When you first venture into the world of fitness, it seems as though the must-have supplement of choice to support those hard-earned gains is protein powder. But what is protein powder? What do the different types do? And is there anything, in particular, you need to look out for in terms of quality and effectiveness? Well, here’s a quick guide to protein for beginners featuring frequently asked questions and simple answers.
Q: What is protein powder?
Protein powders are typically condensed sources of protein that are convenient, cost-effective, obviously high in protein and often low in calories. Protein powders come in several types, such as whey protein, casein and even vegetarian and vegan proteins. These all have slightly different properties because of their source, which influences their amino acid profile.
It’s these amino acids that are the building blocks of protein that the body uses to repair muscle after exercise. High-quality proteins such as whey contain all the body’s essential amino acids we need to support muscle recovery/growth as well as large amounts of a ‘special’ amino acid, Leucine, which is an important nutritional trigger of muscle building processes.
Other animal sources of protein such as meat, dairy (from which whey and casein are derived), fish and eggs contain Leucine and all the essential amino acids. They’re also excellent to support muscle growth. However, plant protein sources (with a few exceptions) contain only some of them. That’s why vegan protein powders often combine different plant sources, to ensure that all essential amino acids feature in the supplement.
Q: What is whey protein?
Whey protein comes from the ‘waste’ product of cheese manufacture. Don’t let the term ‘waste’ fool you, though. It’s a very high-quality source of protein and is free from most of the fat and dairy sugars (lactose) so it’s also low in calories. Whey is also very easy to digest, making it an excellent post-workout source of protein but can be taken any time to help meet your daily protein needs.
In this regard, it’s important to note that daily protein intakes, specific to your goals, are more important than just having the odd protein shake. For example, for muscle growth, you should consume around 2 g of protein for every kg of lean body mass (if you don’t know your lean body mass just estimate it, you don’t have to be that accurate!). So if you weigh 80kg you would be looking to consume 160 g of protein per day. Obviously, a shake containing 30 g of protein is a good start, but you still need to focus on the rest of the diet to maximise results.
Q: Could I be allergic to protein powders?
Like any food, there is the potential for you to be allergic. Protein powders can contain lactose, soy and gluten, which can be present in small amounts depending on the product. Always check the label for anything you’re allergic to since common allergens are always present in bold writing.
To make it easy for you on our website, we have specific categories for each protein such as gluten-free, dairy-free, lactose-free, vegetarian and vegan.
Q: Is protein powder low carb?
Generally speaking, yes. It doesn’t contain most of the sugars to create a ‘purer’ protein supplement. However, some do contain lower amounts of carbs than others depending on production. Whey isolates have the lowest carbs of pretty much any protein powder because manufacturing ‘isolates’ more of the protein from the whey and removes more of the unwanted sugars and fats.
Q: Do protein powders have any side effects?
No. Protein powders are simply condensed forms of proteins found elsewhere, it’s the same as getting them from their original sources. For example, if you are fine drinking milk, whey protein will give you no issues.
You should look at protein powders in the same way as any other type of food. It’s just in a more convenient form and risks are exactly the same, no more, no less.
Q: Do protein powders help with weight loss?
There is certainly some evidence to suggest a high protein diet helps with weight loss. Protein is a ‘filling’ macronutrient so helps control hunger during periods of restricted calorie intake you’d go through to cause weight loss. Also, protein has quite a high energy demand to digest and absorb. This is another reason why protein helps create an increase in overall energy expenditure which can help contribute to weight loss. Protein will also help protect muscle and preserve metabolic rate, so is a must for anyone looking to lose weight.
Q: Are protein powders good for you?
Protein powders, on the whole, are quality sources of protein. Not only they will help you meet your daily protein and essential amino acids requirements but are also rich in several essential minerals.
As with any food or supplement, whether it’s good for you will also largely depend on the overall diet. Would a diet consisting of just whey protein be healthy? Of course not (as would be the same for pretty much eating any single food), but it certainly has qualities in terms of its nutritional composition that contribute significantly to our essential daily nutrient requirements.
In summary, the type of protein powders available is completely safe to use. Plus, they have many positive impacts on general health by contributing to our daily essential nutrient requirements. Protein powder, as part of a high protein diet, is important to support healthy weight loss. It’s also key to help recovery and muscle growth after exercise. Integrating is also a cost-effective and convenient way to increase protein intake in the diet and suitable any time of the day. Lastly, they’re especially useful after exercise when an easy-to-digest source of protein can be beneficial for some people.
Hopefully, after this introduction to protein for beginners, you’ll be able to choose the most appropriate protein powder for your needs.
Want to let us know how you’re getting on? Give us a shout here @bulkpowders.