A photo of a white tub of protein powder tipped over with the scoop on the counter.

A lot of you ask questions about protein powders, so today I thought I would touch on this topic a little bit! While getting your nutrients, like protein, through whole food sources first is a big one for me, I believe that supplements have their time and place in alliance with a nutritious diet that includes a variety of whole foods.

Before I get into today’s post, I have to mention that protein powders are not meant to replace or become a staple in the diet. Protein powder supplements are simply meant for supplementation on top of a well rounded diet. It’s important to obtain protein from whole food sources such as eggs, organic animal products, nuts/seeds, legumes, etc. That said, protein powder supplements certainly have their place and can be quite beneficial to the diet.

Protein powder is the most popular dietary supplement for professional athletes, nonetheless, adding more protein to the diet expands far beyond the gym. There are many reasons people choose to bump up their protein intake with protein powder supplements— whether you’re an athlete, recreationally active, wanting to improve your overall health, vegan/vegetarian, or if you’re on the go and need something convenient to help hold you over. In addition, maybe you are trying to improve your blood sugar levels, curb hunger, or achieve weight loss by adding a scoop into your smoothie blends.

Biological Function of Protein

Protein is the catalyst for virtually all chemical reactions in the human body, which highlights their great importance to life:

  • Protein helps improve the immune system
  • Protein plays a critical role in growth and maintenance of body tissues
  • Protein may help balance blood glucose levels by slowing absorption of carbohydrates
  • Protein helps regulate gene expression
  • Protein functions in transport of materials across the cell membrane, and supports the movement of materials within the cell
  • Protein organizes DNA
  • Protein is a basic component of hair, skin, nail, bone, and joint health
  • Proteins are used to produce hormones, enzymes and hemoglobin

Different Sources of Protein Powders

Protein powders come packed with a concentrated amount of dietary protein. A few solid sources of protein powder include:

  • Hemp protein [click here]
  • Pea protein [click here]
  • Sprouted brown rice protein [click here]
  • Sprouted quinoa protein [click here]
  • Fermented protein [click here]
  • Grass-fed whey protein [click here]
  • Grass-fed collagen peptides [click here]
  • Organic bone broth protein [click here]

It can be tricky when it comes to choosing the right protein powder. Many come pumped with additives, fillers, and have misleading labels smacked on them. This makes it difficult to know how much you are actually getting per serving. When it comes to choosing a protein powder, these are 2 simple things I always consider:

  1. Is the brand reputable? If you’re unsure about a brand of protein, research them! Ensure they are reputable and haven’t been caught up in any amino acid spiking scandals. A few brands that carry protein powders I personally reach for and trust include: Garden of Life, Veggie Day, Botanica Health, Genuine Health, Ancient Nutrition, and Vital Proteins,
  2. What are the ingredients? Take a deeper look at the ingredient list to really see what is in your protein powder. Skip out on any protein powders that contain artificial ingredients [i.e. artificial sweeteners] and amino acid fillers, such as maltodextrin and less important amino acids like glycine and taurine. Reach for protein powders that are made with real/organic ingredients, minimal ingredients, and ingredients you understand.

In addition, protein powders come in different forms and bioavailability. The most common types include protein hydrolysates, protein isolates, and protein concentrates:

  • Hydrolysates: Protein hydrolysates go through a process that breaks amino acid bonds, and is then followed by purification procedures. This process creates a protein that is easier to absorb by the body, which may maximize muscle protein anabolism and facilitate recovery.
  • Isolates: The purest protein source available. Isolates contain protein concentrations of 90% or higher! During the process there is a significant removal of fat and lactose. As a result, individuals who are lactose-intolerant can often take this form of protein.
  • Concentrates: Removes the water, lactose, ash, and some minerals. Concentrates typically contain more biologically active components and proteins.

How Much Protein do you Need?

There is no simple answer to this question. Individual needs of protein will depend on health status, body composition, goals, and level of fitness/physical activity [i.e. intensity, duration]. Even with a given number to start with, you may need to experiment a bit and adjust your protein intake. According to Dietitians of Canada, adults 19 years and over need 0.8g of protein for every kg of body weight. For example, if you weigh 60kg [~130lbs], then your protein needs would be ~48g of protein per day. That said, it really depends on the factors I mentioned above.

Bonus: Whole Food Sources of Protein to Consider

  • Lentils
  • Black beans
  • Nuts; almonds, walnuts
  • Seeds; chia seeds, flaxseed, hemp seeds
  • Tempeh
  • Tofu
  • Sprouted whole grain bread
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Kefir
  • Greek yogurt
  • Organic eggs
  • Wild-caught salmon
  • Organic chicken
  • Grass-fed beef

Thank you for reading today’s post on protein powders. I hope you enjoyed! What are your favourite protein powders? Leave me a comment below to let me know. I would love to check them out!

Jenna XO

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