Why is it, as soon as you see someone with a protein shaker in their hand it’s automatically assumed that they are gym-obsessed or on some kind of crazy shake diet? There are so many stigmas attached to protein powders and shakes. But is there any truth to these? Is supplementing with protein going negatively effect your health? Or will it help you lose weight and lose fat? I’m here to tell you today that protein powder is not just for aforementioned douchebag gym freaks, but is actually a great way to get more protein into your diet.
Protein: the basics
Proteins provide the building blocks of skeletal muscle. They are made up of amino acids and there are 20 in total. There are 9 essential amino acids (EAAs) and 11 non-essential amino acids (NEAAs) which can be accessed by eating a diverse range of protein sources. We get protein from:
- Animals (meat, fish, eggs)
- Plants (soy, wheat and gluten)
- Dairy (cheese, yoghurt whey and casein which are milk proteins)
How much do we need?
There is always a lot of of debate about how much protein we need on a daily basis. The World Health Organisation recommends a daily consumption of 0.8g of protein per kg of bodyweight but this has come under scrutiny as a lot research suggests 1.0-1.2g is more suitable to support muscle maintenance [reference]. There is a theory that the high value has been quashed as the increase of dietary protein intake has massive financial implications. Protein needs are 50% to 175% greater in athletes due to the amount of training they do, but for my fat loss/weight loss clients I recommend they aim to get 1.5-2g per kg of body weight in a day.
So for example, I would recommend to a weight loss client weighing 70kg to eat around 140 g of protein daily in addition to fat and carbohydrate macronutrients, based on that person’s unique goals and energy requirements. While that person can hit the protein goal by eating chicken breasts and tins of tuna, it’s not practical to get all your protein in that way…and also a bit boring! It also adds variety to your diet as you can have it as a shake with almond milk and banana, or you can add unflavoured whey to soups and other savoury dishes if you want to.
What does that look like?
So how much does 40g of protein look like as a lot of people may believe 100g of raw chicken breast and as chicken is a form of protein would be 100g of protein. But this is not the case! 100g of chicken has approximately 20-25g of protein. In a scoop of whey protein we look at similar amount of protein as 100g of chicken.
What is whey protein?
It is milk protein which can be fractionated into two general protein classes, which includes casein and whey. Whey protein is water soluble, mixes easily, and is rapidly digested. It is a supplement which can be used at anytime of the day but post workout it is a quick easy snack. Whey contains an array of biologically active peptides whose sequences give them specific signalling effects when liberated in the gut. It produces tryptophan which enhances cognitive performance when placed under stress, and improves the quality of sleep.
You might be reading this and thinking to yourself: “No whey, Jose, if I take protein shakes I’ll start getting too big and muscley!”
If you’re worried that protein shakes contain too many calories and you don’t want to put on weight, consider this: an average shake with water will contain between 100-150 kcal so it’s unlikely to cause weight gain unless it takes you into a calorie surplus (by surplus, I mean you eat over the total daily recommended calories, which if you do this every day over a period of time, will result in weight gain).
Some people are worried that too much protein in your diet will cause kidney problems, but it is only people with a hereditary or a current kidney problems who have to be aware of how much protein they ingest on a day to day basis. Eating above the national guidelines of 0.8g per kg of body weight is not going to do a healthy individual any harm.
So while supplementing your diet with protein powder will help you hit your protein target, being a douchebag is totally optional!
Recipe: Protein Chocolate Mug Cake
- 1 scoop Whey Protein (chocolate flavour)
- 1tsp Cocoa Powder
- 1 egg
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- A dash of nut milk to bind
Mix in a small microwavable bowl or large cup until thick paste is formed.
Microwave for 50 seconds for melt-in-the-middle cake or 1.10 for solid sponge.
You can add a sprinkling of hazelnuts and a spoonful of greek yoghurt to jazz it up.
Macros (excluding toppings)
- ISSN Dr Jacob Wilson et Al 2010- Protein and Sports Performance
- Mac Nutrition Nutritional Myths Martin Macdonald 2016