Supplements 101: Protein Powder

According to the IMS Institute for Healthcare informatics, the global wellness industry is worth $3.4 trillion - it has now over taken the pharmaceutical industry (worth a measly $1 trillion).

While it’s incredible that people are looking towards more preventative measures for their wellness it’s important to remember that money brings both opportunity and opportunists so we need to ensure that we do not to get whipped up in the hype, spending our hard earned cash on wellness BS. Supplements are often a delicate, cold pressed and organic blend of vitamins, minerals and overstated benefits.  

As a highly requested blog subject, I thought I would turn the topic of supplements into a sort of ‘segment’ discussing the benefits and myths of various supplements across the next few months.

Firstly, what is a supplement?

Here’s what the FDA says:

A dietary supplement is a product intended for ingestion that contains a "dietary ingredient" intended to add further nutritional value to (supplement) the diet. A "dietary ingredient" may be one, or any combination, of the following substances:

  • a vitamin
  • a mineral
  • an herb or other botanical
  • an amino acid
  • a dietary substance for use by people to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake
  • a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, or extract

Dietary supplements may be found in many forms such as tablets, capsules, softgels, gelcaps, liquids, or powders. Some dietary supplements can help ensure that you get an adequate dietary intake of essential nutrients; others may help you reduce your risk of disease.

For the record a supplement is not about replacing the food you currently consume, instead it’s supposed to add further nutritional value to the diet.

Remember that as we dive into the world of Protein Powder.

Protein Powder is probably one of the most commonly known and purchased supplements. I personally use protein powder as a means for convenience; I am trying my best to move away from consuming ‘meat’ for ethical and environmental reasons - however because of this, I am constantly battling to hit my healthy protein targets (1.8g per kilogram of bodyweight) so protein powders help me to reach my daily protein intake to help me achieve my goals and stay healthy.

Who needs Protein Powder?

Everybody needs protein, but the truth is nobody ‘needs’ protein powder because it’s a Macronutrient found in lots of different whole foods. Even spinach contains protein, not much of it, but still, it’s not a magical ingredient only found in the flesh and milk of animals.

Where protein powders can come in handy is in Athletes, the time poor, or simply those that are struggling to hit their daily/weekly protein targets (i.e. me and many of my clients, their friends and their friends, friends).

Protein powders can be very helpful for many different people, however I want to stress to you that it’s not imperative. It can arguably make it easier to achieve sufficient protein intake (which is imperative for both muscle gain and fat loss), but if you can’t access protein powder it doesn’t mean that all your #gainz in the gym are worthless.

Getting adequate protein in the diet however is very, very important. It doesnt just build muscle, it helps you to maintain healthy skin, hair, nails (connective tissue really), supports metabolism and the immune system. Unlike carbohydrates and fats, your body can’t store protein so you need to consume it consistently. This is where various protein powders can really help out. 

Types of Protein Powder:

  1. Whey - Do you remember little miss muffet, who sat on a tuffet? Well before she was rudely interrupted by the spider, who sat down beside her she was trying to hit her protein target for the day by consuming some curds (casein) and whey. Whey is produced by pasteurising milk to separate the curds and liquid whey. The liquid whey is then processed further to remove the fats, lactose, minerals and water via a processed called micro filtration (there is another called Ion exchange, which has a higher protein content with no/extremely low carbohydrate content however a lower bioavailability). The whey liquid is then usually spray dried and from there the protein company will add your favourite flavours so that you actually enjoy what you’re drinking. Whey protein has the highest bioavailability rating so it’s easy for your body to digest and absorb. If you’re not into the whole cow thing (ethically) or you can’t tolerate lactose (like for real intolerant, not just because it’s trendy to be lactose and gluten intolerant) a plant based protein powder might be a better option.
  2. Pea Protein - contains all of the 9 essential amino acids. This is great because this is where plant protein powders let most people down. One of the trickiest essential amino acids to obtain in plant based foods is Leucine because it’s most efficient source is usually an animal product. In 100g of whey protein there is roughly 10g of Leucine, however the good news is that in some Pea Protein powders there is around 8.2g of Leucine (in 100g of protein powder). Not all brands contain this much but you can find it in this brand (Nutralys). 
  3. Egg Protein Powder - is amazing but tastes like pooh (well I can’t really say that, I’ve never tasted pooh, but you get my gist). It’s bioavailability is high and it actually has a better amino acid profile than Whey however like I said, if you’re using the powder, it can be a little tricky to make it taste good. Egg Whites can be a good option, just pour them into your smoothie.
  4. Rice protein - doesn’t have the greatest amino acid profile, in fact it doesn’t even contain all of the nine essentials, however it’s high in the amino acid methionine which is imperative for general protein synthesis, for the strengthening of nails and the prevention of hair loss. Combining Rice and Pea protein is a really great option and many great Vegan protein blends do this.

When should you take it?

Most people feel like their protein powder should only be consumed post workout, but the truth is that it’s a great option at any time. I will have one for breakfast if I’m in a hurry for work. Sometimes I will mix one with coffee to consume prior to a workout, or I will have as an afternoon snack to boost my protein (if I’m lagging).

Life shouldn’t be spent drinking powders, there is way too much delicious food out there to be consumed - however if it helps you to nourish and refuel your body where your diary or schedule doesn’t permit, by all means use the powders.

Do you use protein powder?If so which one and why?

I’d love to know!



Shona Vertue8 Comments