It isn’t a gym if there is no one around talking about which protein shakes they prefer and which ones are better to drink post work out.
It is overwhelming to buy the right protein powder in stores or over the Internet. There are an uncountable number of products and choosing among an array of pre-mixed and ready-to-drink protein supplements is often a herculean task.
Some believe that protein supplements are only for bodybuilders and athletes. Some believe that protein supplements apart from the diet are mandatory for a healthy life.
Thus, it is important to know what exactly are protein supplements and whether you need them or not.
Here you will know everything there is to know about protein supplements, especially plant-based protein supplements, which have gained traction over the last few years.
What are protein supplements?
Protein supplements are nutrition and protein sources food products that help achieve the daily protein intake requirements. The protein supplements are available in the form of powders, bars, and RTD liquid.
Protein supplements contain more than 20–30g of protein per serving and come in different flavors, from cookie flavor to fruit flavor to protein bars.
Although protein supplements are a useful and convenient source of high-quality protein, most athletes rely on eating meat, chicken, dairy products, and fish to complete their protein intake.
Thus, it is vital to know when you should turn toward protein supplements.
- If you are a teenager, your body demands more fuel for workouts as it is still growing. Thus, protein supplements are the best way to consume the required amount of protein intake.
- If you are planning to go vegan, you should think about buying protein shakes and bars. People who switch to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle let go of several important protein sources such as chicken, meat, fish, and eggs.
- If you have joined a workout program and aim to build muscle, you need protein more than usual. In addition, if you aim to train your body for a half-marathon or want to amp your workout, a protein supplement is a must-have.
- If you are recovering from a severe injury, doctors often suggest to increase protein intake. For instance, when athletes with injuries need more protein to speed-up healing, they turn toward protein supplements.
If you fit in one of the abovementioned categories, you might want to purchase protein supplements. Some experts believe that an average adult needs around 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight.
However, if you are an athlete or joining a new fitness regime, you should consult a dietician.
How to consume protein supplements?
There are a lot of misconceptions regarding how and when to consume protein supplements. Most believe that protein shakes are for post-workouts. However, you should take protein supplements before, during, and after the workout as much as your body needs. If you aim to use muscles, they need their fuel– protein.
Thus, you could take protein supplements during the workout. However, post-workout intake protein should not be avoided, which is often called a recovery drink.
Research states that the post-workout body needs proteins with a 4-1 or 5-1 ratio of carbohydrates to proteins. Thus, a fruit smoothie with chocolate milk is the best recipe for a recovery drink.
How to choose a healthy protein supplement?
It could be overwhelming to choose the right protein supplement as some are tasteless or contain too much sugar. Here is a list of things to consider before purchasing a protein supplement.
It should be free from allergenic ingredients
Protein supplements are part of your diet. So it must be free from any harmful ingredients and allergenic components. If you are lactose intolerant, stay clear of milk-based protein supplements. Moreover, check if the protein supplement is gluten-free, so people with gluten intolerance can include protein supplements in their gym routine.
Its taste must be tolerable
Just because it is a part of the diet, does not mean you should suffer for it. Several plant-based protein supplements are tasteless or without any added flavor. Thus, check if the protein supplement comes with chocolate or vanilla flavor. On the other hand, you can add a protein supplement to smoothie recipes if you do not like its aftertaste.
It should contain complete protein
Most plant-based protein supplements are derived from peas, sunflower, pumpkin, hemp, and chia so you get complete and bioavailable proteins. However, if you are unsure regarding its protein contains, opt for all-in-one shakes to increase complete protein intake.
Organic protein supplements
Always opt for protein supplements from certified organic brands. Organic farming avoids conventional farming practices that include the use of fertilizers and synthetic pesticides. Thus, organic protein supplements are best suitable for your body as it is derived from organic plants with no harmful chemicals.
Which to choose: Plant-based protein or whey protein supplements?
Protein, often called as building blocks of bones are amino acids, which are instrumental for human cells and building, repairing tissues, and producing hormones and other body chemicals. There are major two types of protein supplements available in the market: plant-based and whey protein supplements.
If you are lactose intolerant, you must opt for plant-based protein supplements as whey protein powder is milk-based. Otherwise, you can use both types of protein supplements.
Plant-based protein supplements are derived from plants including peas, pumpkin, rice, chia, and soy. The plant materials are dried, powdered, processed, and filtered to remove fats, carbohydrates.
There are several types of based on the plant. For instance, pea protein is derived from yellow split peas.
Health benefits of plant-based protein supplement:
- Good detox: Plant-based proteins are less allergenic and can be a part of detox programs.
- Easy to digest: Compared to other types of proteins, plant-based proteins are easy to digest.
- Hypoallergenic: Most of the plant-based proteins (except soy) are well tolerated by the body and considered ideal for people with allergies and lactose intolerance.
On the other hand, whey protein supplements are derived from milk. Milk is made of whey and casein. The liquid part of milk that remains after the formation of curd is whey protein concentrate. The liquid is mostly water with some protein and once it is extracted, processed, and filtered for fats and carbs, what we get is whey protein. When why protein is dried, it is used in protein supplement products.
Whey protein supplements are considered as a complete protein as it contains a full spectrum of nine vital amino acids that our body does not produce. Moreover, these acids are essential for the growth and functioning of muscles.
Health benefits of whey protein supplement:
- Boosts immune systems: Whey protein contains immunoglobulins that stimulate immune function. Moreover, it contains lactoferrin that helps improve immune systems and has anticancer and antimicrobial properties.
- Support detoxification: The equation is simple: the higher the number of amino acids, the better the food for detoxification. Whey protein is rich in amino acids, making it a perfect antioxidant and detoxifier.
- Higher in BCAAs: Whey protein is rich with Branded Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) including isoleucine, leucine, and valine, which is essential for muscle maintenance and growth.
Although whey proteins are with BCAA, it is not easy to digest as it contains lactose. As we age, our intestine secretes less and less lactase that breaks down lactose. Thus, whey protein supplements are difficult to digest.
Moreover, lactose is the prime reason for intestinal discomfort including bloating and fatigue. On the contrary, plant-based proteins are free from lactose or other milk-derived components.
In addition, plant-based proteins are hypoallergenic. Thus, they are easy to digest without any discomfort.
Due to the benefits and fewer side effects, plant-based protein supplements have gained traction. According to Allied Market Research, the global protein supplements market is expected to reach $8,717.1 million by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 7.4% from 2018 to 2025.
The rise in awareness regarding health & fitness and the surge in demand for plant-based protein supplements are the prime reasons for the market growth. Apart from this, the factors such as an increase in a shift to vegetarianism and veganism and a surge in demand for organic food have boosted the growth of the protein supplement market.
Pros and cons of plant-based protein supplement:
The prime reason for choosing plant-based protein supplements is due to lactose intolerance or sensitivity to dairy products. As dairy products could increase insulin and trigger cancer-signaling pathways, it is better to opt for plant-based protein supplements. However, the plant-based protein supplement is not perfect.
Not only do they demand an excessive amount of food additives but also, they do not behave well in liquid. Moreover, some find the taste of protein supplement repulsive. Thus, they need industrial processing and additives just to make their taste acceptable. Moreover, they can lead to inflammation or upset stomach.
However, plant-based protein supplements are perfect for breakfast as it helps to stabilize blood sugar. Moreover, if you are sensitive to eggs, plant-based protein supplements are suitable. Plant-based protein supplement taken with smoothies are a perfect breakfast option as it wakes up your digestive systems and you can add baked items to improve its taste.
Major types of plant-based protein supplements
There are different types of plant-based protein powders available in the market depending on the plants from which they are derived.
- Brown rice: It is a source of protein that isolates and does not dissolve in water and has a grainy texture. It is higher in methionine but does not contain other amino acids such as leucine, threonine, and histidine.
- Peas and legumes: Needless to say, legumes are rich in branched-chain amino acids. Pea-based protein supplements contain soluble fibers and swell after water addition, making them perfect for increasing protein intake.
- Pumpkin protein supplement: The demand for pumpkin-based protein supplements has increased due to their good taste and their ability to mix well in liquid. They are rich in various minerals including zine and have their unique aftertaste.
- Hemp protein supplement: These protein supplements contain a complete set of amino acids with the effects of cannabis. It contains omega-3 fatty acid, gamma-linolenic acid, and alpha-linolenic acids that are anti-inflammatory. However, these protein powders have a vegetable-like smell and their aftertaste is quite difficult to hide. Thus, it must be taken along with added flavors or with smoothies.
- Sunflower seed protein: The seeds of sunflower contain a colossal amount of protein and Vitamin E and can be easily used in cooking and food preparation. It offered several health benefits as it has anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, a sunflower-based protein supplement reduces cholesterol and the risk of chronic heart diseases such as stroke.
- Sacha Inchi: Since its advent, it is regarded as the next big superfood. These seeds show several health benefits as they contain healthy fats and omegas. They help in shedding weight and are a complete protein. Moreover, consumption of Sacha Inchi is good for bone and joint health and helps to maintain the health of skin & hair.
Apart from these, soy, chia, and brown rice-based protein supplement are widely available in supermarkets or online portals.
Our body needs 20 different essential amino acids and there is no one-size-fits-all solution while purchasing a protein supplement. Thus, you should combine plant-based protein supplements from various sources to make a full set of proteins.
Plant-based protein supplements are widely used by health-conscious people. However, you should choose which protein supplement is best suitable for you. Moreover, never forget that consumption of real food is most important and these shakes should be used as supplements only. Before purchasing any protein supplement, consult your gym trainer or dietician.
As the protein supplement market evolves, the manufacturing companies have come up with supplements with different flavors. However, you should consider which protein supplement offers a complete set of proteins along with flavor.
The sheer quantity of products available in the market is overwhelming. Therefore, before making a big hole in your pocket, know which protein supplement is best suitable for you and consult a dietician before enrolling in a strict fitness regime.
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