If you’re busy, protein powders can often come in handy. At any time of day, you can quickly whip up a shake and allow your body to be nourished and satisfied.
A quality protein drink made from whole food ingredients can benefit your health in a number of ways. Protein powders can balance hormones, assist in weight loss, support detoxification and digestion, boost your immune system, and even support pregnancy.
Protein is also the key nutrient that helps you get ageless, glowing skin and lean, toned muscles.
I’ve been in the fitness and health industry since my early 20s and have tasted many kinds of protein on the market. Some made me gain weight, some constipated me for days, and some made me feel bloated.
It’s important you choose the right protein powder that suits your needs and that supports your health in every way.
Protein helps to:
- Support weight loss and healthy metabolism
- Support detox diets
- Support nutritional needs during pregnancy
- Support digestive health
- Repair and maintain healthy skin and hair
- Keep blood sugars stable
- Curb appetite
- Maintain a healthy Immune system
- Sustain lean muscle
- Prevent muscle wastage
- Assist in hormone production
- Assist recovery from sport or illness
Here’s what you DON'T want in a protein powder:
1. Casein + WPC
These are also known as whey protein concentrate and caseinate. WPC’s and casein protein sources are high in lactose, which can often cause bloating, flatulence, and gastrointestinal distress in some people.
Food sensitivities to gluten can elevate inflammation in some people and cause a range of health problems including hormonal imbalances, skin conditions, fatigue, mood swings, and headaches.
These ingredients can raise glycemic load, which may contribute to fat storage. They can also cause gastrointestinal distress in some people.
4. Artificial sweeteners
Common artificial sweeteners used are sucralose, splenda (955), aspartamine, equal, NutraSweet (951), or saccharin (954). Several negative side effects can come from ingesting these unnatural ingredients, including headaches, migraines, gastric distress, depression, and weight gain.
5. Skim milk powders/milk solids
Skim milk powders and milk solids are often used as a cheap bulking agent in less quality powders. They are high in lactose sugars, which can cause bloating, gastrointestinal distress, constipation, and loose stools. The protein is poorly absorbed into the body, making it harder for you to reap all of its benefits.
6. Soy protein
Most soy proteins come from genetically-modified sources with high pesticide use, and contain the chemical compound phyto-oestrogen, which may cause hormonal disturbances and suppressed thyroid function in some people.
7. Vegetable oils and fats
These ingredients are often added to many weight loss and protein supplements to increase richness. However, these fats are often derived from hydrogenated sources that contain trans fats, which are thought to be more harmful than saturated fats.
Trans fats raise levels of bad cholesterol and lower levels of good cholesterol.
8. Thickeners and gums
Thickeners and gums, including xanthan gum, are manufactured from soy or corn and can cause bloating and gas.
Fillers are often added to bulk up the protein and save money for the manufacturer. Some fillers include ingredients such as coconut flour or psyllium, which can cause gastric distress in women who are susceptible to digestive issues, such as constipation or bloating.
The less ingredients the better!
When should protein shakes be incorporated into a diet?
Match your protein to your goal. If you find a clean protein powder, it can be used for a number of things, such as fitness, weight loss, body shaping, etc. However, you will use the protein differently depending on what your goal is.
1. Weight loss
Protein can work effectively to regulate the appetite, support lean muscle, and encourage significant weight loss. It is recommended you get between 80 — 120 grams of protein per day to aid satiety and repair.
The best way to use protein for weight loss is to use it as a meal replacement. Start the day with a morning smoothie for breakfast after your workout.
I use grass-fed whey protein or organic pea protein, and then add frozen berries, almond milk or coconut water, and some ice. A small banana can also be added for extra creaminess, and boosters such as matcha green tea can increase fat burning. This type of smoothie will improve metabolism, nourish lean muscle, and keep you energized all morning.
As a midafternoon snack, I like to combine 1 serving of protein with 1-½ cups of coconut water or water in a blender bottle. This will help curb your appetite and keep you from reaching for the cookie jar when you feel like something sweet.
2. Sports performance
The best time to consume protein is immediately after exercise. This is when blood flow to the exercised muscles is high and the muscle is especially receptive to nutrients.
Before exercising, protein shakes can curb appetite and keep blood sugars stable to get you through your workout.
It’s important that your protein is high in BCAA’s (branched chain amino acids). Studies show that BCAA’s can reduce fatigue, improve exercise performance, reduce muscle breakdown, and facilitate healing.
For sports performance and recovery, I love to shake my protein with coconut water or water and drink it immediately after my workout. Two shakes per day are ideal and will help your body and muscles recover quickly.
Should protein be mixed into a smoothie with fruit? Or are they best taken alone with water?
This depends on whether you want to use it as a healthy meal replacement or just a quick protein fix.
As a smoothie, you’re having a complete meal and great for breakfast on the go. As a shake mixed with water, you’re getting quicker absorption into the body. This is great after a workout when you’re body is most receptive to the intake of protein.
How much protein should a woman get in her diet?
The amount of protein you consume each day varies slightly depending on your age, weight, and activity level. To maintain good health, it’s all about getting a good balance of quality protein over the course of a day.
The average amount for a women it’s 0.75g per kilo of body weight per day. For athletes, pregnant women, or those dieting, aim for about 1.2 grams of protein per kilo of body weight or about 80 grams per day.
Some women fear of bulking up, can this happen?
Aside from genetic makeup, there are a few other explanations as to why some women bulk up or gain weight when using protein.
They could be exercising incorrectly for their body type and needs, eating too much or eating the wrong foods, or drinking too much alcohol, which can suppress fat burning.
Other women choose a no-carb diet and focus on getting lots of protein. What are the dangers with this?
This type of diet isn't sustainable. It can overload the liver and cause digestive issues, constipation, palpitations, mood swings, and acne, among many other things.
Focus on including the healthy carbs into your diet, like fresh fruit and vegetables. You’ll feel nourished and vitalized and your body and skin will look amazing!
Is plant-based protein inferior to animal-based protein? Why/why not?
Plant-based protein isn't inferior, as long as you choose one that has a complete amino acid profile and is not loaded with fillers, or the other unhealthy ingredients listed above. The less ingredients the better!
Evaluate the ingredient quality and how it’s made. Like most manufactured foods, protein powders are not created equal. It's important that the protein you use is un-denatured and free from unhealthy chemicals and additives.