Protein powder first grew its popularity in the athletic and bodybuilder community, but it has become a mainstream item for individuals of all activity levels. Protein itself is one of the three macronutrients, and is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, and blood. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues and make certain enzymes and hormones.
Protein powder provides an easy meal replacement or post-workout shake to help you preserve lean body mass and maximize your body composition. Protein powder should supplement a healthy diet, and it is only a small piece of the puzzle towards good nutrition. You need to eat well and train properly, or else all the protein powders in the world won’t help you get stronger. Here are a few key tips to keep in mind when shopping for a protein powder:
Look For Minimal Ingredients
You want to fuel your body in the best and most natural way possible. Be sure to read over the ingredients label on your protein powder to make sure you aren’t filling your body with chemicals and artificial sweeteners. You should be able to pronounce and understand every ingredient on the label of your protein powder. If you are stuck deciding between two protein powders, pick the one with the fewer ingredients. Try to avoid protein powders with artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame, which can have several negative side effects including headaches and bloat.
Watch Out For Too Much Protein
Although protein is a crucial macronutrient, even too much of a good thing can cause harm. Some protein powders may contain a lot more protein than you need, especially powders that are marketed towards bodybuilders. Believe it or not, excess protein can be stored as body fat. Plus, too much protein at once can be hard to digest and may cause nausea and bloating. Try not to exceed 30g of protein per serving of powder.
Don’t Forget About Consistency
Some protein powders can taste grainy or have a chalk-like consistency. Make sure that your protein powder can blend well and doesn’t require too many additional ingredients.
A simple protein shake should include a scoop of protein powder, 1 cup of fresh or frozen fruit, and a liquid base such as almond milk. If your protein powder is still feeling gritty after blending, give another one a try and be sure to read reviews online to see what other consumers have to say. Typically whey protein isolate is a bit smoother than plant-based powders.
If you are a healthy and physically active adult, protein powder can help improve your overall body composition and maximize lean muscle mass. Your recommended amount of protein intake can vary based on your height, weight and activity level. Speak with a registered dietitian that can help you determine how much protein you should consume in a day.
Stefani Pappas, MS, RDN, CDN, CPT, is a Clinical Dietitian Nutritionist at St. Francis Hospital. She also provides private and group nutrition counseling at her office in Great Neck, NY. Visit her website www.StefHealthTips.com for more information or call 516-225-1745 to schedule an appointment.