What are they?
Protein powders are a supplement. Consequently they are not a replacement for whole food. They do receive a negative and positive press. In researching this I have come across headlines from stay away from to powerhouse foods. So are they needed, are they good for you and does everyone need to take them.
Protein is extracted from the following foods to make a powder: rice, dairy, pea, hemp, soy and egg. Inevitably this means they are processed and it can be this part that makes people want to stay away from them. However so are other everyday foods we eat are also processed like olive oil, bread, pasta, flours, dairy products, tinned beans and even the seeds I grind (process) every morning!
I see them as a good way of increasing protein into the diet in times of need. Many people do not eat sufficient protein especially at breakfast. Adding a scoop of a protein powder into your porridge or smoothie is an easy, fast way without much thought. As breakfast has to be easy for most of us this is an excellent way of increasing nutrition into the body.
Best sources of protein are chicken, fish, red meat, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. When you exercise intensely you do need extra protein to build and maintain muscle. In times of challenge you may need extra protein. If you don’t eat enough your body will obtain it from your own tissue. This is known as catabolic and for optimal health you want to ensure you consume enough nutrition from your food.
There are various techniques used to extract protein from very high heat, adding chemicals to filtration and breaking down the proteins with water. Here is a brief summary.
Concentrates – This is a high heat and acid extraction process. This method eliminates the other components of the food such as fats and carbohydrates and leaves you with protein. Some amino acids may be denatured in this process so you may not get a complete protein profile with this method.
Isolates – again this process separates the protein from the rest of the food, this is done by either washing in alcohol, water or ionisation. These methods leave a higher level of protein than concentrates.
Hydrolyzed Protein– Water is added to the protein to break it down into amino acids.Known as an expensive way of processing protein. It is also known as pre-digested protein. However it can be bitter-tasting so not very palatable.
Ion Exchange– protein ions are separated based on their electrical charge. They do this by adding in chemicals. This method reaps higher protein levels but strips some vital nutrients.
Microfiltration– This is filtering or sieving out the unwanted nutrients from the whey to leave a whey protein with the health promoting nutrients. This process may have less protein content but will have more nutrition to it than other processing methods.
To read more on this check out the following websites: https://www.thehealthcloud.co.uk/detailed-guide-whey-protein/
Different types and recommendations
Whey – is thought to be the premium protein powder as it contains the highest concentration of complete amino acids and is easily digestible. It has been shown to enhance healthy bone metabolism. However processing techniques may compromise this. Look out for isolates and microfiltration whey based proteins. Whey contains high levels of Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCCA) (leucine, isoleucine and valine), useful for muscle recovery during sport and it also contains glutamine, important fuel for muscle synthesis.
Brands: SOLGAR Whey to go, BIOCARE Body balance, LAMBERTS All in One, Performance, PULSIN
Pea – easily digested contains high levels of lysine and BCAA for muscle recovery, glutamine for muscle repair and arginine for muscle metabolism and energy. Can be more of a savoury taste to it.
Brands: NUZEST, PULSIN
Hemp – Easy to digest, good source of fibre and omega 3,6 and 9 fatty acids. This is not as high in amino acids and you need more of it to reach protein requirements. However it is less processed and has other nutrients in it to support the body. Some people don’t like the green colour on their porridge.
Brands: PULSIN, CREATIVE NATURE
Rice Protein – Useful for people with allergies to whey. It is a complete protein which means it contains all the essential amino acids. It easily digested and flavour may suit more people. Arsenic levels may be an issue so source your product well.
Brands: SUN WARRIOR CLASSIC
Mixed plant based protein
Brands: VEGA, SUN WARRIOR BLEND
Some green powder blends such as Udo’s Choice Beyond Greens can be taken as a protein powder, it is rich in seeds and green powders that actually have a good protein content.
They should be considered as a supplement and not a replacement for a healthy diet.
It is important to check ingredients and make sure it does not contain artificial sweeteners, sugar and unhealthy fats.
Check how it is processed. Ask manufacturer if you’re not sure.
Taste is important, not all protein powders are the same and you will have a preference. I prefer ones without anything added. I am not a fan of Stevia. I add my own flavour. That way you are in control of the nutrition and flavour. I like to add raw cacao, baobab powder, lucuma and bee pollen.
I recommend alternating protein powders so to avoid a possible intolerance to them.
Can you live without them? Absolutely. Making sure you always have protein with every meal is important and whole foods are the best source. If this is difficult or your body is challenged in one way or another they may be a useful addition to your diet. Come in and ask advice if you are not sure.