What Does Protein Powder Do?
By: admin On: 14 April 2023
It is an increasingly popular nutritional supplement, but what does protein powder actually do? Just how did it become so mainstream? Types of protein powder and why add them to your diet.
Protein powders are a nutritional supplement, once only favoured by bodybuilders and gym goers. But what does protein powder actually do? And why do so many people now include it as part of their daily regime?
Types of protein powder
Traditionally, protein powders were made from animal sources. They were made either from components of cows milk (whey or casein) or from egg white derivatives. Both of which are excellent sources of complete protein. Before they were taken up by the bodybuilding community, they would have been (and still are) widely used in hospital and healthcare settings as a nutritional supplement for those unable to eat, or that needed an extra boost.
Later arrivals on the scene were the plant-based protein powders. Also sources of complete protein, these are derived from plants such as peas, or hemp.
Why take protein powder?
Why take protein powder? Surely we can get protein from the food we eat?
For a start, protein powder can be pretty handy. It has a long shelf life, mixes into an easy to drink shake, and is fairly portable. It can also be added to cooking and baking for a bit of a protein boost.
But why would we need a protein boost in the first place?
Protein in the body
Most of us are well aware that the body needs protein. A vital component of bone, muscle, and skin, protein is crucial to all our life processes at the cellular level. Without the amino acids that are the building blocks of protein we can barely survive; let alone thrive.
There are 9 amino acids that we need to intake from food. Foods that contain all nine amino acids are known as complete proteins. Most animal sources of protein are complete, and we once believed that without these foods that our diet was somehow lacking. We now understand that we can obtain our full quota of amino acids from a range of food sources; including plants.
How much protein do we need?
Roughly speaking, between 10 to 35% of your calories should come from protein, depending on your level of activity. For the average diet of 2000kcal a day this is somewhere between 50 and 175g protein. The average, fairly sedentary adult generally aims for about 50g; a goal that is easily achievable on a diet that includes animal proteins. A bit of milk, an egg, plus a portion of fish or meat and you are pretty much there. On a plant based diet, still aiming for 50g, that looks like a cup of lentils, a cup of quinoa and several large handfuls of nuts. Also fairly doable.
But what if you need to aim higher? Long story short, it is a lot easier to maximise your protein intake with an animal based diet than it is with a plant based one. And what about those all essential amino acids? You need a really varied range of plant proteins to ensure an adequate intake.
In all likelihood, the surge in popularity of protein powders has come with increased interest (and uptake) of a plant-based diet.
Protein in plants
All plants contain protein in varying amounts, even the ones we don't think of as protein foods. Yet only a handful are sources of complete protein; most are missing an amino acid or two. So not only is the challenge to get enough grams of protein, but also to get an adequate supply of all nine amino acids.
For many people this is not an issue an at all, and with a wide range of plant foods they cover these needs easily. But not everyone.
Why you might need to boost your protein on a plant based diet
- For active gym goers, to aid recovery and repair muscle fibre
- To replenish energy levels on the go
- To help stave off hunger and promote weight loss
- When you aren't eating proper meals
Plant based protein powder
Plant based protein powder offers an efficient form of protein delivery. A single scoop offers about 25g of protein, with all nine essential amino acids. Blended up into a shake, with water or a non-dairy milk, it is possibly the simplest way to meet your protein needs.
The two most common types are made from isolated pea protein or hemp seed. Both are sources of complete protein, yet hemp has a whole host of extra nutritional benefits to offer.
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