Have you ever wondered what the real benefits of using protein shakes are when taken as a supplement alongside your training plan? Read on as Jay - a professional athlete and boxing coach - gives us the low down on why we use protein shakes alongside exercise.
What is protein?
Put simply, protein is a macronutrient that is essential for building muscle mass. Protein is mainly found in animal products, but it can also be found in plant-based food sources such as nuts, grains, soy or hemp. So, if you have specific dietary requirements - such as being vegetarian or vegan - you shouldn’t struggle to find a suitable source of protein.
Now, this might seem pretty straight forward. But I guess what we really need to understand is what the different types of protein are, why we use them and what effects they have on our body and overall performance.
What are the different types of protein powder?
There are several types of protein powder that can be used to supplement your training, recovery and performance. Protein powders are concentrated sources of protein that come from dairy, rice or peas. Knowing which one works best for you, if any at all, will be beneficial to your overall performance. There are 6 types of protein powder -
Whey: Whey protein powder comes from milk, is high in lactose and is harder to digest.
Casein: Casein protein powder comes from milk but casein is absorbed and digested much slower.
Pea: Pea protein powder is popular among vegetarians, vegans and people who are allergic to dairy or eggs. Pea protein is also rich in BCAA’s.
Hemp: Hemp protein powder is another plant based source of protein and is rich in omega 3 fatty acids and essential amino acids.
Brown rice: Brown rice protein powders are not as popular due to their low levels of lysine, although they do contain all of your essential amino acids.
Mixed plant: Mixed plant protein powders are a blend of plant sources that provide your body with all of the essential amino acids and are usually made up of two or more plant based proteins.
Still got your attention? Let’s move on to talk more about protein shakes and get into the when, the why and the how.
When should you be taking protein shakes and how do you incorporate them into your daily routine?
When we exercise regularly, the body naturally needs to consume more protein to support muscle growth and recovery. Protein shakes are designed to support this, but depending on your goals, the times you might take them may vary.
For example, if your training goal is to build mass, then you might use protein shakes to help bulk up your calories throughout the day. You may have a shake with breakfast, in between meals, and directly after exercise.
However, if you're training to generally stay fit without a specific goal to gain or lose weight or muscle mass, then I would recommend using shakes slightly differently. You might take a shake between meals during the day to help to avoid unnecessary snacking, or a shake post-exercise to aid with muscle repair and growth.
Over the years, people have often asked me if there is a more effective way to stay consistent with taking protein shakes. What's the best way to go about fitting them into your busy daily schedule? Well, the answer is pretty simple:
If you know you have a busy day and you won’t be at home, which is the case for a lot of us, take your protein shaker with you. Pack a Tupperware container with one or two servings of protein powder to ensure you have enough to get you through the day.
Why are you taking protein? What effects does it have on the body and how does it benefit performance?
Now, understanding what protein is and when to take it is great. But understanding the benefits of protein shakes and the effects protein has on the body/performance is even better! It will give you a clearer picture of why we use this specific supplement alongside exercise.
Protein is one of the three major nutrients (along with carbohydrates and fat) that we need in our daily diets. Protein contains amino acids which are key components of our muscles, bones, skin, tissues and organs.
When we consume protein, our body breaks it down into individual amino acids during digestion. It then uses these to create new proteins wherever the body needs them.
Think of your body as a building that is constantly being knocked down and rebuilt over and over again. This is work that protein is doing in the body before, during and after exercise.
Protein shakes and exercise go hand in hand as, without one, the other will be affected to some degree. We take protein alongside exercise as it helps to maintain your muscles, aids muscle recovery and growth, and helps the body to recover quicker from strain or injury.
All three of the above mentioned are key to maintaining consistent performance and will surely help you thrive throughout your fitness journey.