Guide To Protein Supplements
What is Protein?
Protein is a macronutrient, meaning it is one of the food groups that is essential for life (along with carbohydrates and fat). Protein makes up everything from muscle tissue to skin to bone and is involved in the transport of blood, our hormonal system and even makes up the building blocks of our hair and nails. A protein is a very complex structure, made up of a long chain of amino acids. We have 20 amino acids available and depending on how these are arranged in the chain a different protein can be constructed. There are 4 calories per gram of protein and if we want to build or preserve muscle we should be eating approximately 1.6 - 2.2 grams of protein per kilo of body weight. We can get protein from meat, fish, eggs, certain cereals and vegetables, and from a supplement.
What are the benefits of a Protein Supplement?
Protein supplements are there to help to reach your protein intake, but should not be relied on as the primary source. It is an easy way to boost your protein intake by 20-25g without adding addition to unwanted calories in one easy drink. Protein powders are also convenient as a quick protein hit if you can’t get to a kitchen to cook something or if you are traveling etc. They are also pretty tasty and can be used to add flavour to meals like oats or smoothies.
What are the negatives of Protein Supplements?
Sometimes people can become too reliant on protein supplements that the quality of their diet can be diminished. E.g. if you are subbing out steak for a shake you may be missing out on some of the other nutrients that you would have gotten from the steak e.g. iron and vitamins.
If you have a poor quality protein powder they can also lead to some bloating and stomach discomfort so always make sure you get one that is good quality!
When should I take Protein Supplements?
Any time. If you can have some protein (food source or shake) within a 3-5 hour window of your training it is even better as it can help increase muscle protein synthesis (MPS) which is the primary driver in muscle hypertrophy!
Which protein supplement is best?
I would suggest going for a whey protein (provided you aren’t anti-dairy). It is easy to find, affordable comes in heaps of flavours, usually mixes well and is absorbed easily.
Casein tends to be a popular choice to have before bedtime but I am not convinced. They are usually more expensive and there is quite a body of research to show that casein is actually absorbed too slowly, meaning that it never reaches the leucine threshold, meaning MPS is never initiated.
If you are a veggie or vegan I would recommend going with a soy protein. It is not 100% as effective as whey but it is a good next option. They tend to not mix quite as well or have as many flavours but a good sub if you can't have dairy.
How do I take a protein supplement if I don't like drinking it?
I hate drinking it with water!! I will either mix it into oats, Weetabix, with milk and pour over cereal, make protein pancakes or French toast, into a fruit smoothie, make protein ice-cream. ANYTHING! It is so versatile. Go Nutrition Chocolate Salted Caramel is my ultimate fav.
Blog written by #gngang member Emma Cowley
More about Emma
Emma has a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education and biology and a Masters of Science in sport and exercise science and medicine, which both earned her a first-class honours and a university class award. Additionally, she is currently doing a Ph.D. in the Dept. of Exercise Metabolism + Adaptation too.
She is also a qualified personal trainer, Olympic Weightlifting coach and AfN Nutrition coach. She has gathered the requisite scientific knowledge through her academic background, which compliments her practical experience acquired through training and coaching.
Emma is currently the UK-Ireland Education Manager for a European Health company where I work with healthcare leaders across Europe, including Oxford University, Cambridge, Imperial College and Trinity College Dublin, to support in the development of novel and innovative health educational projects.