What does taking protein powder do vs eating protein rich foods. Does it get to muscles faster? Is it easier to hit your protein macros etc.
Protein powder is absorbed much more quickly than foods rich in protein – so if you need a quick dose of protein after a workout, a protein shake is going to be far more effective than a chicken breast. Keep in mind, though, that it’s not just about speed – focus on absorption as well. If a shake contains more protein than can be absorbed, then that extra protein will go to waste. Also make sure you’re choosing a powder that specifically has a fast absorption rate – some are quicker than others.
If you eat healthy, well-balanced meals your body will benefit from all the other nutrients those foods have to offer – and you should be able to get the protein you need throughout the day. If you need a quick boost, though, a protein shake can be a good option when you’re on the go.
What different types of protein powder are there and which would you recommend for women?
There are numerous types of protein powders on the market, from the most popular; whey and casein, which are proteins found in milk, to the more plant-based proteins such as pea and hemp. If you’re new to the protein world and just looking to increase your protein levels, then (if you’re not lactose intolerant) I recommend whey for daytime (faster absorption for post workout) and casein for night (slower absorption while you sleep). If you have allergies or sensitivities to dairy or eggs, then consider plant-based powders such as pea, or even hemp protein, which are very popular with vegetarian and vegans.
For women looking to lose weight, powders aren’t crucial – if you have a healthy balanced diet, don’t bother. If you must, firstly choose the type of protein that works for you, whether it’s diary or plant based. Then opt for the diet version e.g. ‘Diet whey’ or one with fewer sugars and fats. A tip I regularly give clients is to choose the unflavoured diet version. It may not taste great but it usually means there will be no added flavourings from sugars and other additives that can trigger unwanted weight gain. Choosing unflavoured proteins also gives you the freedom of creating your own shakes and flavours by packing in other nutrients such as fruit & vegetables, avocado oil and milled seeds such as flax, sunflower and chia or any other micro or macro nutrients your diet may be lacking.
Are there any watch-outs? Ingredients to avoid? A certain percentage of protein?
Avoid any artificial sweeteners as they can cause weight gain. If you’re worried about ingredients that you’re unsure of then the plant-based proteins are a better option. The ‘cleaner’ the protein the less chance of weight gain and gastrointestinal distress such as bloating and gas.
The question of how much protein depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If it’s weight-loss, an average rule of thumb is to consume 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight, assuming you are doing a moderate amount of exercise. If your goal is to increase muscle mass, you need to be aiming for 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight – and protein shakes can be a great way to meet this much higher target.
When should you have protein powder? E.g. after the gym? Instead of breakfast?
The best times to consume protein are the morning, before a workout, after a workout and also at night. This doesn’t mean you need four shakes a day!
I recommend morning protein to come from things like eggs or oats (porridge). Yes, oats are a carbohydrate, but it is also a valuable source of high-quality protein – and that’s before the added benefit of lowering cholesterol!
Your pre-workout protein also doesn’t need to be a shake. Ideally a meal including protein from meat or fish, green vegetables and brown rice will provide great energy for your workout.
Post-workout, you can have a shake for the fast absorption that it offers. Make sure you are consuming a protein powder with a fast absorption rate. Whey protein is particularly fast and effective for taking directly after your workout.
At night, your body is resting, recovering, rebuilding and growing. When you’re asleep, growth hormone is produced in the body, so it makes sense to consume a slow release casein protein shake to aid recovery, reduce muscle breakdown and help rebuild tissue.
Are protein shakes good for you?
This is a grey area. The simple answer is that they’re not bad for you in moderation but relying solely on shakes to get all your macro and micro nutrients is a recipe for disaster. By replacing meals for shakes the body will be getting nowhere near the other forms of nutrients that it needs. A healthy balanced diet is key.
Are protein shakes good for weight loss? What type of protein powder is best for weight loss?
Protein powders aren’t crucial in a weight loss programme. Creating a calorie deficit is! This means burning more calories that you’re taking in. This can be done in a much healthier way, from a naturally lean diet without anything else. However, if you are determined to use protein powders for weight loss then go for the leanest, cleanest and unflavoured proteins.