Updated: Mar 2, 2020
Overwhelmed with a choice of protein powders and need clarity on what to look for? Well you are not alone! Many of my clients are often confused with how to choose a suitable protein powder and whether they need one at all.
I have to be honest, in the past protein powder has developed a reputation of a weightloss or 'only for athletes' drink. As our lifestyles and nutritional needs are changing, our diets have to evolve with it and protein powder might just be the answer.
So what is protein and why is it so important?
If you remember biology lessons, we are made of protein from the very core, as DNA is made up of proteins. Proteins are building blocks for growth, repair and maintenance in our bodies. That includes not only muscles, but also skin, hair and even gastrointestinal tract. Proteins are also at the front line of immunity defense, as the cells that identify and neutralize foreign objects are also protein. How about the enzymes, some hormones, various regulatory mechanisms and substance transport? You guessed correctly, ALL of these functions require proteins.
Bottom line is, every cell in the body contains protein.
So if you started a vegetarian or vegan diet and recognized energy levels drop, started having gut issues and notice difference in your skin and hair health, chances are your body may be missing some building blocks for repair and maintenance. *
Protein powder can be beneficial for anybody on a vegetarian or vegan diet, as well as individuals who only eat meat, fish and eggs occasionally. It is a great alternative snack that can aid in balancing energy levels, also easy to add to porridge or a smoothie. But how do you know if you need to take it?
These are the approximate guidelines on protein requirements daily (g of protein times your weight):
•Infants (1–6 months) - 1.52 g protein/kg/day •Infants (6 months - 12 months) - 1.5 g protein/kg/day •Children (1-3 years) - 1.1 g protein/kg/day •Children (4-13 years) - 0.95 g protein/kg/day •Children (14-18 years)- 0.85 g protein/kg/day •Adults (> 19 years) - 0.8 g protein/kg/day •Pregnancy - 1.1 g protein/kg/day •Lactation - 1.1 g protein/kg/day**
You decide that it is beneficial to add protein powder to your daily routine, but not sure how to choose the right one? Here are a few pointers to look out for.
1. Read the labels
Many protein powders for athletes now are full of additives, flavourings and sweeteners that are pure toxins and act as hormone disruptors. Rule of thumb is that if you cannot pronounce or recognize the ingredients on the label, do not use it. There are some really great, natural plant-based protein powders out there, including hemp, pea and rice. Make sure that the powder is organic and as pure as possible.
2. To whey or not to whey?
There are contradictory opinions on whether it is more beneficial to use a plant-based or whey protein powder. Research has shown that whey had no clear advantage in cell regeneration and absorption in comparison to plant-based protein powders. In fact, whey powder often contains traces or antibiotics that has been injected to cattle that produced the milk (which is never displayed on the label). What is more, milk naturally contains high levels of oeastrogen, which creates an excess of this hormone in the body and can cause weight gain, mood swings and growth of mutagen cells. Therefore I suggest to go for an alternative plant protein powder, as it is derived from plants and more natural to our bodies.
3. Flavoured or plain?
I often get asked whether to choose a plain or flavoured protein powder. If you make sure that your protein powder contains no artificial flavourings and additives and only has natural flavours, it is then up to you to choose. I suggest to pick a plain powder if you will be adding it to porridge, smoothies and other dishes. However if you count on your powder as a snack option, it can be more enjoyable to pick a flavour like vanilla or chocolate.
* There could be other influences to experiencing these symptoms with vegetarian and vegan diets. Get in touch to find out more
** Rolfes et al 2006, National Academy of Sciences 2004