Food For Thought Sundays: Protein Powder
Hellohello! Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. Even better if it was a long weekend for you!
I am coming off a weekend of working Thu-Sun straight. Well, technically a week of Mon-Sun. But that is neither here nor there. I’m here to talk about food!
Well, in our case today, “food like substances.”
As a personal trainer, I get a lot of questions about protein powders. Should people be using them, what kinds to get, how to eat them.
I always respond by telling people that I’m a bit of a hippie in the sense that I think nutrients should come from unprocessed natural foods. Not in powder form!
Of course, I’m also realistic and realize the diet of the average person could use a little boost. Especially the average active person! Long-time readers of my blog will know I’m a regular user of protein powder. I just try to use it wisely and sparingly.
First and foremost protein powder will not make you gain weight. That is, if you swap it out with other foods in your diet. For example, you can’t eat your regular daily foods and add a 300 calorie protein shake on top of that. Then you will gain weight. Rather, swap out one of your meals or snacks with the shake and you’re replacing rather than adding calories.
So why would someone want to use protein powder? A number of reasons. Some people like to drink a protein shake after weight lifting or intense activity to help in muscle repair. This just means the muscle tissues damaged during the workout build back up better, which helps you get that lean look you’re after. Some say it helps with soreness as well. Although, I personally have never noticed a difference.
Protein powder is also a way to get protein without additional fat or carbohydrates. It’s pretty easy to find a food that’s straight up carbohydrate (sugar) or fat (oil). But natural proteins usually come with additional macronutrients. Some are better than others, like egg whites or white fish, but protein powder is a way to get your protein straight-up!
There are tons of different kinds of protein powders out there. Here are the most common:
Whey protein is the most common kind. It’s a protein found in milk. It’s known as being quick digesting and best for right after a workout when you want protein asap.
Casein also comes from milk, but is a little slower digesting. People who use casein usually have it before bed to help muscle repair overnight (when breakdown of the muscles can occasionally occur). Casein is also a popular dairy allergen, so careful with this one if you have sensitivities!
The protein found in soy beans. This is a much finer powder and great for baking with. You can sub out some of the flour in a recipe with soy protein without too much of a texture difference. A lot of people are now careful of their soy consumption these days because of its estrogen content (which can mean breast cancer for women). I say take it in moderation just like anything else.
Hemp is actually a whole protein, containing all the essential amino acids. One of the few vegan sources that does besides soy. Hemp is typically a very fine powder and has an “earthy” taste. Some people dig it, I think it takes some getting used to.
I have honestly never tried brown rice protein. Mostly because the carb-protein ratio is close to equal on this stuff and I prefer a powder that’s mostly protein.
Another powder I haven’t tried. Mostly because egg whites have a great percentage of protein to begin with, so I have no need for it isolated in powder form!
Speaking of isolation, that’s a word you will hear a lot. Protein isolate means that the protein has been isolated from the source so the powder is essentially pure protein. Protein concentrate means it’s still mixed with a little carb, fat and other ingredients.
Because there are so many brands and flavours out there, I’m not going to go through them all. Different people have different tastes. But here are some things to look for:
- Sweetener. I try to use unflavoured powders or ones sweetened with stevia. Artificial sweeteners include sucralose or acesulfame potassium. I usually stay away from them because too much gives me digestive issues.
- Serving size. Some powders list one scoop as 20g, others list one as 45g. Before you get excited about how many grams of protein there are, make sure you double check the calories and serving size that are listed as well.
- Weird ingredients. The isolate/concentrate protein should be at the top, followed be a sweetener, perhaps a gum thickening agent, and a flavouring. Anything else is unnecessary.
The last question I get asked all the time is how do I use it?
Well, in smoothie form is most common. Usually with a juice or milk and some fruit. I personally don’t like to drink my calories, so I eat my protein powders in solid form! Here are some of my favourite recipes featuring protein powder:
Stove-top Chocolate Chip Breakfast Oatcakes
Dairy-Free(ish) Protein Pancakes
The Best Bowl of Oatmeal Ever
Black Bean Burgers
Apple Cinnamon Protein Bars
Homemade Maple Cinnamon Oat Bran Protein Bars
And my all-time favourite, chocolate “brownie batter”
So there you have it! The down-low on protein powders. Not necessary but a welcome addition to what used to be my carb-heavy diet. As an active person, my body loves the protein boost. As mentioned above, I do use protein powders sparingly and never have more than one serving a day. The hippie in me still wants real food that doesn’t come in powder form ;)
Question of the Day: Do you use protein powder? What kind?