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Add Some POW(der) to Your Life: The Need-to-Know on Protein Supplementation

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My AP Biology teacher (hi, Mr. Rio!) drilled it into our heads that protein is the powerhouse of your cells. You’re basically all cells! Don’t you want to be a powerhouse? Protein is critical for countless biological processes such as creating all cells such as bone, muscles, connective tissues, and skin; repairing tissues (not just muscle tissue); and synthesizing enzymes and hormones.
 
Supplementing with protein is something I definitely recommend to clients, especially if you’re not meeting minimum requirements for optimal health. A general recommendation: half your body weight (whey-t) in grams daily. For example, if you weighed 140lbs, shoot for about 70 grams of protein daily. 
 
To choose your protein, do your best to select ones that cross boxes in the pros column you care about and avoid any that check cons boxes you’re not cool with. Since I’m such a protein advocate (especially for whey – you’ll see why) I’ve also given you information to help you even mitigate the cons of … shaking it up.
 

Pros

  • Smoothie meals can be delicious and nutritious, not to mention time-saving. Try adding greens, a half or whole avocado, half a banana, and some berries for one of my favorite options. When I have a chocolate craving I go for cocoa powder, half a banana, chia seeds, and a nut butter. To be honest, these options are more like snacks for me, and I often combine them with a smaller meal or just have a meal a couple of hours later.
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  • So nice I’m mentioning it twice – supplementing can help you meet your protein requirements for optimal health and fitness-goal-reaching potential.
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  • Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. You can ensure you’re getting all the essential amino acids (the ones you can’t make yourself) if you choose a complete protein source like egg protein or whey. You can also fill in the gaps of other amino acids you’re already getting in your diet.
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  • Whey protein has BCAAs, branched chain amino acids – 3 of the 9 essential amino acids that are responsible for muscle recovery among other things. Many people supplement with BCAAs, but if you opt for whey, there’s no need.
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  • There are lots of great tasting options, though I’ll say I’ve settled for a tasteless version I just add to other stuff.
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  • Shake things up and add protein powder to lower-protein snacks or meals such as oatmeal or paleo pancakes.
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  • Some protein powders are fortified with enzymes, greens, or other nutritious additions.
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  • Vegetarian and vegan options abound, but you’ll just want to make sure to balance your diet to get all the essential amino acids if you go this route. 
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  • Unless you see a warning label that says otherwise, protein powder is gluten free.
shake with words the need to know on protein supplements
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  • Cons

    • No supplements are FDA regulated.
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    • This could be listed as a pro, but to be fair, it’s kind of a PITA to have to think or plan around this: You may want to consider how quickly your protein powder will be released and make a decision based on that. Quick-release options such as whey are best immediately before or after a workout when your body will be more apt to use the protein. You can slow down the release by consuming protein with fats or dairy. There are slower release options such as casein which might be good if you want to create sustained protein supply in your blood for some reason.
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    • Many supplements contain added sugar, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, preservatives, and dyes of which I don’t recommend any. 
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    • You’ll need to do your due diligence and consider sourcing and processing methods. Things to look for: cold processed, grass-fed, GMO-free, organic, and non(or un)-denatured. Not all of those items will be applicable depending on the type of protein you choose.
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    • Good quality protein isn’t a small investment, but it does usually last a while. Try samples first or check the return policy to mitigate risk of wasting money.
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    • Not all protein you’re consuming may be bioavailable to you. You’re not necessarily getting all the protein grams the label promises. Ways to absorb more: take protein with digestive enzymes or acidic foods that will help break the bonds between amino acids, get enough vitamin B-6 which carries protein to your blood, and consider adding carbs in with your protein supplementation to raise insulin slightly. This helps your muscles specifically to absorb more amino acids. Before and after activity are also great times to consume your protein, since your body is more likely to absorb it when it needs more.
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    • If you’re lactose-intolerant you may want to avoid whey. If you choose a whey isolate, it’s mostly lactose-free, but there’s also lots of other protein options out there: egg protein, pea protein, hemp protein, and combination proteins with protein from a variety of plant-based sources.
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    • Some proteins are not tasty to say the least. If you skip my advice on getting samples before you buy, drown out that yucky taste with flavor-hogs like peanut butter and banana.
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    • Unfortunately, some proteins have been found to be contaminated with toxins such as lead, arsenic, and mercury. It’s a good idea to look into third party test results. Here’s a great resource to stay safe: cleanlabelproject.org/protein-powder/
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    • Lots of memes float around in the weight-lifting community about how gassy and bloated you get with protein powder. It totally doesn’t have to be this way. If you’re not properly digesting your protein, something is up, and troubleshooting is required. Perhaps it’s not the right choice for you or you can look to add more water or fiber to your diet. The tips I included in the point on bioavailability also apply here. I’ll also say, I don’t think you should be over-supplementing with protein. It’s a too much of a good thing kinda scenario. 
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If you simply want a recommendation and don’t want to have to think about all this, I’d be happy to help. Let’s talk. If you’re not into geeking out on all this like I am or this information left you feeling overwhelmed, just know it all boils down to this simple key concept: listen to your body. You have an innate wisdom that will tell you loud and clear (if you listen) that you chose a protein that works well for you or not. 
 

Thanks for reading!
Caitie

P.S. Want help putting that protein to work? Work it ouuuuut! This free guide will help you get consistent.
 
P.P.S. You don’t have time not to work out with these time saving tips!

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