Did you know that the human body has approximately 100,000 different proteins made by different combinations of amino acids, and that around 18-20% of the body weight is due to proteins?
Protein is a macronutrient which is vital for good health. It strengthens the immune system, repairs damaged cells and tissues, builds and maintains lean muscle mass, produces hormones and can serve as an energy source when your dietary carbs are low. Protein also keeps you satisfied for longer periods of time after you’ve had a meal which is one of the reasons the low-carb high protein diet is so popular.
You can add protein to your diet by using whole-food sources or supplements such as protein powders. But given the fact that most of the food available on the market today is not as nutrient-rich, you should consider adding supplements to your diet to make sure your body is getting the nutrition it needs to function properly.
Being quite popular among health conscious people, protein powders are concentrated sources of protein extracted from animal or plant foods such as eggs, dairy, peas and rice. The most common ones are casein, whey and pea protein powders.
Whey protein is derived from milk – it is the liquid that is separated from the curds during the cheese-making process. It contains high levels of protein and it is packed with branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). Whey protein is the favorite powder among bodybuilders due to its ability to promote muscle growth and a faster recovery after performing endurance and resistance exercises. Plus, it is known for its ability to reduce appetite and inflammation, helping you achieve your fitness goals faster.
Similar to whey, casein is also extracted from milk but it is digested and absorbed much more slowly. Once it gets in contact with stomach acid, casein becomes a gel, slowing down the process of emptying and delaying the absorption of amino acids in the bloodstream. This leads to a gradual, steadier exposure of amino acids to the muscles, minimizing the chances of muscle protein breakdown. According to a number of studies, casein seems to be more effective than whey and soy protein, but not as effective as whey in promoting muscle protein synthesis and strength.
This is a relatively new protein powder, but it is becoming quite popular among vegetarians and people with allergies or people who are sensitive to dairy proteins due to its high amounts of all the essential amino acids (except for methionine). Although there is a smaller number of studies confirming its effectiveness, pea protein powder has been proved to increase muscle growth and promote fullness just like as animal-based protein sources.
It is important to mention that you shouldn’t replace all your meals with protein powders in an effort to lose weight or promote muscle growth. On the contrary, you should continue eating whole foods, even when your goal is weight-loss. This will ensure an adequate intake of minerals, vitamins, and fibre in your diet. Protein powders are just a more convenient way to add more protein to your food intake while also helping you build more muscle. Ideally, you should consume supplements only once or twice a day for optimal results.