Protein supplements: What are they? What are they for? Who can benefit?
Here we go into a little more detail about protein supplements.
So that you can make more of an informed decision when it comes to weighing up whether or not they are for you.
But First, What is Protein?
You could say that protein is a major ‘building material’ for the body - it is an essential nutrient to the human body, which contributes to both growth and repair. When we consume protein sources, the body breaks the protein down into amino acids which the body then utilises for various functions. Although we’re calling it a ‘supplement’ here, some people consider many protein supplements like powders for example to be more of a convenient ‘food’ rather than a supplement.
So, What Types of Protein Supplements Are There?
Many protein supplements exist, they include:
Dairy Based (Whey, Micellar Casein, Milk)
One of the most commonly used protein sources in the sports nutrition industry which is also considered to be an excellent protein source, other benefits include:
- Per gram of protein, it is a highly cost effective source of protein
- High bioavailability
- Comes in a large variety of flavours
- Easily mixable
Micellar casein takes a long time to digest due to it’s thickness when mixed with water or milk. Being a filling form of protein, it is often used amongst dieters or those who are not looking to get in a tonne of calories…although can be used for those wanting to add size too. Micellar casein releases amino acids for a sustained period of up to 7-8 hours.Consuming Micellar Casein at night has being shown to be effective for many health enthusiasts, particularly for those in a calorie deficit when catabolism (muscle breakdown) is a concern.
Consisting of both whey and casein, casein generally makes up the largest portion of milk protein and whey the smaller fraction. A benefit of using milk protein is that there is both the benefit of the faster releasing whey protein and micellar casein, which has more of a sustained release over time. Fairly thick when it comes to consistency, milk protein is suitable for those wanting a filling, sustained release like casein protein, however with the benefit of a small amount of whey protein too.
Plant Protein Powders (Soy, Pea, Hemp, Rice)
In recent years, plant proteins have become more popular. They taste much better than they did years ago, are more easily mixable and are much more widely available.
Plant protein powders are:
- Suitable for those who don’t consume animal products
- A diary free alternative
Available to buy in an isolate form, however blends may be favourable to most to get the benefits of a variety of different plant proteins…plus, generally speaking the taste/texture is superior with plant based protein blends.
Soy protein delivers a relatively high amount of protein, plus soy protein is digested fairly quickly despite it’s thick consistency. Although the amino acid profile isn’t on par with whey protein, for a plant based protein it is an excellent source of protein alongside a quality diet. Due to soy protein not taking too long to digest and the amino acids being released quickly into the bloodstream after being consumed, it makes it ideal for pre and post workout protein source.
Made from peas, pea protein is a decent plant based protein source that also offers value for money. With plant based protein powders, you don’t get the amino acid profile of whey - however it offers a high amount of protein which would otherwise be difficult to derive from a plant based diet due to the amount of food required to obtain the same amount of protein.
Considered to be a good quality protein source, hemp has the added benefits of containing essential fatty acids (EFA), fibre, vitamins & minerals. Some do criticise hemp protein powder because of it’s poor mixability and earthy taste. However those who eat a lot of plant based products and who may struggle to hit certain protein numbers they’ve set for themselves often find this to not be a problem, as they aren’t consuming it for the taste.
With a protein quality similar to that of soy protein, rice is another possibility for those wanting a plant based protein powder. Again, taste and texture can be an issue to some.
Technically some may not consider these to be a ‘supplement’, however as you’ll often see a huge array of protein bars on websites, in gyms and in shops it’s worth talking about them here. Protein bars, are essentially convenient, high protein snacks that are great to have between meals or even on the go to give a source of quality protein and energy. Fortunately, protein bars now taste pretty good unlike years ago when they were more like chewy, flavoured cardboard!
Who Are Protein Supplements For and Who Can Benefit?
Protein supplements are for pretty much anybody!
Although those who usually use them are into living a healthy lifestyle, going to the gym and making healthy choices.
Particular benefits of protein supplements include:
- Convenient source of protein
- Easy to measure (powders)
- Contribute to the maintenance and growth of muscle mass
- Can be used in baking (powders)
- Per gram, a cheap source of protein
So, if you’re wanting to get the benefits of a top quality protein supplement check out the links below!
Have any questions about protein? If so, simply ask in the comments section below and we’ll get back to you!