National Protein Day: Does Your Body Need a Protein Powder Supplement?
By Genevieve Ava, B.I.S., NASM-CPT,
National Protein Day, which comes around every February 27th, is an opportunity to promote the benefits of having a healthy amount of protein in our diets. For many people, however, getting enough protein is no problem. That’s because there’s a thriving industry that is constantly stressing the need to take in protein to build muscle, get stronger, and even lose weight. In this article, we’ll discuss whether you really need a protein powder supplement to achieve your health and fitness goals.
Importance of Protein
The importance of protein cannot be overstated. Every part of you, from your toenails to your biceps, is constructed of the amino acids that combine to form proteins. Your body can make many of these amino acids, but there are nine of them that it cannot. These must be provided through the foods we eat.
Protein maintains your muscle mass and facilitates protein synthesis to increase muscle size after resistance training. Getting an adequate protein intake will also prevent muscle loss when you are dieting to lose body fat.
Protein is the most satiating of the three macronutrients. It will make you feel fuller than fats or carbohydrates. It also has the highest thermic rate, meaning that it takes more energy to digest than the other macros. Replacing a portion of your fats and carbs with protein will help you lose weight faster.
When you snack on protein-rich foods, you will be less likely to suffer from food cravings, especially late at night.
Protein is also good for your bones. People with high protein intakes have been shown to maintain bone mass better than those with lower intakes.
Another benefit of protein is that it helps to speed up your metabolism. That’s because it builds muscle, which requires a lot of energy to maintain. This provides another, albeit indirect, way that protein helps you lose weight.
Daily Protein Intake
The Dietary Reference Intake for protein is 0.36 grams of protein per pound, 0.8 grams per kg. That works out to 56 grams and 46 grams for the average man and woman respectively. People who are physically active, however, require more than that. The following variables affect how much protein a person needs:
- Body weight
- Fitness goals
- Type of workout
- Dietary restrictions
If you are working out to increase your muscle mass or dieting to lose weight, you may need as much as 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. For a 175-pound guy, that equates to 150 grams of protein per day.
The body best absorbs protein if it is taken in doses of 20–30 grams.
People who have physically demanding jobs, or who engage in endurance-type sports and activities such as swimming and running, will also have a greater need for protein. Those who are recovering from injury will also need more protein.
Do You Really Need a Protein Shake Post Workout?
According to gym lore, you’ve got to get a protein shake into your system within a half-hour of finishing your workout. A recent study shows that more than half of all gym-goers take a protein shake after their gym visits.
When you lift weights, you stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Protein is vital to that process. Optimal muscle protein synthesis needs 20–25 grams of protein. That is equivalent to 3.5 ounces of chicken breast or an average protein shake.
So, should you get your protein from whole foods or from a protein powder supplement? The body was designed to digest whole foods where proteins, carbs, and fats are combined. There are synergistic benefits to eating whole foods that you cannot get by consuming an isolated protein supplement. As a result, you should prioritize whole food sources of protein such as chicken breast, fish, eggs, dairy, oats, and whole grains over protein supplements.
Another benefit of eating whole food sources of protein is that it works out to be less expensive than relying on protein supplements. Whole foods also provide you with fiber in addition to a range of micronutrients that are usually missing from protein supplements.
When it comes to getting protein into your system post-workout, if you are able to have a quality protein meal within 60–90 minutes of finishing your workout, then you don’t need to go down the protein shake route.
The Convenience Factor
There is a major convenience advantage to having a protein shake. With the advent of the shaker bottle, it’s now even easier. You can simply pull out your shaker bottle, give it a few flicks of the wrist, and chug it down within minutes of completing your last set.
Quickly blending up a protein shake when you’re feeling hungry can also stop you from reaching for an unhealthy snack food when you don’t have time to cook up a protein meal. This makes it a good idea to have protein powder on hand and rely on it as a backup when you’re in a hurry or otherwise don’t have the time to prepare a good meal.
When it comes to types of supplements, whey protein powder is the most popular. It is also the most researched. Whey powder is the fastest to absorb and the most easily digested. Whey protein isolate has gone through a filtration process which removes the milk fat (lactose) and carbohydrates.
National Protein Day on February 27th highlights the need to prioritize protein in our diets. Whether your health and fitness goals revolve around losing weight, gaining muscle, or maintaining your current weight, protein will help you achieve your objective.
The human body was designed to consume whole foods. When it comes to protein, you should try to eat it as naturally to the way it was produced as possible. Aim to consume 4–5 protein based meals per day, with each one providing 20–30 grams of protein. Protein supplements, such as shakes and bars, should be used as supplements to a whole food eating program. Regard them as a backup when you’re on the run, and you can’t go wrong.
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