No. You don’t need protein powder to survive but it is going to make achieving your health and fitness goals a lot easier! Here are my top four reasons why everyone should use protein powder as part of their diet.
1. Supports On-the-go Lifestyles
Protein foods are not always the most portable foods. This poses a challenge for many people that travel a lot (i.e. overnight trips) or are just on the go during the day. In order to maximize our body’s ability to recover and grow from our training we need to be consistently (~4 hours) providing it with high-quality protein.
Protein powder is a great way to ensure that you always have quality protein when it is time for a meal. I always take protein powder with me when I travel and use it in the morning - generally mixed in oatmeal that you can get from just about any hotel breakfast buffet. This way I know that I’ll always start my day with the protein I need. I also will use it again post-workout if I am training later in the day. This means I’m 100 percent covered for the two most important times for getting protein in my diet no matter where I am.
2. Give You an Advantage Post Workout
The speed at which our body can digest protein impacts the protein’s ability to support muscle growth and repair. As you can probably imagine, protein from whole foods takes longer to digest as your body needs to breakdown the food in order to gain access to the protein before it can absorb it. It takes around 90 minutes for the protein levels in your blood to peak after you eat a whole-food protein meal. When you have a whey protein shake, the protein levels in your blood peak within 30 minutes because your body has to work a lot less hard to take up and absorb the protein.
The speed of absorption and uptake of protein shakes plays to your advantage after a workout. You’ll drink your protein shake, the protein and amino acids (the building blocks of protein) get into your system quickly and strengthen the muscle-building signals produced by your body during exercise. Your body is then ready for another protein-containing meal 2 hours later, allowing you to essentially double click on the post-workout benefits of protein.
When it comes to whole-food protein, because of the slow digestion and absorption, you’d need to wait four hours before you could have protein again that would be optimally used by your body.
3. Provides Calorically Efficient, High-quality Protein
If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, getting in ample high-quality protein is one of the biggest struggles. When you then layer on to that getting in 20-25g of protein in a calorically efficient way, it becomes even more challenging.
Calorie efficiency is the amount of calories it takes to get a specific amount of a certain nutrient.
For example, you have probably heard people say that peanut butter contains protein. While it does, and I love peanut butter, in order to get 20g of protein from peanut butter, you need to eat 5 TBSP which also delivers 470 calories! A well-formulated vegan protein powder can deliver you 20g of protein for only 100 calories. The vegan protein powder is a much more calorically efficient source of protein compared to peanut butter.
This becomes increasingly important if you are controlling and monitoring calories to achieve certain goals.
4. Makes Achieving Optimal Protein Intake Easy
Eating 30g of protein three times per day plus a protein-containing snack is a great way to start improving your diet. But if you are training with a greater frequency than 2-3 times per week for 30-40 minutes at a time - then it is important to step your protein game up.
The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends that athletes consume up to 1 gram of protein per pound bodyweight. If you weigh 170lbs and normally eat 90-110 grams of protein per day (like the above example); but due to increased training, you now want to hit the ISSN recommendations - you need to eat an extra 60g of protein per day.
At 20-25g of protein per serving, protein powder makes it a lot easier for you to consistently achieving your daily protein target.
As you can see protein powder is an extremely versatile and useful tool in your nutritional toolbox. It can give you greater control and freedom over your diet while putting you in the best position to recover and get stronger from your training.