A Beginners Guide To Protein Powder (It’s Not As Scary As It Sounds!)

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  • We debunk the myth that protein powders are only good for beefy guys at the gym and hardcore athletes with our handy FAQs

    Our handy beginners guide to protein powder eliminates the confusing science jargon to give you a rundown of what you need to know about it. For many (us too!), implementing nutritional supplements into your diet can be pretty scary, especially when you’re a beginner. So by doing some research, and speaking to some experts, here’s what we found out!

    So what are protein powders exactly?

    They can come in various forms, with the three most common being whey, soy and casein. There are many reasons people decide to incorporate protein powders into their diet.

    OK… like what?

    The most common is alongside a regular workout regime, especially when they’re eager to burn fat, build muscle – or simply amping their regime up a notch. Others use protein powder as a nutritious supplement if they are vegan, recovering from an injury, or if they don’t get enough protein in their daily diet.

    What are the health benefits of a good amount of protein in your diet?

    Dietician Nichola Whitehead praises the health benefits found in good quality protein powders: ‘Protein, which breaks down into amino acids in the body, aides muscle growth and repair, as well as helping to preserve lean muscle tissue when losing fat.’

    So why can protein powders be so beneficial to our lifestyle?

    We should be aiming to consume a sufficient amount of protein each day from food for muscle growth, however if this isn’t possible, protein powder supplements are a useful addition to our diet. Nichola reminds us that those who exercise regularly do have higher protein requirements: “It’s important to increase your protein intake by up to a gram per kilo of body weight a day if you exercise regularly.”

    We heard protein powders can make you fat, is this true?

    Many people confuse protein powders with ‘weight gainer’ powders, with the latter being a product that aides bulking and can effectively make you gain weight when used incorrectly. The best thing to do is check the ingredients label before you buy. Weight gainer powders tend to have high fat and carbohydrate content, whilst pure protein powders will only contain a small amount of sweeteners and flavourings.

    What are other common protein powder myths? 

    A lot of people assume that protein powders must be used immediately after a work out but personal trainer Lee Knight debunks that myth.

    “Although your body does need more protein when working out regularly, drinking a protein shake immediately after a workout can interrupt a body’s natural repair process. I say go and have a shower and some lunch, then have one after… or just add it to a breakfast shake!”

    So when should I not use a protein powder?

    Well, you can use them pretty much any time. Even during pregnancy – especially if you’re not consuming enough protein due to morning sickness. However many experts say you should go for powders with the least amount of ingredients as possible. Look to avoid the ones with added caffeine, sweeteners, vitamins and fillers. As well as this, you should consult your doctor if you have health conditions including diabetes and renal failure, and some nutritionists don’t recommend it for under 18s.

    So how much protein do I actually need in my body?

    Think of it this way. If you don’t have enough protein in your body, vigorous exercise can leave your muscles with a shortage of what they need to recover. Although this is frequently disputed, to aid muscle building it’s recommended you intake 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. However if you have a BMI of over 30 you need to base your protein goals on your lean mass (body weight, minus fat mass), or a healthy weight for your height.

    Why can’t I just eat more protein-filled foods then?

    Well essentially, you can. Chicken, steaks and eggs are packed with protein – but this can also be quite boring, expensive, and a meal packed with carbs and fat too. Many see protein powders as a fantastic supplement, or addition to a diet in need of protein.

    So how do I actually consume protein powders?

    The most obvious way is as a shake, or a smoothie. You can add fruits, veg, peanut butter, milk or frozen bananas. However, you can mix protein powder into porridge, cottage cheese or yoghurt. In fact, there are a ton of different meals you can add protein powder to, including pancakes, muffins, biscuits, pizzas and bread. There are so many recipes out there to try!  

    What protein powder products do you recommend?

    There are tonnes of options out there, but we like the following:

    Neat Nutrition’s Whey Protein, £34.00, neat-nutrition.co.uk

    Pulsin’s Hemp Protein Powder, £21.59, pulsin.co.uk

    MyProtein Brown Rice Protein, £16.99, myprotein.com 

    Pure Whey Protein™, £12.69, bulkpowders.co.uk

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