These days, protein supplements are hugely popular. Protein powders were originally marketed toward bodybuilders and athletes back in the 50s, and became increasingly popular during the rise of recreational bodybuilding and mass marketing techniques in the 70s and 80s. Today it seems the word ‘protein’ is used to market just about everything, even cereals, ice cream and chocolate bars!
In this post we’re going to take a more detailed look at protein and protein supplements to help you understand what protein is, what it does, who supplements are for and whether you can benefit from using them.
Let’s dive in.
Protein is one of three main Macronutrients in your diet, along with Fat and Carbohydrate. You get protein from foods like meat, fish and eggs. Protein plays a vital role in the growth, repair and maintenance of virtually all body tissue, particularly skeletal muscle – hence it’s popularity with bodybuilders and athletes.
It’s true then, increasing your protein intake can improve your recovery from intense workouts and contribute to increased muscle mass. So, should you start downing a protein shake morning, noon and night? Not just yet. You can and should be getting the majority of your protein intake from real food, although as protein is naturally filling some may find it difficult to eat enough of it.
As an example an 85kg male training 5 days per week would aim to consume around 180g of protein per day, or 45g (roughly a chicken breast and two eggs) per meal if spread across 4 meals. So in this case a supplement could be beneficial to ensure an adequate amount of protein is consumed per day.
The ideal time to consume a protein supplement is following intense exercise when your body is most in need of nutrients to begin the recovery process, and as protein supplements usually come in shake or bar form, this makes things much more convenient than chowing down on a steak or a tin of tuna right after your workout.
The most common form of protein found in supplements is Whey Protein, which is derived from milk. Many products often use a combination of different types of whey protein, such as whey protein concentrate or whey protein isolate for better effectiveness. Quality is important when choosing your product. Protein supplements that are labelled grass fed, non-GMO, cold processed and those that contain minimal added ingredients are the ones to go for.
In summary, protein supplements are simply convenient forms of an essential macronutrient, and including them into your diet can help increase muscle mass and improve recovery between workouts. Though they’re no silver bullet, you’ve still got to work hard at the gym, eat real food, and get plenty of sleep – that’s where the magic lies, and no powder in a tub can do that for you.