A super quick crash course on protein powder
Updated: Jan 18, 2020
Wondering why everyone and their grandma have started downing protein shakes? Here are some goods and bads of taking protein powder to give you an idea of the conversation you've just walked into...
Why take protein powder?
Protein is like, super good for you dude, but that’s a whole different post so I’ll keep this part short.
Protein intake should be between 1.2 - 2g X body weight (towards the higher end once you've done exercise, lower end for sedentary individuals). E.g if you weigh 70 kg and exercise often, you should aim for 140 grams of protein per day. A typical protein shake has just under 30g protein, can of tuna ~20g and meat is roughly 1/3 protein so 100g of chicken = 33g protein approximately.
Protein helps put on muscle but ALSO lose fat/tone up. If you're trying to lose fat you should still be consuming high protein.
Meat is expensive and protein is often overlooked for breakfast, lunch or snacks… because of this most people struggle to reach their daily protein goals.
While consuming whole foods should be the main source of nutrition, protein powder is an easy, inexpensive way to boost your daily protein intake.
After each gym session, consuming a large supply of protein within 3 hours will maximise protein activity at the muscles, boosting recovery and growth. Protein shakes make this super easy.
Whey derived from cow’s milk is the most common form of protein powders, but you can also get plant based powders for all you vegans out there.
"But my auntie says she knows someone who says protein is bad for your kidneys!!"
High protein consumption does NOT have any negative effects on your kidney unless you are already having kidney problems. If you’re not sick your kidneys are completely equipped to deal with this level of protein.
Sounds perfect, does it have any downsides?
Yes there are some potential negatives:
Whey protein may lead to some people experiencing gastro-intestinal discomfort due to the high lactose content, this might just mean some nasty farts. To counter this, look for protein powders which put lactase enzymes to help break down the lactose.
Consuming solely protein at the cost of every other food source can lead to feelings of sluggishness or lethargy, consume protein in healthy, balanced meals to avoid this.
Eating protein is thirsty work for boring chemical bonding reasons, make sure you drink more water if you’re increasing your protein intake.
Some protein powders contain high levels of added sugar or other unnecessary ingredients. I’ve found that most powders with fancy advertising labels claiming wild benefits (THERMOGENIC PROTEIN POWDER BURNS THE FAT AWAY!!!) taste like trash, require multiple scoops per serve and have long lists of chemicals I’ve never heard of.
Finding the right protein powder for you might take some experimentation. At MSC (the gym where I work) we use Bulk Nutrients WPI for having an ingredients list you can actually understand and being an Australian based company. It’s not the cheapest powder but it is quality.
Search for whey protein isolate powders which have a small and understandable ingredients list but most importantly: find one which tastes good so you’ll use it often.
How and when do I use it?
Use a protein shaker so the protein powder will mix into your drink. Read the instructions on your protein powder to see how many scoops to put in. Adding milk gives more taste and calories. Adding water makes it go down easier and has less calories. BONUS WORKOUT TIME!: Shake it until there are no more lumps. This changes for each protein powder (so don't let a clumpy one put you off all powders!)
Have a protein shake 30 minutes before or after exercise if you're not eating a protein rich meal soon. When you haven't eaten much protein you can also sprinkle it in oats, smoothies or yoghurt to reach your daily goal.
For more of the sciencey side of protein check out examine.com's article on protein