Protein supplements are often recommended as a healthy way to add protein into your diet without having to eat a whole lot more meat or tofu; you may even have some in your kitchen cupboard right now. But do you know how and when you should use it?
Do I need to take a protein supplement?
Protein is part of a well-balanced diet along with carbohydrates and fats. It will usually already be in your diet from lean white and red meats, eggs, fish, dairy products, tofu, legumes and lentils.
The most common protein powder, whey protein, is derived from milk which means it may not be suitable for people who are lactose intolerant. If you can’t have milk, you can also get pea or soy protein powder.
As a rough guide, you should be having around 1.5 – 2 grams for every kilo of your body weight every day. If you don’t think you’re managing it, protein supplements could be for you. You can usually buy them through a personal trainer, a gym, nutrition supplement stores or supermarkets.
What does protein powder actually do?
When you do a workout, you get microscopic tears in your muscles that heal up stronger so you’ll be able to do that same workout easier next time (that’s why you have to keep advancing your workouts as your body gets used to them!). Protein helps repair and build lean muscle.
It won’t bulk you up, but it will help improve your post-workout recovery and help you to feel fuller for longer.
How do I use protein powder?
Protein powder is digested quickly, so it’s best to use it as close to your workout as possible. Either before, during, or after is fine; most people opt for after so it’s not sloshing around in your stomach during your training. One scoop mixed with water (or if you don’t mind the additional calories, low fat milk).
For weight loss you want a supplement high in protein and low in carbs. For weight gain you want a product higher in carbs. For either, you can add a scoop into your porridge at breakfast time or into a smoothie for a snack. Some people even mix it with a very small amount of milk to create a ‘sauce’ topping for fruit salads and desserts!
Experiment with different brands of protein powder; some mix better than others and some taste better than others. So if you don’t like one there will still likely be one out there for you.
Photo / NZ Real Health