Protein, protein, protein – it seems like everyone is talking about it. Whether at the gym, dinner table with friends, or even scrolling through your social media, protein always comes up as a part of the conversation. In recent years, protein intake has become a hot topic. But you might wonder why it is such a big deal. Here is why protein is essential for your body, it is the key to building and repairing muscles and supporting your skin, hair, and immune system. And as more and more people are on the quest to live a healthier lifestyle, they realize the importance of eating enough protein every day. In this article, we will take a closer look at the benefits of protein, what it does, the best sources, and popular misconceptions. So, grab your protein snack and dive into the world of protein.
What is Protein, and Why is it Important?
Protein is one of the essential macronutrients we get with food. It is made of long chains of amino acids, which are the building blocks of the body’s tissues (muscles, skin, hair, and nails). Protein is also critical for the production of hormones and enzymes that help keep our body healthy. Therefore, it can be said that protein is vital to our overall health and well-being.
What are the Main Sources of Protein?
We can get protein from animal-based and plant-based foods. Animal-based foods high in protein include all sorts of meats and fish, eggs, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, cheese, milk, and protein powders. Plant-based foods rich in protein include the following: nuts, tofu, legumes, seeds, some veggies and grains.
Is There a Difference Between Animal-based and Plant-based protein? Which One is Better?
Animal based-protein is considered a complete protein, meaning that it contains all essential amino acids for our bodies. Meanwhile, most plant-based proteins typically are not complete proteins, as they do not contain all amino acids. Therefore, if you are a vegetarian or vegan, ensure you get your protein from various sources to get all the amino acids your body needs. Otherwise, it can lead to some microelements deficiencies and, as a result, health issues. You might think that animal-based protein is a much better option than plant-based. However, it is not that certain. Plant-based proteins typically contain more fibre, which is critical for our health, and less saturated fat. So, the verdict is that you need to have room for both types of protein in your diet, as each has its benefits.
How Much Protein Do You Need to Eat?
WHO suggests consuming at least 0.8 grams of protein per 1kg body weight. However, most dietitians and trainers say that it is not substantial, and you should aim at 1-1.5 grams of protein per 1kg of body weight if you don’t exercise or lead an active lifestyle. Meanwhile, if you regularly work out and lead an active lifestyle, you should try to consume about 1.5-2 grams per 1kg of your weight.
Protein Powder: Whey, Casein, or Isolate – Which One to Choose?
Protein powder is one of the most popular supplements, and mostly so because of the ease of using it. Having a protein shake as a snack or adding a scoop of protein powder to your oatmeal is a great and easy way to ensure that you consume enough protein throughout the day. With the growing popularity of this supplement, no wonder there are so many options, which can be confusing. So here is a quick guide to the most common protein powders available on the market.
Most protein powders are made of animal-based proteins such as whey and casein, but in recent years there has been a spike in vegan options made of soy, pea, or hemp. The two most common types of protein powders you can find are whey and casein. Both are derived from milk and have a complete chain of amino acids. There are multiple differences between the two types of proteins, but the key one is the speed of digestion and absorption.
Whey protein is called a “fast-acting” protein, which is easily digested and quickly absorbed by our bodies. Therefore, it is an excellent option for post- and pre-workout snacks. On the other hand, casein is referred to as a “slow-acting” protein because it takes a long time to digest and absorb. The main idea behind casein is that protein slowly becomes available to our body over a more extended period, making it a better option for situations when we won’t eat for a while, such as night or a hectic day. Therefore, many athletes and gym lovers drink it before going to bed. However, casein has two disadvantages when comparing the two types of proteins. First, it can cause some digestive discomfort and bloating. Second, casein is often more expensive than whey, and for most people, it does not worth it.
Another protein powder that draws much interest is whey isolate protein powder. It is whey protein that goes through additional processing to end up with a higher concentration of protein and a lower amount of carbohydrates and fats (and, in some cases, even lactose). Some benefits of isolate are that it is easily digested (even easier than whey) and has fewer calories than other options.
There is no particular answer to what protein powder is better, as it depends on your goals and preferences. However, I think whey protein powders are the best option for most people who don’t have dietary restrictions, as it provides you with the optimal amount of protein for a reasonable cost.
True or False? You Must Consume Protein Powder to Get Enough Protein
It is false. While for many people with a busy lifestyle, protein powder is a convenient way of ensuring an appropriate intake of protein; it is unnecessary. You can get enough protein by eating a variety of whole foods such as meats, poultry, eggs, dairy, and legumes. It is always better to get all the necessary nutrients by eating whole food rather than relying on supplements and vitamins. All you need to do is get into the habit of eating some protein with each meal.
True or False? Eating More Protein Helps to Lose Weight
This one is both true and false. It is false because protein does not directly affect your weight loss process. However, consuming enough protein helps us to feel more satiated and have fewer sugar cravings. Therefore, we are less likely to sabotage our diet and overeat at the end of the day.
True or False? You Need to Eat Protein Right After Exercise
It might be hard to believe, but it is also false. While eating some protein after exercising has benefits, it is less crucial to your muscle growth or retention than many people think. Most recent research suggests that you don’t need to rush to drink your protein shake after your workout. Instead, consuming a sufficient amount throughout the day is more important. Moreover, research suggests that the best way to consume protein is to break it into equal amounts and consume it throughout the day with each meal.
I hope you found it interesting to learn more about protein and can now confidently say that you know more about protein intake!