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Protein Supplements - Your Guide to Protein and Protein Powders

True Protein Blogger 1 by Ruby Blackhall 01 September 2021

Protein powder is a popular nutritional supplement made from powdered forms of protein that can come from various sources. Find out more about what protein powder is, its benefits and how you can supplement it into your diet in this beginners guide to protein supplements.

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Protein Supplements - Your Guide to Protein and Protein Powders

Protein is an essential micronutrient that offers many structural and functional characteristics crucial for maintaining optimal health. Protein is made up of amino acids that the body uses to create hormones and enzymes and build and repair cells, muscles and bones, among other things. We can find protein in lean meats, poultry, eggs, nuts, legumes, beans, fish and seafood. However, it can sometimes be challenging to reach your daily macronutrient target if your protein intake is insufficient; this is where protein powders can be helpful. 


What is protein powder, and how many types of protein powder are there?

Protein powder is a popular nutritional supplement made from powdered forms of protein that can come from various sources. Protein powders are organised into two groups, plant-based protein or animal-based protein. There are many different types to choose from within these two groups, so let’s explore some of them. 


Whey protein

Whey protein is the most commonly used type of protein powder, mainly because it is easily soluble in water and absorbed quickly into your body. Whey protein comes from milk and therefore contains lactose, a sugar found in milk that can be difficult to digest for some people. There are three different types of whey protein:


Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC)  - whey protein concentrate contains around 60-80% protein, with the rest made up of fat and lactose. WPC is often the most popular type of whey protein as people prefer the taste. True Protein’s WPC 80 is a great tasting Whey protein Concentrate with 21g of protein per serve. 


Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) - whey protein isolate goes through an additional filtering process to remove fat and carbs, resulting in less fat and lactose than WPC. WPI is more concentrated with 90% protein. True Protein’s WPI 90 is a great Whey Protein Isolate, with 25g of protein per serve. 


Whey Protein Hydrolysates (WPH) - whey protein hydrolysates are a further concentrated whey protein containing around 99% protein. It dissolves into water even quicker; however, it tastes somewhat bitter, even when mixed with other ingredients.

 

Casein Protein

Casein protein, like whey protein, also comes from milk, however, they have different digestion times. Casein protein digests slower than whey protein. This means it is a slower release of protein, making it best for before bed. On the other hand, whey digests quickly, making it beneficial for post-workout to help with muscle recovery. True Protein’s Night85 is made up of mostly casein protein in a ratio of 80:20 with whey protein and makes a great slow-releasing protein ideal for before bed. 

 

Pea Protein

Pea protein is a vegan protein blend made from extracting the protein from yellow peas. It contains all nine essential amino acids that we must get from our diet and is one of the more easily digested plant-based proteins. Pea Protein is rich in iron and is naturally vegan, gluten-free and dairy free making it easy to consume within any diet. 

 

Soy Protein

Soy protein is another plant-based protein suitable for vegetarians and vegans. It is made from defatted soybeans that are rinsed in alcohol or water to remove sugars. There is some controversy when it comes to soy; however, the evidence is weak, and therefore most people can consume soy with no issues. 

 

Brown Rice Protein

Brown rice protein is a vegan suitable protein powder that is also hypoallergenic, meaning it doesn’t contain allergens typically found in whey, casein, and soy. It is easily digestible, smoother and less gritty than other plant-based proteins; however, it does not contain all the essential amino acids. 

 

Hemp Protein

Hemp protein is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids that we need to get from foods. It is made from pressed hemp seeds and can often taste earthy or grassy. Hemp protein is less refined than other protein powders meaning it has a grittier texture and is better tasting when consumed in smoothies or other foods. 


Plant-based protein powders can also be a blend of multiple plant-based sources that combine the individual benefits of each type of protein. True Protein’s Vegan 85 is a pea, pumpkin and brown rice protein blend, making it a great protein source for vegans or people with other dietary requirements. 


What does protein powder do?

Protein is a nutrient made up of amino acids that the body uses to create hormones and enzymes and build and repair cells, muscles and bones. Protein powder can be used as a protein supplement if you are not consuming enough protein in your diet. However, we can use it for various purposes, including weight loss, muscle growth, muscle recovery or added nutrition.


Weight Loss

Protein can aid in weight loss as it can help support a healthy appetite and keep you fuller for longer. If you are looking to lose weight, you should be in a calorie deficit, meaning your calorie intake is less than the number of calories you burn throughout the day. Protein powder can help lessen your appetite, meaning you will consume fewer calories throughout the day. Your body also needs more energy to metabolise protein than fats or carbohydrates, meaning more energy is burned in the process, therefore temporarily speeding up your metabolism. 


Muscle Growth

Protein contains amino acids which are the building blocks for muscle growth. Protein powders provide your body with easily digestible amino acids that trigger a more significant response for muscle synthesis with increased consumption. Engaging in resistance training involves your muscle fibres tearing; they are then rebuilt larger and stronger with the help of protein. Therefore, when combined with resistance training and a balanced diet, protein powder can aid muscle growth. 


Muscle Recovery

Following resistance training, protein can help repair and rebuild muscle tissue. Therefore, we can use protein powder to speed up recovery and lessen muscle soreness following exercise. 


Added Nutrition

Often, it can be challenging to reach your daily protein targets, especially if you have dietary requirements. Many high protein foods are animal-based, making it challenging for vegans, vegetarians or dairy-free individuals to consume enough protein. There are a wide variety of protein powders suitable for all types of diets. Protein powders provide a large amount of protein in a small serving with around 20-25g of protein per serve, making it a great opportunity to get some added nutrition into your diet.


How much protein powder should I have?

Protein consumption varies depending on your activity level, muscle mass, gender, weight, and fitness goals. For the average sedentary adult, the Dietary Reference Intake Report (RDI) suggests we consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day, or between 10% and 35% of your total calorie intake per day. This recommendation is the minimal requirement to maintain basic nutritional requirements, although most of us need more than that.


You may need more protein depending on:

  • Gender - Males generally require more protein than females as they have more muscle mass and a higher calorie intake.

  • Muscle Mass - Protein intake correlates to your muscle mass, meaning the higher your muscle mass, the more protein you require to maintain and repair it.

  • Fitness goal - Protein is helpful for both building muscle and losing weight.

  • Diet - If you do not eat animal products that are usually high in protein, you may not be consuming enough protein.


Studies suggest your daily protein intake should be 30% of your daily calorie intake. If you consume 2,000 calories per day, 600 of these should come from high protein sources. Another way to work out your protein is to have between 1.4 - 1.8g of protein per kg of body weight, meaning if you weigh 70kg, you should be consuming between 98 and 126g per day. 


Most protein powders contain around 25g of protein per serve, which contributes to your protein goals in a relatively small serving size. One serving of protein powder is the same as eating four eggs, an 85g chicken breast or 100 almonds.


How and when to use protein?

Protein powder is convenient, versatile, comes in a variety of flavours and is a great way to ensure adequate protein intake. To take protein powder, you can mix it into water, blend it into smoothies, or use it in baking to make protein balls, cookies, slices or oats. Here are some recipes you can use to create tasty, high protein treats. 


Whilst there is no danger in taking protein throughout the day, if you are using it to achieve a specific fitness goal, a particular time may be best for helping you achieve that goal. 


If your goal is to lose weight, you may want to consume your protein between meals. This helps curb your hunger which aids in preventing you from snacking, therefore, reducing the calories you are consuming and contributing to your calorie deficit. It should also be mentioned that whilst you can use protein shakes as a meal replacement for weight loss, you should ensure that your dietary intake is nutritionally adequate throughout the day. This involves a balanced diet including whole foods, complex carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins and minerals. 


If your goal is to build muscle or help with recovery, the best time for you to consume protein is after you exercise. There are different studies on the exact time frame following exercise, but you should receive the benefits if you consume your protein between 15 minutes and 2 hours following training. 


If you are consuming protein powder as a source of added nutrition, you can consume protein at any time throughout the day. The best protein to take before bed is casein as this is a slow-releasing and slow-digesting protein. 


How long does protein last?

Protein powder has a relatively long shelf life of 9-19 months when stored correctly. There should be specific storing details on the packaging of your protein; however, quality is best when stored in a cool, dry environment. If using daily, it is unlikely that your protein powder will last this long anyway! Most protein powders should contain a best before or expiry date, and if consumed past these dates, there is no guarantee of its quality or taste. 


Key Takeaways

Protein powder is a popular nutritional supplement made from powdered forms of protein that can come from various sources. There are many different types and flavours to suit additional dietary requirements and preferences. To ensure your protein powder is beneficial for you, you must choose a suitable protein powder, know how much protein your body needs per day, and the best time to consume protein. Doing these things will ensure you reap all the benefits protein has to offer.

 

References

  1. Chandler, R. (n.d.). Gainful. [online] gainful.com. Available at: https://www.gainful.com/blog/7-types-of-protein-powder/ [Accessed 23 Aug. 2021].doi:10.3402/mehd.v26.26191.

  2. SWEAT. (n.d.). Protein Powder: Why & How To Use it. [online] Available at: https://www.sweat.com/blogs/nutrition/types-of-protein-powder. doi:10.3402/mehd.v26.26191.

  3. Healthline. (n.d.). What’s the Difference Between Casein and Whey Protein? [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/casein-vs-whey#bottom-line.doi:10.3402/mehd.v26.26191.

  4. Healthline. (2018). Pea Protein Powder: Nutrition, Benefits and Side Effects. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/pea-protein-powder#nutritional-benefits. doi:10.3402/mehd.v26.26191.

  5. Healthline. (2018). Soy Protein: Good or Bad? [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/soy-protein-good-or-bad#bottom-line [Accessed 23 Aug. 2021]. doi:10.3402/mehd.v26.26191.

  6. Anon, (n.d.). 7 Benefits of Brown Rice Protein Powder | Titan Biotech Ltd. [online] Available at: https://titanbiotechltd.com/blogs/7-benefits-of-brown-rice-protein-powder/ [Accessed 23 Aug. 2021]. doi:10.3402/mehd.v26.26191.

  7. Healthline. (2018). Hemp Protein Powder: The Best Plant-Based Protein? [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/hemp-protein-powder#taste [Accessed 23 Aug. 2021]. doi:10.3402/mehd.v26.26191.

  8. Healthline. (2020). Do Protein Shakes Work? Muscle Gain and Weight Loss. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/do-protein-shakes-work#muscle-gain. doi:10.3402/mehd.v26.26191.

  9. Life by Daily Burn. (2015). Infographic: What 25 Grams of Protein Looks Like. [online] Available at: https://dailyburn.com/life/health/protein-sources-infographic/. doi:10.3402/mehd.v26.26191.

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IMPORTANT INFORMATION: all content provided here is of a general nature only and is not a substitute for individualised professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and reliance should not be placed on it. For personalised medical or nutrition advice, please make an appointment with your doctor, dietitian or qualified health care professional.

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