Do you know what protein is and how important it is ?
You might shrug off saying, “Come on! Who doesn’t know about proteins? I guess I have them on a daily basis dude ..”
Definitely, it’s an inevitable component of foods we eat day and night. In fact, its an important constituent of all the living forms on the planet. Talking about human body, protein and fat make for the maximum percentage after water.
Our bodies use protein to repair and build tissues. It’s an essential component of hair, nails, bones, skin, blood and cartilage and even as fitness lovers, athletes or weight lifters, we try increasing the intake of protein that helps in building muscle.
This gets us to a very important question : What is the right source of Protein?
- Protein Powders ?
- Natural sources like Vegetables, Meat, Lentils and Dairy ?
- OR A combination of the two ?
With fitness in perspective, there’s always a debate on how to choose the right protein. One category emphasises consuming it through natural resources, the other greatly depends on protein powders or protein shakes for the desired effect.
In this article, we clear the air. Let’s know the science behind protein and choose that’s right.
So, here we begin with what we started with. 🙂
What is Protein and How important it is ?
These are macronutrients made up of amino acids. Whatever we eat contains carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals and vitamins in certain quantities. The protein in the food gets broken down into amino acids with the help of stomach digestive juices. These amino acids enter the blood stream and perform a wide variety of functions in the body such as:
- Repair and maintenance of body tissues like muscles, organs, hair, eyes and skin.
- Proteins make up enzymes like maltase, amylase, lactase etc that help with digestion and synthesis of DNA.
- Certain hormones are also made up of proteins like Insulin that regulates blood sugar, secretin which aids in digestion and oxytocin that produces feelings of love and attachment in both men and women.
- Transport proteins are responsible for transporting vital molecules across cells. For example: Haemoglobin is a protein that not only transports oxygen but other molecules like nitric oxide as well through the blood.
- Antibodies are proteins that are produced by our immune system to fight against Illness, diseases and infections.
What is Protein Powder ?
Protein powders are dietary supplements made out of natural protein sources like Pea, Soy, Hemp, Rice, Milk or Meat. These are further added with artificial flavours like chocolate, coffee, vanilla etc. along with vitamins, minerals, sweeteners, emulsifiers, starch and other additives.
These are highly concentrated, processed and dehydrated forms of protein which when mixed with water or milk, form a smoothie or a shake.
Protein powders/ shakes are quite popular among fitness enthusiasts and athletes who aim to bulk up, build muscle, gain weight and even those who wish to lose weight.
What is better : Protein Powders or Natural Sources of Protein ?
It’s important to understand the point of differences and similarities in protein powders and natural sources to find if we can really swap one for the another or they can work as complementing forces that give us fitter and healthier bodies.
Natural Sources of Protein
Protein Powder/ Shakes
|Easily available in the local markets||Available but hard to find genuine protein products since adulterated versions are also there in the market|
|You pay less for protein rich meats, vegetables, lentils etc.||These are much more expensive|
|Protein based foods especially the meats and lentils need to be cooked properly before consuming.||Protein powders are ready to mix and consume.|
|Whole foods provide naturally occurring nutrients, essential amino acids that synthesize muscle and stimulate tissue growth and repair.||Not the case with all protein powders, however whey and casein proteins have minerals and vitamins.|
|Natural sources are healthier options since they contain vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants which reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular and other health problems||Protein powders lack these nutrients. Hence, they don’t provide these health benefits. They just supplement higher protein needs.|
|Natural protein sources do not have side effect like distress, nausea, bloating, headaches and nutrient deficiencies.||Proteins may cause the mentioned side effects so it’s important to neutralise these with natural foods.|
|Natural foods may not provide good body composition.||Protein powders potentially provide good body composition.|
|One needs to eat more to justify the need of daily protein.||With protein powders, one gets 20 – 25 gms protein per serving.|
As is evident, there are advantages as well as disadvantages for both the categories and using either of them will actually not aid anywhere. Hence, they need to be used together. As per the requirement, the protein shakes can either be consumed before or after a workout or one can replace one of the meals (from their five small meals in a day) with a protein shake.
What types of Protein Powders are available in the market?
There are a lot of options available based on what an individual’s requirements are and what they wish to add or omit in their daily diet, like :
- Vegan Proteins – These are derived from Pea, Soy, Hemp, Chia, Rice, Sunflower Seeds etc.
- Dairy Proteins – These are Whey and Casein Proteins
- Egg and Meat Proteins – These are animal based proteins.
How to choose the Right Protein Powder that fits YOU ?
There are a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration before choosing a protein. Let’s have a look at them.
1. Understand your fitness goal
One size doesn’t fit all and this applies to protein powders as well. Depending on the fitness goal that you want to pursue, you will have to choose a protein. For eg : If your fitness goal is to bulk up or build muscle, you will choose a protein with a higher biological value.
Similarly, if you wish to gain weight, then your protein shake has to be a blend of calories coming from proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
And for weight loss, the protein shouldn’t have sweeteners.
2. Understand your body requirement
This will help you find out the amount of protein required to be consumed on a daily basis, in line with your specific requirement. The Recommended Daily Allowance for Protein for adults of age 19 and above is 45 grams – 55 grams or 10% to 35% of Total calories. These are ideal case values which will change if one has a specific target (muscle growth, weight gain or loss, lean muscle etc) in mind.
3. Brand genuineness and Ingredient Labels
It’s good to check for third party certifications like NSF or adherence to GMP Practices that help in establishing brand genuineness. Other than that, to ensure that you are not purchasing something fake or adulterated ,always ensure that you purchase your protein supplements from a certified seller with a good reputation.
Checking Ingredient and nutrition labels further helps you validate that you are taking the right product.
4. Protein Biological Value
This is a measure of how well a protein gets absorbed into the body to produce the desired effect. Whey proteins that are derived from milk are said to have the highest biological value of 100% and hence, they are deemed good for those looking for building muscle.
5. Cost of the protein
A good product attracts a good value. The same applies to protein shakes. You will never find them at lesser prices but one can save by purchasing larger quantities in one go rather than shelling out on a kg or two.
6. Medical conditions, if any
It’s good to consult a doctor or a dietician if one suffers from a certain medical condition. In fact, protein powders are a big No for pregnant and nursing women. Even for those suffering from asthma, hypertension, hyperthyroidism, ulcers, low blood pressure and diabetes should exercise caution and seek professional consultation to avoid any kind of reaction and side effects.
By now, we hope that you have figured out the best way to supplement your diet with the right kind of protein. We suggest that if you are looking at maintaining your fitness then sticking to natural whole foods that give all the nutrients is best along with a moderate amount of exercise. However, if you wish to have some drastic changes over a period of time, then you can use dietary supplements to achieve the results you want, along with the right exercises and diets.