Weight Loss : Seriously Though, What’s the Deal With Protein Powders?

By on June 15, 2016

It’s a minefield out there when it comes to choosing protein powders. Besides the price (seriously you want me to pay how much for powder?!), finding the one that matches your lifestyle, diet and fitness levels can be difficult. Consider this a beginner’s guide to protein powder, where we answer the big questions — does it work? What’s the difference? And is there such thing as bad protein? — with the help of TheHealthClinic.com.au’s nutritionist Pip Reed.

The Benefits of Protein Powders

According to Pip, protein is a macronutrient required for muscle growth and replenishment, which assists and increases the metabolism. It is required for sustained energy levels as it is harder for your body to digest, and therefore releases energy slowly. This also keeps you full for longer and provides blood sugar stabilisation, decreasing the risk of insulin resistance.

Protein powders can be beneficial when there is a lack of protein consumption in the diet, such as those eating a vegetarian diet, athletes with higher requirements, those wanting to lose weight, and for general energy and performance. Protein powders are generally an easy snack option, and contain all the amino acids making it a complete source of protein.

Should Protein Powders Be Used Regularly?

A quality organic protein can be used on a daily basis as a great snack option, or as a meal replacement — if combined with carbohydrates and fats, such as milk and fruit. “A protein powder can ensure you are meeting your dietary needs, especially if you regularly exercise, if you are trying to lose weight, if your stress levels are high, and/or if your energy levels are low,” says Pip.

Although, good-quality lean protein in the diet should always be your first choice of protein, and the powder should simply be an addition.

What Are the Main Differences Between the Protein Powders?

Just one look down any protein powder aisle and it’s clear there are many types, including whey, brown rice, pea, soy and casein. According to Pip, whey protein is the most rapidly digested, and most beneficial for muscle growth and weight loss. While brown rice and pea protein, are both great vegetarian and vegan options, with brown rice protein the least allergenic and more suitable for people with food allergies and intolerances. Casein protein is the other protein found in dairy and is slow releasing, which is why a lot of people consume this before bed to assist with muscle growth and repair.

“Soy protein powders are an alternative for vegans, vegetarians and those with lactose intolerance and while they are easily digested, low in/or free of fat and cholesterol they often contain GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) and endocrine disruptors so these are best avoided,” says Pip.

“BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids) are the building blocks of protein and are found in all protein sources, but in different ratios and quantities. These directly affect the quality, absorption and effect of the protein powder,” adds Pip. But not all protein powders are created equal: they may contain both natural and artificial flavourings, digestive enzymes, sugars and soy, as well as added vitamins and minerals so it’s important to always read the labels before settling on a protein product.

Ingredients to Avoid

Like with everything we consume, checking labels for nasties is always a good idea. The aim is to avoid any artificial ingredients and sugars and ensure that the your protein powder is hormone and chemical free. Pip advises the best way to do this is to choose grass-fed, preferably organic whey and casein proteins, and organic and sustainably sourced pea, rice, hemp proteins, with minimal added ingredients. “Look for a list of three-five ingredients maximum, to ensure a minimal amount of chemicals enter your body,” says Pip. “Soy isolate protein powders are generally made from GMO soy products and should be avoided at all costs. Soy can affect females (and males) delicate hormone balance.”

Do the Different Protein Powders Produce Different Results?

Yes, and this is because of the BCAA profiles. Pip recommends looking for a protein powder that has the BCAA ratio of 2:1:1 (leucine:isoleucine:valine). The quality of protein is measured by Biological Value (BV). This value measures how well the body can absorb and utilise the protein. “The higher the BV of the protein, the better your body can absorb, use and retain,” says Pip. “A protein powder with a high BV will promote the most lean muscle gains.”



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