Any discussion about nutrition, health or fitness has to include protein. But there is a lot of confusion around this complex nutrient especially with protein supplements.
First of all, protein is not just one thing but actually a complex category of amino acids. A sophisticated combination of 20 basic amino acids creates many different types of protein. For example hemoglobin is the protein transporting oxygen throughout our blood while hormones are the proteins carrying chemical messages throughout our bodies.
As one of three primary macronutrients we need to survive (carbohydrates and fats are the other two) protein is an important building block for a healthy body. Workout nutrition focuses on protein since its responsible for building and maintaining the size and shape of muscles even when we start losing weight. Responsible for creating hair, bone density, nails and tissue, protein also helps to reduce inflammation and heal wounds faster.
Many people interested in bodybuilding and other types of fitness opt for protein supplements to enhance muscle growth. But since there is a lot of misinformation about its role in our diet, it can be tricky to find a protein supplement that works for you. There are many theories around protein that don't stand up to scrutiny. Scientific evidence does support the theory that a high protein diet can boost your metabolism making you burn more calories per day. But the popular “anabolic window" theory has been busted. This is the idea that must take your protein 30 minutes after a workout for it to have any effect.
Several studies published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrient found there were too many variables to accurately measure the anabolic window and many researchers have concluded it’s not a viable theory. The general consensus is that consuming carbs or proteins after your workout is neither good nor bad but depends on the individual. When you take your protein depends on what feels best to you.
It's not just people who are exercising who need more protein though. Older people can benefit from protein supplements since we become less efficient at processing protein as we age.
While a high-protein diet has clear benefits it also depend on the type of protein consumed. Highly processed protein filled with saturated fats do more harm than good. It’s also recommended to eat your protein throughout the day instead of cramming it all into one meal.
Protein supplements in the form of shakes, powders and bars are convenient way to meet your daily requirement. The Canada Food Guide recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight which is 10 to 35 per cent of daily calories. However, some nutritionists believe this is too low particularly for those who are doing strength training and recommend doubling the RDA to 0.72 grams per pound (1.6 g/kg) in order to support muscle recovery and growth. It’s not recommended to go above that level since consuming too much protein can lead to constipation, kidney stones, weight gain, and dehydration.
Not all protein supplement brands are the same though. Some popular brands are notorious for creating weight gain, severe diarrhea, gas and bloating. In April 2020, the Harvard Health Medical School issued a warning about protein supplements in April 2020 after the nonprofit Clean Label Project released its report about protein powders. After screening 134 products, Clean Label found many popular brands contained heavy metals (lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury), bisphenol-A (BPA), pesticides, and other contaminants causing cancer and other health problems. Most contained high levels of sugar, artificial flavouring, thickeners, vitamins, and minerals.
By far, the safest choice is an organic, plant-based protein made from beans, grains, rice, nuts or seeds with no additives but still high in fibre and essential natural nutrients. The best supplements don’t use a single ingredient but combine plant proteins for a wide spectrum of essential amino acids including methionine, tryptophan, cysteine, and lysine
Also check that your chosen brand is transparent about their production processes. The recommended dosage for a protein shake is no higher than 20 grams but getting a consistent serving can be a challenge. The most respected companies do a double test for the protein content to ensure consistency in every servings. The first, known as the Kjeldahl method, uses a strong acid to release the nitrogen and the protein is calculated from the nitrogen concentration formed. The second method, known as the Dumas method, uses oxidation in high temperatures to measure the inorganic fractions like nitrite and nitrate for the total protein count. The numbers from both studies are compared to determine the amount of protein in the supplement guaranteeing a consistency in each dose.
If you have a sensitive digestion, go for a fermented organic vegan proteins. These are easiest to digest because the fermentation process breaks down the nutrients that cause indigestion, gas or bloating.
Whether you are looking for a change in your energy level or to reach an overall fitness goal, switching to a high-quality organic protein supplement makes all the difference. You may need to experiment to find the best dosage and time of day for your protein supplement but the benefits will be worth it.
- Genuine Health Fermented Vegan Proteins+ 600 g - 4 flavours
- Genuine Health proteins+ 840 g - 5 flavours
- Aragon Alan Albert, Schoenfeld Brad Job, Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window? www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3577439/
- Bauer, J., Biolo, G., Cederholm, T., Cesari, M., Cruz-Jentoft, A. J., Morley, J. E., ... & Visvanathan, R. (2013). Evidence-based recommendations for optimal dietary protein intake in older people: a position paper from the PROT-AGE Study Group. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 14(8), 542-559.
- Nitschke E. (2017). How muscle grows.