Whether it’s your first of five thousandth day chasing your health and fitness goals, it’s likely that you already know the two key ingredients to your success. A healthy, nutritious diet and a balanced exercise regime add up to ultimate health and performance. However, as many people have already learned, that equation can be deceptively simple.
Yes, you know that eating healthy foods and fueling your body correctly is essential, but what does that look like? How much should you be eating, what should you be eating, when and how should you eat it? These details may seem overwhelming at first, but don’t get discouraged. One easy answer comes in the form of your protein consumption. Protein is a necessary part of any diet, and when used correctly and in sufficient amounts, willpower you towards your health goals in many different, exciting ways. Many people understand that protein is essential, but don’t know why or how it works. Here are a few critical facts about protein to get started.
Protein is an essential building block of nutrition. The three critical macronutrients that your body needs are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Protein plays an irreplaceable role on this team of nutrients, providing benefits to your body that the others cannot. It is the nutrient that allows your body to build and repair muscle, which is why it is so essential for those with fitness goals. Your body is unable to make its protein, so you must obtain it from outside sources.
Protein is excellent for weight loss or weight gain. Protein is important for everybody, regardless of your personal health goals. If you are looking to lose weight, protein is helpful because it will keep your appetite in check. Eating high-protein foods keep you fuller longer, preventing the aimless snacking that many dieters fall victim to. Also, because protein builds lean muscle, it helps to burn fat and ramp up your metabolism.
At the other end of the spectrum are those looking to gain weight, specifically in muscle mass. Combining a proper amount of daily protein with a targeted fitness routine will help you build this muscle mass efficiently and effectively, and support your specific weight goals.
Protein is key for optimum performance. Even if you are not looking to lose or gain weight, you should still pay attention to your protein intake. Anyone that engages in physical activity will experience a marked improvement in endurance, strength, and overall performance when they are consuming the appropriate amount of protein.
In particular, student-athletes should be keeping up with their protein needs. Not only is it important for peak athletic performance, but there are other benefits for teens as well. These include improved memory skills, reduced stress, dental health, and healthy growing bones.
Now that you understand how important it is to consume the proper amount of protein, especially to meet your goals regarding building muscle, you may have a few more questions about your next steps.
Protein can be found in many different food sources, especially meats, eggs, and nuts. However, many people find it challenging to consume enough protein-rich foods to meet their protein goals. Factors like busy schedules or food preferences can leave you falling short of your protein mark, and adding physical activity to your schedule bumps up the protein bar even more. Luckily, there are other ways to load up on protein besides eating pound after pound of grilled chicken.
Protein supplements are found in powder form and can be added to water or milk for a drinkable shake, or as an ingredient in a variety of healthy recipes. You may have also seen products like protein bars for a quick, on-the-go boost. There are many different forms of protein supplements, so understanding the differences will help you make the best choice. As you will quickly learn, not all protein supplements are created equally.
Derived from dairy, whey protein is referred to by many as the “perfect protein.” Whey is obtained during the cheese-making process, extracted from the milk. It contains a high concentration of a variety of amino acids, which are building blocks responsible for many functions of a healthy body. Additionally, it is rapidly digested by the body. This makes it a very efficient choice for anyone looking for a quality protein source.
Also originating from dairy, casein protein is similar to whey protein in many of its benefits. However, because it is slower to digest, it is not necessarily as useful for building muscle and post-workout recovery.
Soy Protein. A plant-based protein powder, soy protein is not a complete protein. Many people are choosing to avoid soy, because of unclear links between soy and potential adverse health effects.
Another plant-based option, rice protein is not a complete protein. It does have some vitamins and minerals but does not have the comprehensive amino acid profile that whey protein does.
Of all the plant proteins, pea protein is typically the least processed, with fewer artificial ingredients. Its amino acid profile is slightly better than other plant proteins but still doesn’t hold up against whey.
Choosing your ideal protein supplement depends largely on your health and fitness goals. Additionally, factors like food allergies and preferences often play a large part if finding your perfect protein match. Below are a handful of things to consider when shopping for a protein supplement that best meets your needs.
Keep an eye out for fillers like coconut flour and psyllium, which manufacturers often use as a way to reduce the amount of actual protein concentrate used, saving the company money but costing you your nutrition. If you see milk solids on the ingredient list, you should also steer clear. Used as an inexpensive bulking agent, it can lead to uncomfortable digestive issues that stall your fitness progress.
However, some companies produce clean, natural options for your protein needs. At Performance Inspired Fitness, we were founded on the principle of clean, natural ingredients and supplements that give you the fuel you need to reach your goals. You should be confident that you are providing your body with only the best.
After you select your perfect protein, you will want to decide your preferred time and method for consuming it regularly. Though there is no “wrong” time for protein powder, there are certain times for consuming the supplements that will ensure that you are maximizing its benefits. Whey protein, perfect for building and repairing muscle, is generally recommended as either a pre- or post-workout snack. Taken before a workout, it can act as fuel and aid in muscle building. If you take it about thirty minutes after a workout, you will maximize its muscle repair and growth properties.
Another option is to incorporate it as a meal replacement option, especially if you have a busy schedule and need a quick and easy way to meet your nutrient and protein goals. Mix with milk or water using a shaker cup, and you have the perfect meal on-the-go.
In recent years, people have been getting very creative with how they choose to incorporate protein supplements to their daily menu. There are a variety of impressive recipes that utilize protein supplements as a supporting ingredient, allowing you to make healthy versions of your favorite foods. Protein pancakes are a breakfast favorite, and you can also stir protein powder into your morning oatmeal for an added boost. If you’re craving a sweet snack, back away from the ice cream and make a protein-based treat instead. Protein bites combine protein powder, peanut butter, oats, and even chocolate chips for a bite-size snack. For a dessert that builds your muscles and not your muffin top, give protein pudding a try.
However you choose to incorporate protein supplements into your daily diet, a good guideline is about 25 to 50 grams, which equates to one to two scoops of the powder. Depending on your specific goals, you will want to adjust this amount accordingly. The product label will provide exact guidance for use, so be sure to read it before using.
At the end of the day, finding the protein supplement that fits your goals will propel you toward success. Take your time and do your research, because your body is a fine-tuned machine that deserves only the best fuel. By meeting your nutritional needs and challenging yourself to a healthy workout regime, you will be on the path to looking good, feeling good, and being your best self.