Prefer to learn while you do other things? For the full discussion on protein powders and supplements including why they might not be the right choice for you, check out this episode of my podcast Fit & Nourished Mind available on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher.
There can be a lot of controversy on the topic of protein powders and other similar supplements, depending who you ask. It’s actually one of my favourite topics, because I’m very passionate about why I fully support the use of protein powders, as well as the types that I recommend to clients and use in my own life.
1. Lower the Barrier to Healthy Eating
This is so important. I know many coaches who will encourage people they work with to learn to cook from scratch, even if cooking is not something that the client has an interest in learning and doesn’t have the time or energy to accomplish. That’s counter intuitive, no?
A good coach needs to meet you where you’re at. And if where you’re at doesn’t involve putting in the effort to start making whipping up all kinds of meals, this is where protein powder can come in. Depending on your goals, replacing your daily struggle to eat something healthy for breakfast, for example, can be a huge step forward in how you eat and set you up for a positive start to the day. One small change at a time is what leads to consistency.
2. Saves Time
This one is fairly self explanatory. Let’s be totally honest here, when you’re rushing around in the morning trying to get yourself (and potentially smaller humans) out the door, tossing a few ingredients in a blender and having breakfast appear in your cup is pretty appealing.
Protein shakes are not limited to breakfast, of course. I only usually recommend 1 shake per day, but that can be anytime. Lunch or dinner work too, or maybe it’s an extra boost between meals, particularly if you work out on a regular basis and need the extra calories, which leads me to the next point.
3. Easy Way to Sneak in Extra Nutrients or Calories
Many of us may actually be under-eating, particularly if you work out on a regular basis. It’s very common for women to over-exercise and not consume enough food to match the energy they are out-putting, and this can lead to hormonal issues, weight gain, menstrual difficulties, low energy, cravings, and more.
There might be some nutrients you want to add into your diet and not sure how to consume them, or perhaps you are trying to mix it up by simply adding in some new things.
Adding in a shake with protein powder and all kinds of other nutrient-dense goodies can give you the extra boost your body is asking for, without necessarily adding extra full meals that can feel too bulky and heavy to some people.
For someone experiencing digestive distress (depending on why they are experiencing these issues), consuming some type of smoothie or shake can be a more digestible way to get some eat, even if only temporarily. Because the smoothie is liquid, it has already done some of the work so your body doesn’t have to work quite as hard to break things down. That said, it’s still important to chew your smoothie, no matter how smooth your blender has made it. Digestion starts in the mouth, and just because the nutrients you are consuming are in liquid form doesn’t mean that you can completely skip this step for optimal digestion.
One ingredient I regularly recommend to clients is collagen powder. While not technically your usual form of protein powder, it is powder form and derived from the connective tissue of cows. But! Before you get grossed out, it is not only tasteless but can be very helpful for the digestive system. Side benefits include improved quality of hair, skin and nails, and can help with joint issues. It even improves the elasticity of our skin.
Due to the nature of this product, it’s really important to buy well-sourced forms of collagen. We use Vital Proteins and Great Lakes at our house and love them. The best part is that you can hide collagen in your shakes as the protein source, or in addition to a protein powder depending on your needs.
5. You Might Feel Better
While you can consume protein powders at any time of day, personally I usually have them for breakfast, either before or right after a workout. I LOVE breakfast and will eat all kinds of delicious real foods, but often I find that I feel my best and have my highest energy levels when I have had a protein shake.
This won’t be the same for everyone, and protein powders might not be the right choice for you! It’s all about playing around, finding what works for your unique body and listening to the cues your body is giving you. Despite all the reasons I’ve listed here, if your body doesn’t love protein powders, then the best thing you can do for yourself is to honour that and find different methods and ways of eating that will have your body at its’ happiest.
Things to note when looking for a good brand:
- Many of us have difficulty breaking down milk proteins, and most people I work with have switched to a plant-based protein powder. There are a ton of options out there, although I advise staying away from anything soy-based. Look for hemp, pea, brown rice, pumpkin seed or any brands that have blends of those different kinds.
- Watch the sugar: I try to avoid brands that contain sugar. Many brands instead contain stevia, which is a better option for most people but can come with its’ own issues. Stevia is made from the leaves of a stevia plant, naturally sweet and made into a sugar substitute. However, some stevia is more heavily processed than other, and stevia may not agree with everyone’s digestive system. I know some people don’t like the slight aftertaste it leaves, either.
- Quality of the brand. This is a BIG one. Know what you’re buying, do some research on the company you are interested in, and check their ingredient list. Awareness is everything, especially when it comes to a processed product.
We must acknowledge that protein powders are a processed item. Regardless how many great ingredients might be in a particular protein powder, it is NOT a “whole food.” Mother Nature did not produce protein powders, we took ingredients and made it into this form, and with that manufacturing process can come a whole host of other issues around quality. This is always something to be aware of and research brands accordingly, but for me the benefits of using these products far outweighs the negatives.
Protein powders are not the perfect solution.
But I’ve never been one to advise on perfection. It’s about finding ways to make your life easier, healthier and still keep your meals delicious while helping you get to where you want to be.
What are you thoughts on protein powders? What are your favourite ways to use them? Let me know!