You don’t NEED protein powder but it can certainly be helpful
Protein powder is usually a hotly debated topic espicially in the gym rat circles. There are many arguments for and against the use of protein powder supplements which makes it incredibiley difficult as an athlete to decide whether you should be taking it or not.
Why do we need protein – Lets start with why protein is an important macronutrient and what it does for your body. Protein aids growth + repair, replaces worn out cells and transports various substances throughout the body. Our body breaks down protein that we eat into individual amino acids, which are stored in a circulating plasma pool in our blood. The amino acid pool travels with the blood stream an donates amino acids to cells that require nutrients. The body needs amino acids to produce important molecules such as – enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters and anti-bodies. Without an adequate amount of protein our bodies cannot function properly.
Protein helps muscle growth and fat loss – Protein can also increase our levels of a hormone called Glucagon. Glucagon is released when our blood sugar levels are low, it causes the liver to release glucose and can liberate free fatty acid from body fat cells. For more information about protein check out this great article from Precision Nutrition – https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-protein.
How much do you need – Most hard training athletes should aim for 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, for example a 75kg athlete should be aiming to eat 165 grams of protein everyday. This can be done through whole food sources such as lean beef, chicken, turkey, pork, kangaroo, fish, eggs, yoghurt, cottage cheese, tofu and many other sources. Ideally athletes should strive to get all or most of their protein from whole foods as there are other nutrients in those foods that are beneficial, however, protein powder can also a good option.
Why would you take protein powder
Eating enough protein everyday can be very challenging as protein isn’t always the most convenient nutrient. If you look at the list above most of those foods need to be cooked before consumption (even the vegetarian options). Unless you have your meal prep dialled in you may find yourself either skimping of protein or choosing lower quality fast food options.
Protein powder is a SUPPLEMENT which by definition is “a thing added to something else in order to complete or enhance it”. One of the biggest benefits to protein powder is that it is extremely convenient, simply put the powder in a shaker, add a liquid, shake it up and consume. You can also put the powder is small container or pouches and bring it with you to places.
How to choose the right protein powder
If you are going to use a protein powder do it under the guidance of a professional (Strength and Conditioning Coach, Nutritionist, Natropath, Sports Doctor). There are so many products on the market making it very confusing to choose a safe product, although, two companies that are used by many Australian sportspeople are BSC (https://www.bodyscience.com.au/protein-snacks/protein-powders.html) and Bulk Nutrients (https://www.bulknutrients.com.au/categories/proteins/).
There are many different types of protein powders – whey, casein, collagen, beef, egg white, soy, hemp, pea and rice.
There are also so many brands that come with each type of protein powder. Keep it simple by choosing products with very minimal ingredients (ideally less than 5), 5 star reviews and are low cost (less than $70/kg).
In most cases protein powder source doesn’t really matter (Messina M, Lynch H, Dickinson JM, Reed KE. 2018). Choose one try it out for a month and if it made you feel good and you found it easy to consume your onto a winner. If not, change it up and try another powder, keeping trying them until you’ve found one you like.
Why you wouldn’t take protein powder
Athletes need to be careful with all supplemental products especially if you are striving to make higher levels in your sport. Some products have unlabled extras that may cause you to fail a drug test, make sure to research any supplements you want to take and if you are unsure consult with a professional or look up the product on the WADA website (https://www.wada-ama.org/). For the most part protein powders aren’t harmful to your body although some products amy contain other ingredients that are not ideal for performance or illegal.
Some gym bro’s believe protein powder is a superior protein source compared to whole foods such as beef, chicken or cottage cheese. Superior really isn’t the correct term. Some research has shown that a whey protein supplement post training can have a positive effect on muscles growth (Sharp M, Shields K, Lowery R, Lane J, Partl J, Holmer C, et al. 2015). However, there is also strong evidence suggesting that total daily protein consumption is the most important determinant when is comes to musle growth and repair (Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA. 2018).
At the end of the day protein supplements aren’t necessary, although, they provide a quick and convient protein source that can help you achieve your daily protein goals.