One of the most frequently asked questions about fitness is if protein supplements are really beneficial. There are so many ways to answer this, depending on the attention span of the person asking the question. A simple yes or no will not suffice.
When people think about protein, pretty much the first and only thing that comes to mind is muscle-building.
That is true, but protein serves so many other crucial functions in the body.
Amino acids, what protein is broken down into, are used in the making of many cellular molecules, such as enzymes and hormones. Protein is especially important to our immune system, as amino acids are used to create antibodies, as well.
Without adequate supplies of protein, our body can’t function properly. It’s not just for building muscle.
How much protein should one eat?
The general recommended amount is 0.8 g of protein per kg of bodyweight (0.8 g/kg). That means that for a 180-lb individual, that’s 65 g of protein. That doesn’t sound like much, right?
What most people don’t realize about that formula is that it calculates only the amount required to avoid deficiency. It doesn’t take into account if someone is active, like you.
The more active you are, the higher the protein requirement to help your body recover and rebuild itself from the exercise session. Generally, 1.4-1.8 g/kg of body weight is the formula used, depending on your level of physical activity.
What protein supplement should one take?
The golden rule of nutrition comes into play here. Only supplement if you can’t get adequate amounts from your regular diet. I’d rather get all my protein from whole food sources, because they taste better than any of the shakes out there. However, if I can’t get it from food, I have a protein supplement handy.
Choosing a protein supplement is no easy task, given the myriad types of protein. There is whey, caseinate, combo blend, egg albumin, rice, hemp, etc. Explaining the differences between the types of protein is an article in itself.
The popular brands of protein are whey or some type of combo blend (whey+casein+egg etc). The main difference is in the absorption rate—whey protein gets absorbed faster because of its chemical structure.
I would supplement with whey protein post-workout, when my body needs the influx of protein to rebuild my body. I would choose the combo-blend if I was using my protein shake as meal replacement, because it takes longer to absorb, which would keep me satiated longer.
This is definitely not a comprehensive differentiation, but enough information provided to help you make a better choice. In the end, you have to.