Protein supplements – Do you really need them?

protein powder

Protein – it’s a minefield out there! Whey, pea, hemp or organic? Water or milk? Pre training, post training or at night? No wonder you’re confused! Here at Challenge Me, our clients follow a few simple rules to ensure they are getting the right amount of protein in their diets.

But first, what exactly is protein and what does it do?

Proteins are essential dietary nutrients that have structural and functional roles in the body. Proteins are generally comprised of a sequence of 20 amino acids, eight of which are essential and must come from the diet.  Proteins are often referred to as ‘the building blocks of life’ because they are:

  • Found in the nucleus of every cell in your body
  • The enzymes which drive processes within your body such as the breakdown of food
  • The hormones which regulate your body functions
  • The antibodies that protect your body against viruses
  • The key components of muscle fibres (myoglobin and elastin)

Consuming protein assists to maintain lean muscle mass and it is essential that we include it in every meal. When losing weight, it is body fat that you want to lose in order to maintain a strong and healthy body, not muscle.

Protein Powder is a powdered form of protein typically made from whey and casein (the two proteins found in milk) or plant-based sources like soy, rice, pea, and hemp, to name a few.

Rule number 1: Nothing beats real food as your protein source

Nothing can replace real food sources of protein such as meat, fish, chicken, eggs or the vegetable options of legumes, beans and quinoa.

Remember you can only digest 20-30grams of protein with each meal so unless you are unable to eat real food or are on the go, don’t rely on powders as your protein source.

Also note, that if you are making a protein smoothie, add an egg instead of protein powder. It’s a lot more nutritious and tastes a whole lot better!

Rule number 2: If you are going to supplement with protein powder, look for raw and organic products

If you read the list of ingredients on the back of most protein powders, you will notice an abundance or ingredients you cannot recognise or pronounce. That’s why we recommend raw, organic, dairy free powders containing no artificial ingredients. This means that you should be able to recognise all ingredients listed on the pack!

The protein powders I currently use include:

  • Great Lakes Collagen Hydrolysate
  • Amazonia Raw Protein Range

Should I have protein supplements before or after resistance training?

There are many schools of thought on this and depending on who you speak to, you will probably be told different things! However there is no clear clinical research proving either option to be the best for strength and muscle gains. As such, we suggest you focus on hitting your macro targets aligned to your goals (as outlined in the Challenge Me Nutrition eBook).

Key takeaways

Turn to real food as your key source of protein and supplement wisely with natural protein powders when required.