Do I Need Protein Powder?

As vegetarians, we keep up with the latest data surrounding the question, “Do I need protein powder?” Besides, we’re always getting questions about protein shakes. In a recent Instagram poll, 76% of followers who participated (50 people) consumed protein powder daily. When working with a new client, we ask about their current eating habits. More often than not, there’s a protein powder in the mix.

Do we need protein shakes? Let’s pause and ask ourselves, why are so many drinking protein shakes, and is it doing something for our health?

do I need protein powder?

What is Protein?

Protein is one of three macronutrients, along with carbohydrates and fat. Each three are essential to comprise a healthy diet. Proteins specifically are made up of amino acids, commonly referred to as “the building blocks of the body.”

You need protein to build and repair muscles, in addition to providing energy, building the foundation for your organs, and supporting growth. People also need to consume nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce itself. It must come from outside protein.

Protein is incredibly important to a diet. It’s blasted at us in all forms of advertising. However, despite this mass-marketing, only 3% of the US population have a protein deficiency. Interestingly enough, that 3% is a perfect overlap of how many vegans and vegetarians are in the US.

So, it’s unlikely that you are protein deficient unless you’re vegan or vegetarian. We are vegetarian, and we get enough quality protein from eggs, nuts, healthy carbs, and eating lot’s of vegetables throughout the day.

How Much Protein Do You Need?

The RDI (recommended dietary intake) is to consume 0.36 grams of protein for every 1 pound of body weight daily. That means a 200-pound person would need to eat 72 grams of protein.

This ratio has been hotly debated. Most say it’s too low, and should be closer to 1 gram of protein per 1 pound of body weight. Still, the truth remains that most people are not protein deficient, and not likely on the optimized training program to convert that protein into muscle.

Why Do So Many Drink Protein Shakes?

Ideally, everyone would be consuming their protein in the form of whole foods. Yet, there are still good reasons for people to drink protein shakes.

  • To gain muscle. The typical amount recommended in this scenario is closer to 1 gram of protein for every 1 lb. of bodyweight.
  • Replace a full meal with a protein shake (either for convenience or to replace an unhealthy meal or snack)
  • To lose weight by filling up on protein without extra calories 

These are good reasons to need a protein powder. However, before adding a shake into your diet, we recommend that you first get your protein from whole food sources.

No matter how good the protein shake is, it still can’t cover all of the micronutrient health benefits brought to you by legumes, beans, and nuts.

Why We Drink A Shake Containing Protein

We don’t drink a “protein shake.” Instead, we drink a nutrition shake that contains protein. It includes a mix of plant-based proteins to cover all nine essential amino acids (more on that below), as well as other superfoods to cover our adaptogens, prebiotics, probiotics, and antioxidants.

We view it as our shake that lets us “cover our bases” with our nutrition. It has excellent nutrient value, tastes like dessert, removes meal decision fatigue, and saves us from eating unhealthy food when we’re on the go. 

However, when we are following a weight lifting program, we add in a post-workout recovery protein shake. If your goal while lifting weights is to recover quickly to build mass, this is a case when you need protein powder.

Protein is an excellent tool while building muscle, as long as it is paired with the correct training schedule. Adding in protein needlessly not only wastes money, but can cause you to gain weight, become constipated, and increase the risk of cancer. Make sure you focus on quality because many protein powders are suspected of containing toxins

Now that you’ve determined that you’re consuming protein powder for the right reason let’s dive into the types of protein powders.

Types of Protein Shakes

Whey Protein

This is the most popular protein powder as it’s readily available and the most cost-effective. Whey protein is made from the byproducts of milk, so we recommend looking for grass-fed options whenever you can. Whey protein is easily absorbed by the body and is suitable for either right after or before a workout.

Some people aren’t a good fit for whey protein powder, as the side effects can range from bloating to stomach cramps. People with sensitive stomachs may do better with a plant-based protein like pea, rice, or soy.

Casein Protein

Casein protein powder is another byproduct of dairy. Casein is sometimes called the “bedtime” shake because of its slow absorption rate. So, people like to drink it before bed.

Pea Protein

Pea protein powder is a solid option when opting for plant-based protein. Split peas are high in protein, and studies show comparable to whey protein for muscle-building effectiveness.

Note that peas are not a complete source of protein, meaning they do not contain all nine essential amino acids. However, pairing pea protein with rice protein does cover all nine.

Rice Protein

Rice protein powder is another common plant-based protein. Slightly lower protein content than pea, but as we mention, a mix of the two has all 9 essential amino acids.

Soy Protein

Soy protein powder is often vilified for its estrogen content, but it is another plant-based solution. There is a lot of research going either way, but some show that it doesn’t affect body composition adversely. We typically steer clients clear of using soy protein due to allergies, despite it being a complete protein.

Note: There are a few plants that are complete proteins, containing all 9 essential amino acids, including quinoa, buckwheat, and soy.

For us, our favorite nutrition shake is Vegan Chocolate Shakeology. While vegan, it sources its protein from chia, pea, Sacha inchi, flax, quinoa, rice, and oats, covering all nine essential amino acids.

How to Pick a Protein Supplement?

Our recommendation is to choose a shake that has not only protein but also has other nutritional benefits. If you go through the hassle of making a shake, why only get protein out of it? Such as high fiber content.

A more well-rounded health shake or meal replacement shake like Shakeology ensures that you can also get enough fiber and probiotics. Kill two birds with one stone and improve your poop health and gut health as well. While 97% of Americans get enough protein, 97% of Americans are fiber deficient.

We look at our shakes as an opportunity to fill in the gaps in our day’s nutrition. While we strive to eat the rainbow, it’s not always easy, and our shake is our best friend while traveling or out of our regular routine. So, we have a few favorite shake additives that we like to throw in based on how we’re feeling.

Engineer Your Protein Shake

We also take the opportunity (when we’re not on the go) to engineer more nutrients into our shakes. Here are some of our favorites. Both frozen or fresh ingredients should be added to the blender.

Focus and Memory Boosters

Avocados, beets, blueberries, broccoli, celery, coconut, dark chocolate, cacao powder, rosemary, turmeric, and walnuts.

Immunity Boosters

Grapefruits, tangerines, ginger, greek yogurt, almonds, sunflower seeds, papayas, and kiwis.

Energy Boosters

Cacao powder, maca powder, bananas, apples, goji berries, quinoa, oranges, and strawberries.

Protein Powder Before or After a Workout?

Conventional wisdom says that your body needs protein powder within 30 minutes of a hard, weightlifting workout. However, it’s more important to consume enough protein at any time throughout the day.

Ryan likes having his shake as a reward for finishing a morning workout, while Alex spent many years drinking it for lunch. No matter what, find the time that’s right for you and spread your protein intake throughout the day. 

How To Make Protein Shakes?

Here are a few of our favorite recipes. They key is to add in enough liquid and a banana (which makes it creamy). We also like to hide in a serving of frozen spinach or kale, because it’s masked by the taste anyways!

Also, a good Blender Bottle (the ProStack system is great for on the go) helps! The best blenders we have used (we’ve used at least two dozen) are this KitchenAid and this Vitamix.

Here are some ideas for smoothie recipes based on the flavor of protein powder you have: Chocolate recipes, vanilla recipes, and strawberry recipes.

Our Takeaway Message

Navigating the realm of protein shakes can be complicated, but remember to try to eat as well as you can with whole foods before supplementing with a protein powder.

If you asking yourself, “Do I need a protein powder,” the answer is likely no. But, it’s a hectic world out there, and protein shakes can be very helpful as a convenient snack. Make sure your protein powder tastes fantastic. That way it will be a treat, and help curb cravings as well. If it’s gross, it will probably age in the cupboard.

Also, did you know that sprouts are one of the most protein rich foods on earth? We love to grow sprouts at home and add them to stir fries, smoothies, and avocado toast.

Have any questions on whether your protein shake is right for you? Reply in the comments or email us at [email protected] and we’ll get back to you.

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