With the explosion of new plant-based protein powders in recent years, I feel we’re in the middle of a protein shake renaissance, or maybe a new plant-based protein supplement craze.
But what protein powders are good for you?
And what should you take in a supplement, versus eating a more balanced diet, to help you burn fat and build muscle?
Lately, I’ve noticed my clients coming in with new protein powders such as lactose-free protein, gluten-Free Protein type powders they found in their friends’ pantries, and for sale in grocery stores.
You must have heard several people stating that they do not drink much milk due to the fact that they do not feel full of milk. This is not true. We are talking about people who do not eat milk on a regular basis or who have a sensitive stomach or allergies. Nowadays, you can easily get a fresh glass of milk in a glass. And that is what you should be consuming. But, remember, a glass of milk should be a meal replacement. Milk contains enough protein and calcium to build a strong and healthy body, but not all protein is a protein.
If you are eating a well-balanced diet and you take milk with each meal, then there is no problem. But, if you are avoiding milk because of the above-mentioned reasons, then you can skip it.
Many people swear by plant-based protein powders, but there are a few common mistakes we can all make. When reading labels, we should be paying attention to the content of protein, the quantity of protein in the product, and the labels on the container. It’s easy to confuse all of these and cause confusion about the use of the product.
Myth: Protein powders are the easiest way to gain lean muscle mass and stay lean
While protein powder may help build lean muscle, many protein powders are extremely high in sugar and often not very nutritious. Most protein powders today are not food-based and can even contain protein hydrolysates, which are created using sugar, milk, and soy protein isolate.
Protein hydrolysates can contain food-based amino acids such as leucine and isoleucine, but they typically lack essential amino acids that you’d find in your own proteins from animal sources. The lack of these essential amino acids can lead to nutritional deficiencies in some cases. For instance, a recent study showed that protein hydrolysate containing essential amino acids did not meet the required protein intake for pre-menopausal women.
Over the years I’ve had clients ask me to use protein powders as part of their weight-loss plan. Many of them go to the store, grab a new protein powder, and throw it in their bags. When I ask them why they say it’s “better” or “healthier” for their body. While protein powders may be more convenient than a meal or meal replacement shake, they’re still calorie-dense and can lead to weight gain when combined with other foods.
Myth: Eating more protein means you burn more fat
I always tell people who have lost weight to incorporate a lean protein and other healthy foods into their meals to maintain their weight. For instance, if you eat chicken breast and green beans for dinner, and your goal is to lose weight, it’s best to eat a smaller amount of protein (which will lower your calorie intake) and eat more carbohydrates.
There are some cases when a “protein-first” diet is appropriate, and one protein source should be the largest, such as chicken or fish, beef, or eggs. Carbohydrates, however, should be the next highest protein source, with some low-carb varieties containing more than 20 grams per 1 cup serving.
Vegetarians should eat more vegetables and other whole foods. For instance, when a vegetarian loses weight while eating meatless meals, it’s likely due to eating more fiber. Fiber-rich whole foods will help to fill you up and keep you feeling fuller longer. The body can store carbohydrates as fat when combined with protein, and fiber has a zero-calorie effect and can help maintain or even reduce the appetite.
Myth: You can get more protein if you combine it with carbohydrates
If you eat a protein-rich whole food breakfast like yogurt and berries, you won’t consume more protein for the rest of the day if you include some rice, toast, or quinoa as part of your afternoon snack or meal. Your body can only absorb so much protein at one time, and will not be able to fully utilize it if you consume carbohydrates at the same time.
You’ll only experience an extra surplus of glucose. Carbohydrates are very digestible, so your body will eat them and digest them and use glucose for energy instead of the extra protein.
Myth: Adding protein powder to shakes or smoothies will give you the same protein you’re getting from meat
Protein powder is an easy way to add protein into your diet, but adding other ingredients to a protein shake or smoothie can have a negative effect on the taste and nutritional value of the product. When you add in non-meat protein sources like dairy, vegetable protein, or soy to a shake or smoothie, the ingredients can offset the protein-to-calories ratio in the final product. ‘
Some companies that use whey protein isolate instead of casein, or use pea protein, can add added sugar to smoothies or shakes to mask the flavor.
Protein and Appetite
A high-protein diet is a great way to get healthy and build muscle mass, but it can have the opposite effect on some people with inflammatory bowel disease. Protein is known to be important to managing Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and inflammatory bowel diseases, but a side effect is that a person can experience loss of appetite.
Intrigued by this, a team of researchers at the Scripps Research Institute (San Diego, CA) set out to investigate the relationship between protein and appetite. They enrolled female mice and gave them either a protein supplement or a non-protein meal twice a day.
After 12 weeks of this exercise, the researchers assessed the mice for weight, food intake, resting metabolism, and behavior. A group of female mice that had consumed protein supplemented their diets ate a total of about 30 percent more food than mice that did not have protein.
The mice that consumed protein had greater energy levels and were more active, but were also more likely to have unhealthy fat deposits on their hips. They also had an increase in blood sugar levels, possibly due to the fat deposits on their hips, which indicated they were storing too much sugar.
This suggests that protein is a key component in combating the problems associated with protein intake.
In addition to this study, protein has long been known to be essential to losing weight. In one of the most recent studies, researchers at the University of Toronto reported that when people ate a protein-rich diet, they lost weight more easily than those who ate a diet high in carbohydrates.