Protein powders: what they are and when it is useful to take protein supplements

Protein powders can be useful in some conditions of increased need. Let’s see what the main protein powders are and when to use them.

Protein is an essential macronutrient that we get through our diet. In particular, our guidelines recommend a daily intake of about 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight in healthy adults; amounts that are suggested to be increased in the elderly, in the presence of moderate or intense physical activity and in the case of pregnancy or breastfeeding.

This macronutrient is essential for life and carries out multiple functions within our cells: proteins, in fact, deal, among other things, with the transport of substances, with the deposit of minerals, with carrying out chemical reactions, with maintaining and developing muscle tissue and to form our antibodies.

Foods containing proteins are many: meat, fish and all seafood, eggs, dairy products (especially leaner ones) and legumes are the dishes with a higher protein content.

It is possible, however, that the intake of protein with the diet is not sufficient: in fact, the requirement may be increased or you can choose diets that are lacking in foods with a high protein content. In these cases it is possible to turn to a protein supplement: a protein powder that can be dissolved in milk, vegetable drinks or simply in water and which can help us to respond effectively to our personal needs.

When to take protein supplements?

As we have just seen, a balanced diet can be enough to meet the daily protein needs of all of us. Therefore, those who do not have particular health problems, those who do not do intense physical activity or those who do not follow particular diets, generally will not need to take protein supplements.

However, there are cases in which it is necessary to take in a greater quantity of proteins or in which those taken through one’s diet are not sufficient.

Let’s think, for example, of an elderly person who suffers from sarcopenia (a condition that involves a progressive loss of muscle mass and for which a diet rich in proteins is recommended): it is not necessarily easy to increase the consumption of meat and fish both because it frequently you are inappetent and because it can be more difficult to chew these foods. In this case it is advisable to resort to a protein supplement.

In addition to this, there are other conditions in which it can be beneficial to take protein powders. In pregnancy, for example, it may be useful to resort to these supplements if it is difficult to smell meat and fish; even sportsmen can benefit from protein supplementation, especially in the case of vegan or vegetarian sportsmen and, more generally, in cases of intense physical activity.

Protein powders are in fact very simple to take because they are dissolved in a liquid and drunk like a smoothie. As we will also see later in the article, there are for all tastes and it is therefore very easy to find a way to make anyone consume them!

Can protein powders help you lose weight?

It may also be asked whether it may be useful to take protein for weight loss. Indeed, there are very restrictive diets, to be undertaken only if followed by a nutrition professional, which involve the use of protein powder as a substitute for one or more main meals. The reason for the weight loss that can be obtained with such a diet, however, depends on the strong caloric restriction and not on the use of protein supplements.

However, there are some studies that allow us to say that the use of these supplements could be useful in all cases of weight loss. In one study, for example, it was shown that the intake of a small amount of protein powder (whey protein) before main meals allowed an improvement in blood glucose values ​​and an increased sense of satiety in men with diabetes. type 2. These effects could be exploited, together with a controlled diet, to achieve effective weight loss.

In another study it was found that some components of whey protein are able to promote lasting weight loss without leading to a reduction in energy expenditure that frequently occurs with calorie restriction. They are also able to promote a better sense of satiety

What types of protein supplements are there?

There are many protein supplements on the market, suitable for all tastes. The first difference between the various products is the taste: proteins can be neutral, chocolate, strawberry, vanilla and many other different flavors. Furthermore, proteins can be extracted from different foods: let’s see them together.

✓ Whey protein or whey protein

They are by far the most widespread protein powders and those on which there are scientific studies supporting their use. On the market we find two variants of whey proteins useful for those who have intestinal disorders when they consume lactose : these are isolated and hydrolyzed proteins that do not contain lactose.

✓ Soy protein

Among the vegetable protein powders suitable for vegans we find those deriving from soy, a legume very rich in proteins and used for a long time for the production of high-protein foods suitable for vegans. These proteins are among the best because they are among the most complete from an amino acid point of view and therefore comparable to those of whey. However, it is important to keep in mind that the consumption of soy is not recommended in case of thyroid problems and prohibited in case of allergy to soy proteins.

✓ Egg proteins

Another type of commercially available protein powder is egg protein based. This is also considered a complete source of protein: unlike those previously mentioned, however, it contains a smaller amount of protein per 100 g of product.

✓ Pea protein

This protein source is suitable for vegans and, unlike those of soy, it poses fewer restrictions as pea is usually well tolerated and allergy to this food is not common. The biological value of these proteins is lower than the protein sources we have mentioned so far, however they have a basically sweet taste, which is generally appreciated.

✓ Almond protein

Almond proteins are the most common of all proteins from oily fruit. The almond, in fact, is the one with the highest protein content. Protein powder from almonds has a good palatability, even if a smaller amount of protein than other variants; moreover, a protein powder derived from almonds can also boast the presence of polyunsaturated fatty acids.

✓ Hemp protein

These proteins have become well known in recent years. It is a product deriving from hemp seeds and which contains a slightly lower amount of overall protein than the other products seen so far, but at the same time also contains polyunsaturated fatty acids of the serious omega 3 and omega 6.

✓ Rice protein

They are among the lesser known protein powders , but they are very suitable for all those who suffer from food intolerances. Furthermore, the neutral taste of these proteins lends itself well to use in savory preparations. For example, there are rice protein flours on the market that can be used for the preparation of low carb “tagliatelle” or “pizzas”.

Furthermore, many of the products just seen are enriched with vitamins or mineral salts. Some products formulated for the elderly contain, for example, calcium and vitamin D, to support bone health. Other products contain vitamins of group B, to support all metabolic reactions, and in particular vitamin B6, which is essential for the transformation of the proteins themselves.

How to choose a good protein supplement

We can therefore ask ourselves, at this point, which are the best protein powders. Beyond the choice of protein source, we suggest you pay attention to the ingredients. In fact, there are pure products and products containing many additives.

The first thing we advise you to do, therefore, is to look at the list of ingredients: some additives are necessary for the formulation of the product, while others depend on the “taste” of the proteins. Therefore, choose products with fewer chemical compounds and with as natural flavors as possible.

Another factor to consider is the origin of the raw material: many companies are particularly attentive to the origin of the raw materials they use and their products are therefore of higher quality. Prefer these.

The web is certainly the easiest way to buy these products because you will have a very wide choice, but when you approach these supplements for the first time we advise you to let yourself be guided by an expert salesman: the protein powders are in fact also sold at the inside some pharmacies and sports shops.

How are protein supplements used?

If you were wondering how to take protein powder, the answer is very simple: you can dissolve these proteins in water or liquid (milk, vegetable drink) and drink them as a smoothie.

However, it is not necessary that the smoothie contains only proteins, but depending on your tastes, you can also add fruit or chopped nuts. This ingredient can also be used in addition to yogurt or to some recipes such as pancake, where the flavor or texture of the smoothie does not meet your tastes.

The amount of protein to be consumed essentially depends on your needs and the product you buy: as we have already said, the doses may vary from person to person based on age, lifestyle or weight. It also depends on the amount of protein that can be taken with the diet throughout the day. To have a precise answer to this question, we therefore recommend that you contact a professional in the sector, who will surely be able to guide you in the best possible way.

Protein can be taken at any time of the day: it can, for example, be included in the morning as a source of protein for breakfast. In case of training, it is recommended to take them at the end of the physical effort.

We add a tip for all those who struggle to sleep and relax in the evening: avoid taking them in the evening and replace them with a relaxing herbal tea!

Are protein powders safe? Here’s when to avoid them

Ultimately we can say that protein powders, if chosen and used wisely, do not hurt, on the contrary, they are a safe and also very useful supplement. They also adapt well to any diet. However, it is important that protein requirements are not exceeded, especially in cases where you suffer from kidney diseases and a decrease in the function of the kidneys themselves. In this case, in fact, the protein quota must be kept under control and it is necessary not to abuse the supplements we are talking about. Therefore, in cases of kidney-related diseases it is essential to take protein powders only under the supervision of a specialist.

In conclusion, we have seen that protein powders are not a supplement to be afraid of, but they can be an excellent ally for those with an increased need (as in the case of athletes) or for those who struggle to eat many protein-rich foods (such as in the case of the elderly or some vegan diets).

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