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A Beginner’s Guide to Using Protein Powder

by Voices Wellness 26 Aug 2021
Photo: Unsplash

A quick guide to how protein powder can help with muscle building and recovery. By SAMANTHA FRANCIS.

Step into a gym and chances are, you’ll spot shaker bottles taking pride of place next to the free weights and buff bodies. Protein shakes have always been a big part of workout culture, appreciated not just for their ability to accelerate muscle growth, but also to boost energy and optimise muscle recovery after a challenging set.

If you’ve never tried protein shakes and are curious about their health benefits, here’s what you should know.

What are protein powders?

Typically sold in large and colourful tubs at supplement stores or online retail platforms like iHerb, protein powders come in three main forms—whey, soy, and casein. The most common of the three is whey protein, a water-soluble milk protein shown to increase lean body mass and decrease fat mass. Though rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), milk proteins are not suitable for those who are lactose-intolerant. Meanwhile, plant-based protein powders made from soy, rice, peas, and hemp offer a rich source of fibre, essential amino acids, and vitamins.

Photo: Unsplash

How are they used?

As a popular nutritional supplement, protein powder is used mainly to boost one’s protein intake. The essential micronutrient not only helps to build muscle but also repairs tissue and makes enzymes and hormones. It can also aid in weight loss and tone muscles. For instance, your body may need more protein if you’re increasing the intensity of your workout regime or if you’re an athlete recovering from a sports injury. Those switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet may also use protein powder to replace the protein sources eliminated from their diets.

When to consume them?

When you consume your protein shake will depend on your end goal, whether it’s gaining muscle or recovery. For a rapid boost of energy, choose protein powders that are high in BCAAs and enjoy it about 30 to 45 minutes before your workout. For muscle recovery, have your shake right after exercise or within 30 minutes of completion. If you’ve pushed yourself to the limits, opt for maximum muscle recovery by consuming casein protein powders before bedtime, to stimulate muscle protein synthesis as you rest.

Photo: Unsplash

How to enjoy them?

In its purest form, protein powder doesn’t taste great, which is why it’s often flavoured to make it more palatable to our taste buds. Popular flavours include chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, alongside fancy ones like birthday cake and Snickerdoodle. Get creative with how you consume them by adding them to pancakes and smoothies, or even into muffins and energy balls. For a boost of flavour, add your favourite fruits and nuts.

When not to consume them?

While protein powders are generally safe for consumption, those with kidney or liver issues are advised to avoid whey protein or consult with a medical professional before taking it. If your intake of protein in your daily diet is already high, it may be unnecessary to drink protein shakes. Over-consumption of protein powder could also result in digestive problems like nausea, flatulence, and diarrhoea.

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