Protein is the jack of all trades capable of playing so many roles in the body. Protein is a #1 priority when it comes to essential nutrients to ensure you are optimizing your training results.
Protein repairs damaged tissue, which is essential for growth, recovery, and even can help prevent infection and disease.
Protein has taken center stage over the years as the premier macronutrient in the world of dieting and weight loss because, frankly, most people don’t consume enough of it. They instead choose to consume higher carbohydrates and fats, neglecting one of the most important building blocks they have at their disposal.
The following are protein-rich “whole” foods you should/could be consuming: most dairy products, eggs, meats, fish, grains, seeds, and legumes. Protein is also widely available as a dietary supplement, commonly known as various types of protein powder if whole-food sources are unavailable, or not preferred.
Here are some of the most well-known protein powders. These products can be both an economical and versatile choice to meet your dietary needs when it comes to this critical macronutrient.
- Whey Protein: A dairy-based protein. It contains all the essential amino acids and is quickly absorbed with a very high biological value.
- Casein Protein: also a derivative of cow milk. It contains all the essential amino acids, as well, and is more slowly absorbed, releasing amino acids more slowly into the bloodstream over time. (Think cottage cheese, cheese products.) This supplement can be a popular supplement to employ before a fast or bed.
Some people want to avoid dairy-based products altogether for various reasons, that’s perfectly ok. The following are non-dairy based protein supplement options with their own benefits.
- Pea Protein: A plant-based protein. It has low levels of the nonessential amino acids and can be viewed as a “complete” protein containing all the necessary essential amino acids to build muscle and recover. This can be an excellent choice for individuals looking to implement a vegan or vegetarian-based diet.
- Rice Protein: A grain-based protein. This protein has lower levels of the essential amino acid lysine, which may require additional supplementation or diet strategies to be incorporated to ensure the protein source gets you everything your body needs.
- Hemp Protein: A plant-based protein made from hemp seeds. This protein contains higher levels of fiber and essential omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Hemp protein is also low in lysine, however, and would often require additional supplements to be optimally effective.
If your goal is to add muscle mass, reduce body fat, have more energy, or increase your recovery time, you should add a protein shake into your daily diet.
Best Times To Take a Protein Shake
The following solutions can offer tremendous benefits to help you increase your total protein intake to make sure you are achieving your fitness goals.
1. First thing in the morning. It’s convenient and quickly supplies your body with nutrients you’ve been without all night long. Very effective and beneficial way to break the fast, often keeping blood sugar stable depending upon what you pair it with.
2. Pre- or post-workout. Most of us can’t work out on a full stomach, so try using a protein shake 60 minutes before your workout for added energy and recovery. Or, as a snack post-workout to help with muscle recovery.
3. During a sweet-tooth attack. That’s right, make a protein shake instead of blowing up your meal plan with a piece of candy or chocolate. It will help your blood sugar levels stay in check and can kill that pesky sweet tooth craving with lower-calorie sweetness.
4. Right before bed. If your goal is to build and maintain muscle mass, you want to maintain an anabolic state (meaning your body is effectively synthesizing muscle and not breaking down muscle for fuel), as long as you can. Use a slower acting protein source right before going to bed to supplement your goals.
Protein powders can be an advantageous way to increase your daily protein totals and ensure you are meeting your caloric goals. Since they are relatively inexpensive per gram of protein, convenient, portable, and come in a variety of flavors, they are becoming a very popular way to ensure your diet is on point.
Mix protein powder with water or any other liquid of choice, being mindful of total calories, and you’re on your way to some great results!
– By Amy Jo Palmquest, NUTRISHOP® store owner, personal trainer, nutrition expert, wife and mother of three. Learn more at AmyJoPalmquest.com.