The Great Debate Between How Much Protein You Need
If you’re into any physically intensive activity, you may have experienced mixed input as far as how much protein you need. Nutritionists or doctors will tell you one thing and personal trainers might tell you another.
For me, it all started by ramping up my fitness routines and thinking it would help me recover from being sore as well as help to build muscle. In general I knew I just needed to get the proper amount of protein in my diet if I was doing intensive exercise, and it can be difficult to get enough in your diet purely from food sources, especially when you are doing a lot of weights/strength training and conditioning.
I didn’t know anything about how much I really needed at the time, except for some fitness enthusiasts saying I needed as much as 2g per one lb. of body weight. For me, that would be about 280g of protein per day.
Focusing on Balance
I never got this much in my diet, or even half that, and I’m glad I didn’t, because your body doesn’t actually need that much protein. In fact, as far as muscle repair and building goes, unless you have the proper amount of carb intake in your diet, your body will instead use the protein for energy and less of that protein will even go to muscle repair and building.
So rather than focusing purely on getting all your protein in, it’s more important that you focus on a good daily balance of all your macronutrients – carbs, protein, and healthy fats, so that your body can work with all of these to establish what it needs to function optimally.
How Much Protein Do You Actually Need?
I learned from a doctor I trust (Dr. Andrew Weil, MD) that protein residues from the metabolism of protein can irritate the immune system and they make your digestive system work extra hard, which can in itself drain your energy.
Additionally, NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) recommends that strength athletes get 0.5–0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight, and endurance athletes get 0.5–0.6 grams of protein per pound of body weight. They also cover in their textbook for personal training the common occurrence of fitness professionals recommending too much protein. For this reason I was surprised that many of them continued to do so.
The Way I Use Protein Powders
My opinion has changed over time as I’ve learned more about protein powders and which types are better than others. When I first started using them, I did my research as far as well-reviewed protein powders, but I didn’t know as much as I know now about actually analyzing the ingredients. My source for finding protein powders before was looking at fitness forums and seeing what many people in the fitness world were using for protein powders. What I didn’t realize is that many people were going with what tasted good and what was popular, but not necessarily what was the best formulation.
For my personal goals, I use protein as a quick, cost-effective way to get more protein in my diet and to help support my exercise routines. I use it more as a supplement rather than a meal replacement as some people do, because I believe real, whole food comes first–and plus, I’ve got a healthy appetite–I need both! But protein powders have absolutely helped manage hunger while providing that extra protein I need as well as nutrients in my diet.
Many protein powders have around the same amount of protein per serving – around 20-30mg and contain various amino acids to help with muscle building and repair. I started off in the beginning just purchasing regular whey protein with added amino acids, but didn’t have much else in them. These days, I buy more of an all-around nutritious solution that includes probiotics, digestive enzymes, all organic ingredients, omega 3 fatty acids, and so on.
The Round Up – My Approved and Favorite Protein Powders Thus Far
These are my favorites so far based on taste, texture, and wholesome ingredients. Unfortunately most of them are on the pricier end compared to many powders out there, but still cost-effective when compared to purchasing and preparing a meal or snack. I also have switched from whey protein to plant proteins just to try them out, and also upon hearing study upon study in regards to the benefits of following a plant-based diet.
By the way, here’s what I look for in protein powders:
- No artificial sweeteners
- Low carb and no added sugars
- All natural, high-quality ingredients (pure grass-fed whey, etc)
- Completely recognizable ingredients list (not a bunch of obviously processed stuff)
All Around Nutritious Protein Powders with Enzymes, Probiotics, Amino Acids, and More
1. Garden of Life Organic Plant Protein – Awesome, delicious, easy on the stomach. Full of high-quality ingredients and packed with nutrients, probiotics and enzymes. This protein is great just being blended with unsweetened vanilla almond milk and nothing else added. I am such a huge fan, though it’s definitely on the pricier end compared to some of the other ones. “Smooth coffee” and “Smooth Energy” are the only flavors I’ve tried (not sure what flavor the latter was exactly), but both were equally as good. I use this one as an “after breakfast” and “before lunch” snack.
2. Plant Fusion “Phood” Shake – So this one I just recently tried when looking for a Shakeology alternative that was cheaper. This one is packed full of great ingredients as well. But, when I first tried it, it did have almost too much of a Stevia taste, but it’s not bothersome and I actually got accustomed to it after the first couple sips and didn’t notice it anymore. Because of that though, this shake is lowest on my list of favorites as far as taste goes. But still has made it to be a favorite because it still tastes pretty good, and it has a nice smooth, thick texture – just like I like it when mixing in the blender.
3. Garden of Life Raw Proteins & Greens – This one is my current favorite. It’s a meal replacement packed full of great ingredients. Includes probiotics and enzymes, and is sweetened with stevia. Great taste, in my opinion. I use this one in the chocolate flavor (and can’t speak for the other flavors since I haven’t tried them), and I mix it in with frozen bananas, sometimes other frozen berries, vanilla almond milk and sometimes some spinach and avocado. Lately I am loving using powders that have more than just pure protein.
Pure Whey Protein Powders
1. Reserveage Whey Protein – Chocolate – One of my grass-fed whey protein favorites, this one tastes amazing and has an awesome texture and thickness to it (unless you overblend). 🙂 I don’t buy this one often anymore because it’s basically just pure whey protein, and I’ve been preferring the all-around nutritional blends these days. It also has dairy, which I’ve been trying to cut out. But aside from all of those personal preferences, it’s an amazing product.
2. Naked Whey – This is one I haven’t tried personally, but would recommend to try for its wholesome ingredients. Another pure grass-fed whey protein powders.
I have tried quite a few different protein powders at this point, but these are the powders that have stood out to me in terms of quality ingredients, taste, and texture.
I also do love Shakeology, by the way – the texture, taste, and nutritional value is amazing – but I personally believe you can find an equal, or close to an equal for cheaper, which is what I sought out to do.
If you have any others with wholesome ingredients that taste awesome, feel free to share with me, I’d love to try them. I may come back later and have to add to this list or make a second blog post!