oikawa, Cameron J Mitchell, Michaela C Devries, and Stuart M Phillips. Higher compared with lower dietary protein during an energy deficit combined with intense exercise promotes greater lean mass gain and fat mass loss: a randomized trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2016
[ii] Authority Nutrition. An Evidence-based Approach. “How Protein Can Help You Lose Weight Naturally.” Retrieved from: https://authoritynutrition.com/how-protein-can-help-you-lose-weight/ (Accessed June 2, 2017)
[iv] Eat Right Ontario. “Introduction To Protein And High Protein Foods.” Retrieved from: https://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Protein/Introduction-To-Protein-And-High-Protein-Foods.aspx (Accessed June 2, 2017)
[vi] Eat Right Ontario. “Sports nutrition: Facts on sports supplements.” Retrieved from: http://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Physical-Activity/Sports-nutrition-Facts-on-sports-supplements.aspx (Accessed June 2, 2017)
[vii] Yimit D. et al. “Effects of soybean peptide on immune function, brain function, and neutrochemistry in healthy volunteers.” Nutrition. 2012 Feb;28(2):154-9 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21872436
[viii] Authority Nutrition. An Evidence-based Approach. “6 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Hemp Seeds.” Retrieved from: https://authoritynutrition.com/6-health-benefits-of-hemp-seeds/ (Accessed June 2, 2017)