Everyone needs a boost now and then. If you’re increasing your workouts or recovering from an injury, and your diet could use a kick in the pants, adding a little protein powder to your life is an easy way of upping your RDA.
What is protein, exactly?
Protein is vital for the building and repair of the body. It provides energy, strengthens our immune system, helps with muscle tissue repair, maintains healthy skin and hair, makes your muscles contract, and so on. Proteins are made up of amino acids, some of which cannot be made by our body (those are the essential amino acids).
Do you need more protein in your diet?
When does one need more protein, you ask? This article provides a couple of easy ways to figure out how many grams of protein you should be eating every day. You’ll want to increase your protein consumption at certain stages of life: when you’re growing, when you’re starting a new workout program, when you’re increasing your workouts, when you’re going vegan or vegetarian, and when you’re recovering from some sort of injury. (Please consult with your doctor before making any drastic dietary changes.) It’s best to get most of your protein from whole foods, but protein powders are an extremely convenient way to add extra protein to your diet.
The best types of protein powder.
All protein powder is not created equal. Don’t just pick up whatever is cheapest in the protein aisle–some powders come loaded with sugar, artificial flavor, and other unhealthy additives. Here are the main sources of protein powder, and our recommended picks:
- Whey protein is the most popular protein powder on the market. It’s derived from milk and is absorbed by the body extremely fast. It dissolves well in water and doesn’t leave a grainy aftertaste. We love this Organic Whey Protein Powder from Tasty Health Products–it’s minimally processed, pleasant-tasting, hormone-free, and comes from small, organic family farms.
- Casein protein is also derived from milk, but it’s a slower-digesting protein, so it’s not good for pre- or mid-workout shakes. Reach for casein if you’re replacing a meal with a protein shake, or drinking a shake right before bed. Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Natural 100% Casein Chocolate Creme tastes pretty delicious and has minimal ingredients. (It does contain soy lecithin.)
- Soy protein is cheap, but controversial, due to concerns about its effects on hormones and the risks of genetically-modified food (most of the soy in the US is genetically-modified). If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, reach for a nice…
- Vegan blends aren’t just for the vegans–they’re a great way to consume a varied spectrum of plant-based protein without increasing your animal-product intake. The chocolate Warrior Blend from Sunwarrior has no artificial colors or flavors, and gets its protein kick from a combination of pea protein, cranberry protein, and hemp protein. It’s also raw!
Can I add a scoop of protein powder to my green smoothie?
We’d be disappointed if you didn’t. Go for it!