Protein supplements have become an integral part of modern workout culture--just go into any gym, and you're bound to see someone gulping down a protein shake or nibbling on a protein bar. Protein powder in particular is a very popular form of supplementation, because it's super-easy to use; just add a scoop or two of powder to a cup of water or milk (or your favorite drink), and you have an instant nutrient cocktail.
The ease and convenience of putting together a quick and healthy protein shake is a huge part of its appeal, but another key to the massive popularity of protein powder is that it's available everywhere, from supermarkets to GNC stores to fitness-oriented online outposts. So what exactly is protein powder, and should you be using it? Below are some key facts regarding this uber-popular workout supplement, as well as some insight into how it can benefit your health and fitness program.
Protein Powder: What It's All About
As you've probably guessed by now, protein powder is basically just protein in powder form. Since protein is one of the most essential nutrients for muscle growth and recovery, it only make sense to add it to your nutrition and fitness regimen in order to keep your muscles strong and healthy.
While much of your protein needs can be met through eating lean meats and whole foods such as beans, nuts and eggs, you might not always have the time to prepare a balanced, protein-rich meal when you're scrambling your way through a busy daily schedule. Enter protein powder: In about 90 seconds flat, you can add a scoop of high-quality protein to your favorite beverage, and you'll be able to easily reach your daily protein intake goal without any food preparation hassles.
Types of Protein Powder
Protein powder is derived from all kinds of sources including whey, soy, milk, hemp, and even peas. There are dozens of different varieties to choose from, and although the packaging for these various powders may feature spruced-up terms such as "hydrolyzed" or "micro-filtered," research suggests that the differences between them are marginal at best.
You may, however, have to experiment a little to figure out which protein powder will best agree with your taste buds. The most common flavors for protein powder are chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, but occasionally you might run across some more adventurous flavors such as banana or cookies and cream.
Depending upon which type of protein you buy (e.g., soy, whey, etc.), you'll discover that some types lend themselves to a better flavor and less aftertaste than others. For this reason, it's a good idea to buy a small canister or even an individual-sized bottle or packet of protein powder first before committing to a large tub.
Using Protein Powder in Your Diet
The average protein powder will provide anywhere between 15 to 32 grams of protein per serving, which makes it an excellent source of additional protein for your diet. According to the Harvard Medical School, the average sedentary adult needs about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight to meet their daily protein requirements.
For those of us who don't feel like fooling with conversion tables, just take your bodyweight in pounds and multiply it by 0.36, and you will have a good baseline estimate of the amount of protein you'll need on a daily basis. For example, a 150-pound sedentary (e.g., non-exercising) adult male needs to consume roughly 54 grams of protein per day in order to meet the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) suggested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Now if a sedentary person needs that much protein just to meet the minimum standards, more than likely a person who actively works out will need a little bit more to help keep their muscles strong and resilient. For the active fitness enthusiast, a range of 0.50-0.70 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight will give you a more accurate figure. For example, a physically active 150-pound man would need anywhere between 75 grams (150 x 0.50) to 105 grams (150 x 0.70) of protein a day in order to meet his protein requirements.
So you see how protein shakes can really come in handy? Eating the equivalent amount of food to give you 75 to 105 grams of protein per day may mean gobbling down nearly two dozen eggs a day, or eating two 9-ounce steaks per day, either of which scenarios might cram your stomach full or blow your food budget. Using a protein powder to supplement is far easier.
Fitness enthusiasts of all stripes understand the importance of using protein powder to meet the body's nutritional needs. Keep the above information in mind to help you incorporate this essential nutrient into your health and fitness regimen.