Allow me to start off by saying that by deciding to click the link and read this blog you are obviously an intelligent, bad ass, goal crushing MF. Or maybe you just like delish snacks and heard there might be one at the end of this post... EITHER WAY, you're rad and thank you for joining me today!
Okay, lets start with the basics. Protein is one of three macronutrients that our body requires to function and preform everyday tasks. Complete proteins are an essential nutrient for our health. They play a crucial role in our health by building, maintaining and repairing muscle, skin, hair and bones. Protein is critical in the production of hormones and enzymes and is also required for key chemicals reactions to take place in the body such as digestion and energy production.
Protein is composed of small molecules called amino acids that are linked together. Some amino acids our body can produce on its own and others are “essential”, meaning our body cannot produce them on its own and they need to be consumed through our diet. Foods such as meats, yogurt, chickpeas, tofu, and protein powder, among others, are all different sources of protein we can consume through diet.
Difference Between Complete vs Incomplete Protein
Proteins can be classified as complete or incomplete based on the amino acids that they contain. A complete protein contains all 9 essential amino acids, whereas incomplete protein does not contain all 9 essential amino acids.
Complete proteins can be found in most animal food products such as chicken, eggs, beef, fish, and dairy products. There are a few plant products that contain all essential amino acids including buckwheat, quinoa and soybeans.
Incomplete proteins can be found in sources such as legumes, beans, nuts or grains. To ensure you are consuming all 9 essential amino acids, try adding a variety of protein sources to your diet!
When we are physically active our muscle fibers break down and become depleted. Amino acids from protein rich foods are required to help repair muscle and make them stronger. The DRI (daily recommended intake) for protein ranges from 10-35% of daily calories. An individual who requires 2,000 calories in a day is recommended to consume 700 calories from protein. Individuals who are more active will require higher protein intakes.
Protein powders are concentrated sources of protein and can be made from either animal or plant sources. Protein powders are an easy, convenient way to boost your protein intake especially for individuals who live active lifestyles or preform strenuous exercises daily, who will require more protein and may not consume enough from food.
Breaking Down Protein Powders
Now if you’ve made it this far into the blog, I thank you! Some of this information can be overwhelming or seem like too much information. I hope that you are still with me because this is when we get into the fun stuff, like protein powders and maybe even a delish treat you can make with them if you make it to the end!
There are different forms of protein powders out there so let’s just talk about a few common ones you might see on shelves in grocery, or supplement stores.
3 common forms of Protein Powder
Protein concentrates – These are produced by extracting protein from whole foods using heat, acid or enzymes. Whole foods such as milk, eggs, peas etc. Typically, protein concentrates will supply about 60-80% protein and the remaining would contain fats and carbohydrates.
Protein Isolate - “Isolate” means alone or removed, and this is exactly what it means in this form of protein powder as well. Through more filtering processes, more fat and carbohydrates are removed leaving the powder containing around 90-95% protein.
Protein Hydrolysates - This is a form of protein that has been broken down so much that the protein is now broken into its small counterparts, amino acids. These amino acids are smaller than the protein molecules which make them even easier for the body to absorb.
The type of protein you consume and when you consume it all depends on your fitness goals! Whether that be muscle gain, weight loss or simply recovery from sporting activities. Here's what I recommend!
Muscle Gain - To gain muscle the essential goal is to consume more protein then what our body breaks down naturally during a workout. Once you have pumped some iron and torn your muscles, we need to replenish and repair these muscles with protein. It is recommended to consume a protein source in the window of 1-2 hours after your workout to see optimal muscle regrowth and gain. Consuming an isolate or hydrolysate after a workout would be recommended to ensure your muscles are being repaired.
Weight Loss - Protein powder is an important supplement that would be recommended to consume on a regular basis for someone who has weight loss as a predominant goal. It is low in calories and has a high percentage of key nutrients such as protein, calcium, magnesium etc. Protein can keep individuals feeling full throughout the day without experiencing fatigue or muscle weakness while reducing their daily caloric intake. Recommended protein to consume for someone wanting to lose some weight would be a protein isolate.
Meal Replacement - It is not recommended to consume protein shakes as a meal replacement everyday, although if you are finding yourself busy not able to consume a meal with adequate macronutrients a protein shake can help. When choosing a protein powder to act as a meal replacement it is important to choose one that not only contains protein but also fats and carbohydrates. A protein concentrate would be a good meal replacement protein powder.
How do I know what protein powder is good?
When visiting supplement stores it can be overwhelming to decide which protein powder to purchase with so many different brands and all kinds of different names. So let’s break this down and make it simple! Just like when shopping for food products we want to be looking for whole ingredients with minimal additives. This rule applies to protein powders as well, many protein powders can come with fillers and sugars added into the powder, we want to avoid these as they can have adverse effects on our bodies.
Now that you know the ins and outs of the importance of protein and which types are best suited for your goals, it's time to taste test! Give this delicious treat a try as a post workout snack or if you're anything like Coach Megan and I, as a sweet tooth satisfier after a nutritious dinner!
Peanut Butter Protein Balls
Makes 9 servings, 216 calories per serving
- ¼ cup almond butter or peanut butter
- 1 scoop protein powder
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp flaxseed
- ¼ cup chia seeds
- ¼ cup pecans
- 1 cup rolled outs
- ½ cup dark chocolate chips
Add almond butter, protein powder, flaxseeds, chia seeds, pecans and rolled oats to blender or food processor. Blend until all ingredients are mixed well. Stir in dark chocolate chips. With your hands or a scoop, roll/form into small balls. Freeze overnight and enjoy!
Written by: Jenna Kendall