Can Protein Powder Be The Secret Ingredient to Fitness?
We hear a lot about the importance of “getting your protein in” before or after a workout. We’ve seen videos of muscled men and women blending raw eggs into “power shakes” and we’ve all heard friends wax poetic about their pre-and-post gym protein routines. But what if you’re just starting out? How do you know what, if anything, you should be drinking and how often? Should you have a protein shake before your workout or after? What’s the difference between proteins? Is “whey” protein better than other types of protein powder? If it seems there's a lot to sort through when it comes to protein supplements, and you're a little confused, then you're not alone. And we're going to try and help you sift through all of this to determine what’s best for you. Read on.
What Are Protein Powders?
Protein powders are extremely popular as a nutritional supplement. They come in various forms, but the three most common ones are whey, soy, and casein protein, of which whey is by far the most popular. Whey, which is milk protein, is most popular for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it is completely water soluble and is what’s known as a “complete protein” – that is, it contains all nine of the amino acids necessary for human dietary needs. Whey protein, being the most common, also comes in the widest variety of flavors and because it's water soluble, its taste is easily disguised. Others, like soy protein, might be preferred by vegans but the taste is sometimes considered to be more unpleasant.
While they can vary greatly in price, protein powders tend to come in large containers, generally giving you a pretty fair bang for your buck. With many flavors, you’re sure to find at least one or two you’re fond of. Protein powders mixed into custom-made shakes – perhaps with your favorite fruits – can be quite tasty. Moreover, protein powders can be used in many different ways to prepare creative concoctions like bars, cookies, or energy balls.
Do You Need Protein Powder?
It might seem obvious, but the first question you should ask yourself is whether or not you really need a protein powder. Protein powder is not a magical elixir that will instantly help you pack on muscle. It’s a diet supplement. If you’re already getting enough protein from whole foods in your regular diet, 3 or 4 times a day or so, protein powder might be overkill.
Which Protein Powder to Buy
If you’re new to protein powders, your best bet is a whey protein. Try to pick something within your budget that’s low in other ingredients. Go for low carbs, low sugar, low sodium, low fat, etc. The ingredients should be easily found on the label or the manufacturer's website. Buy your favorite flavor; chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, etc. Don’t consider which flavor has “fewer calories” because they will all be, more or less, the same. If you’re unsure of what flavor you like, don’t invest in a giant container yet! Purchase a few small samples first.
Avoid buying protein powder at mass supplement or big sports stores. These outlets generally have a huge mark-up and you will likely overpay. Your most cost-effective option is usually to order online, where prices can be half of those you’d pay in the stores. If you have a personal fitness coach or trainer, he or she can give you some guidance on what brand and type of protein powder to buy. They may also be in a position to get you a good price. If you’ve already found a brand and flavor you like, and you’ve determined you’re serious about your fitness, buy in bulk. You’ll save money on each item and you'll save on shipping.
When to Use Protein Powder
Depending on the frequency and intensity of your workouts, your protein needs might change. But, in general, most people drink protein shakes either as a meal replacement or as a post-workout supplement. In terms of meal replacements, many people opt for a breakfast protein shake to kickstart their day. This is especially useful for people who have little time in the morning or value their sleep over extra time to cook breakfast. To give your breakfast shake an extra boost, add a few servings of fruit and vegetables, plus some healthy fats like yogurt, almond or peanut butter in addition to the protein powder.
Post-workout shakes found their popularity after the advent of the “post-workout window” which stipulated that one should eat or drink protein within 30 minutes to one hour after a workout, otherwise the benefits of the workout would be lessened or even lost. As it turns out, this is not true and the window is actually much longer. So don’t feel compelled to chug a shake right after you step off the treadmill. Give your stomach as much time as it needs to calm down. Post-workout shakes can be as simple as protein powder and water, or you can embellish them with fruit, vegetables, and other ingredients. Keep in mind, though, that you don’t need to drink protein powder right after your workout. A protein-rich meal will do just as well. So pick what appeals to you and what’s easiest for your schedule and workout habits.
Let RX Fitness Equipment Help
If you're wondering whether or not adding a protein supplement to your nutrition routine is a good idea, discuss it with a professional. RX Fitness works with hundreds of nutritionists, coaches, and personal trainers. We'd be happy to refer you to one who can help. If you're looking for a great selection of fitness equipment and accessories of all kinds, we carry the top brands to fit every goal and budget and we're here to make your fitness routine more productive. Stop by one of our four locations or give us a call. And don't forget to check out Tim's best-selling book, Fitness Equipment – A Shopper's Guide, available at Amazon and other online book sellers as well as in our store.