Everyone needs protein. That’s a given. But why exactly is it so important? Protein is the primary component for muscles, which means you need it for muscle mass to grow and heal. Athletes and bodybuilders use protein supplements to aid muscle recover during and after workouts, even using them to replace meals in some circumstances. This is also helpful to people who are trying to reduce their calories – and their weight.
Bodybuilders and Protein
Bodybuilders need more protein than the average person, because protein both build and repairs muscles. The entire idea of bodybuilding is to gain weight, but in muscle, not in fat, which requires protein. Whey is a popular protein type for bodybuilders to use before and after workouts.
Protein also provides energy for the workout itself. So, using protein supplements for bodybuilding has several purposes: building and maintaining muscle mass, muscle recovery and a burst of energy just when you need it.
Protein Supplement Ingredients
There are different types of protein supplements, each with a different main ingredient, and each with its own pros and cons.
Whey: Whey digests easily, usually within one hour, which is why it is popular with athletes for after workouts. Whey also mixes easily with other substances – and it tastes pretty good, too. This type of protein is not recommended for anyone who is lactose intolerant, as whey is a dairy product, derived from the cheese-making process.
Casein: Casein is very much like whey, but it takes longer to work because it takes longer to digest. It comes in a number of great flavors, much like whey. Like whey, it should also be avoided by those who are lactose intolerant.
Milk: This type of supplement includes whey and casein, so it has both long and short-term benefits. Milk protein has higher fat, cholesterol, and calorie content than other protein supplements, and of course it is definitely not for anyone with lactose intolerance.
Egg: This is made from egg white, also known as egg albumin. Egg protein supplements generally come in a powdered form, and they make delicious shakes and smoothies. This type of supplement can easily be added to many recipes, and can be eaten without any trouble by those who are lactose intolerant. Those with allergies to eggs or chicken, however, should avoid this supplement.
Rice: If you are lactose-intolerant, a vegan or vegetarian, rice protein supplements are perfect for you. Rice protein also contains absolutely no gluten, in addition to being low in calories, carbohydrates and fats. It works well in shakes and smoothies or as an additive to various recipes.
Soy: Soy can be taken by everyone without any trouble. It does not trigger allergies or lactose intolerance, and because it is completely made of soy beans, vegetarians can take it. Soy is also what is known as a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential and non-essential amino acids.
How to Take a Protein Supplement
There are more than just powders or pills. Protein supplements come in many forms, for many purposes, including:
Liquid Protein: Many of these can simply be drunk as they are, while others are made to be mixed with juice, milk or some other beverage to make shakes or smoothies. There are literally dozens of flavors to choose from, depending upon brand and purpose.
Protein Powders: These are usually mixed with juice, milk or yogurt to create protein shakes or smoothies. Some can also be sprinkled into a meal and cooked to fit seamlessly into your favorite recipes.
Protein Bars: These are popular supplements and great for people who don’t have time for some of the other supplements that require a bit of preparation. Not only do these contain protein, but they have a number of other nutrients as well, and are easy to carry when you are in a rush.
Protein Shots: These are small vials of liquid packed with protein, coming in a range of great flavors. They are tiny, but contain between 25 to 30 grams of protein in every serving.
Protein Capsules: The above protein supplements often taste great, especially when mixed with food or when made into shakes or smoothies, but there are still those who are reluctant to try them for fear of the taste. These people can just take a capsule with water and not have to worry about how it tastes, while still getting the protein their bodies need.
Teenagers Need Protein, Too
Children and teenagers can get some use out of protein supplements, too. Just like other medications, children should only get about half of the dosage adults would take, while teenagers can use the same amount as adults.
Teens who worry about their weight often turn to fad diets, which very rarely work at all. Some of these teens go further into bulimia or anorexia, which can be fatal over time. Should you have a weight-conscious teenager, teach him or her how to lose weight in a healthy manner by always keeping well-nourished. This is a good time to introduce protein supplements. Teenagers worried that food will put on the pounds won’t mind replacing a meal or two with a shake or smoothie, and you can be assured your child is still getting all the nutrients he or she needs. Just be sure the supplement you choose does not have any added hormones – people this age do not need the added complication in addition to their own hormonal activity.
Does Chocolate Come into This Anywhere?
Chocolate and protein go very well together. If you love chocolate and want to have better health, you don’t have to miss out. Chocolate-flavored protein shakes and smoothies abound. These might cost a little more than some of the other protein supplements, but they save money in the end, because you don’t have to spend any money on other chocolate products to get all the chocolate you want.
If you are looking to cut back on calories, try chocolate-flavored casein protein powder. This has very little in the way of fats or carbohydrates, but still tastes great. Make a smoothie by adding the powder to some skim milk or yogurt and ice. You could even add a scoop of ice cream – but not too often, since the purpose is to have fewer calories, after all.