Protein powders are a common form of nutritional supplementation these days. There are many different brands and types of protein powder available. I couldn’t begin to go through them all with you! I do want to tell you why I personally use protein powders and give you a few tips if you are considering trying them out.
First off, not everyone needs protein supplements, protein shakes or protein bars! According to Webmd, adult men need about 56 grams of protein a day, and adult women need about 46 grams a day (this may fluctuate depending on your level of activity and whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding). The Institute of Medicine states that most people should get between 10% and 35% of their daily calories from protein. For reference, a 3.5oz chicken breast has 30 grams of protein, a 6 oz can of tuna has 40 grams, 1 egg has 6 grams, ½ cup of tofu has 10 grams, and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter has 8 grams. Let’s not leave out those veggies! Spinach (boiled), broccoli, peas, corn and potatoes all have moderate amounts of protein. With that being said, you can see that it isn’t that difficult for the average person to get the recommended amount of daily protein in their diet.
My problem is that my diet doesn’t necessarily give me the amount of protein I need every day for the fitness activities I do. I don’t eat a lot of meat or dairy, and beans don’t really agree with me. I love tofu and tempeh, but they are beans and a soy product, so I try to limit them to a couple times a week. I literally could eat my weight in nuts every day, but the fat content is so high I try to limit that to ¼ cup a day. With all of this, I still feel like most days I can get the amount of protein I need from my food. But, as we all know, there are days that aren’t “most” days. There are days I am rushing from morning until night and can only eat what I can grab on the go. There are days I hardly slept the night before and can’t think about the perfectly balanced meal. There are days I push myself harder than normal in my workouts and feel my body’s need to refuel. For all of these reasons, protein powders are a usual suspect in my diet.
Again, please don’t feel that you need a protein powder to have a “healthy” diet! You need to examine your lifestyle and eating habits to see if they would help you achieve your goals. Here are a few questions to ask when deciding if you want to use a protein powder and which one to chose:
1) Why do I want to add a protein supplement to my diet?
Don’t do it just because Shape magazine or your girlfriend told you to do it. Really look at your eating and workout habits and see if you might benefit from additional protein sources. If so, ask yourself if the powder is better for you personally than an extra piece of string cheese or chicken breast during the day. This probably comes down to convenience, taste preference and vegan/vegetarian issues. Also, most of us (99% of us) do not need 30 grams of extra protein from a powder. You most likely would be fine with anything having 10-25 grams.
2) Am I doing this to lose weight?
It is important to realize that protein powders and supplements have calories! Sometimes, A LOT of calories. You can’t just add a protein shake to your daily diet and expect to lose weight. The big muscle guys at the gym drinking 100gram protein drinks WANT the extra calories. If you don’t, you would need to eliminate something else in your diet and add the protein powder in its place. For a lot of people, this works to their benefit! They eliminate those high-glycemic snack items and add a protein shake instead. Same calories, better for you. Just remember to read the label to know exactly how many calories you are getting per serving.
3) What kind do I want?
I have tried every form of protein powder under the sun. Whey, pea, soy, brown rice, hemp, gluten free, vegan, raw, egg white…It really comes down to taste for me. If I don’t like it, I won’t use it. My go to brand is Usana Nutrimeal Free. It tastes delicious and is gluten free, dairy free and soy free. I would love a raw vegan option, but I haven’t found one I like yet.
4) How will I use it?
A few years ago I decided to make pancakes and figured a little extra protein would help the nutritional profile. I just added my Usana protein powder and voila! Extra protein. That began my personal experimentation with using the powder in ways other than just drinking it. Drinking it works great for some people, but I personally prefer to have it in solid food form (usually with a cup of coffee :). There are so many recipes out there using protein powder! My normal routine is to use it to make the Perfect Protein Pancakes and Energy Bites. I’m always open for new ways to get my needed protein, and the internet is full of helpful ideas for using protein powder!
If after asking yourself those questions you think a protein powder would benefit you, try it out! It might be your perfect answer for adding more protein to your diet.