I’d say like 2/3 of the questions I get about nutrition is about protein powder. They’re everywhere lately and everyone’s taking them: from jacked-AF dudes shaking em up after beastly weightlifiting sessions, to skinny-mini Jen Selter-type chicks with toothpick limbs and giant asses. It’s as though all kinds of people are not only consuming them daily but swearing by them for gym progress. On top of it all they speak about the products as though they’re magical fairy dust that just makes you instantly hot. Heeennce probably why I get so many questions about it. Unfortunately there is no such thing as sexy-dust, you still gotta put the work in to get results, but the good news is that protein powders are sorta magical in their own way, so here’s the 4-1-1 all about em!
What is protein powder?
Basically protein powder is simply a nutritional supplement, where protein from different sources (milk, vegetables, beans, legumes etc. , depending on which type of protein you take) is extracted, and processed into a powder form. This powder can then be blended with liquid to make a protein-shake. Yeah it’s really that simple. For pea protein for example, you just sort of take the peas, take the protein part out and there ya go. It’s not Candice Swanepoel’s DNA ground up, nor is it made of mermaid hair.
What’s the hype?
Alright so if protein powder is just the protein extracted from a whole food what’s the hype?! Can’t I just eat some peas? Yeah I mean sure you can. But here’s the difference. In 100grams of peas you get 5 gram of protein. Not bad considering the average person is recommended between 45-55 grams a day. The amount of protein in 100grams of pea protein powder? 85 grams. BAM. That’s like your protein intake for the next TWO DAYS bro. Okay I know what you’re thinking. Umm that’s super unnecessary we’re not in time of war rationing, I don’t need to stock up on protein intake for 2 days. But you obviously don’t need to eat up 100 grams of protein powder (that would be slightly excessive), but if you put one tbsp (about 20g) in your smoothie, you already pack in 17 extra grams of protein into your diet. Plus if you’re following a low-carb or low-fat diet or trying to keep either of those in check, with protein powder you’re adding calories to your diet that are almost all protein.
Why take protein powder?
Alright so with this stuff you can max your protein intake while keeping your fat and carb intake in check. Sooooo why is that something I should want? Well to keep it uber simple, protein helps build muscle mass, while also helping to speed up your metabolism. One of the main misconceptions of following vegetarian and vegan diets is that you’ll be protein deficient. Truth is that unless you’re calorie deficient you will almost definitely not be protein deficient (read my blog post all about veganism here) HOWEVER if you’re doing lots of sports and really hoping to gain more muscle, eating more protein can help. Since I’ve been on my new weightlifting gym plan, I’ve been trying to keep my protein intake at about 30% of my calories, about 150 grams, which is difficult to keep when following a completely plant based diet without an extra boost from protein powders. JUST TO CLARIFY I’m not saying that taking supplements is necessary when following a vegan diet. I totally believe that once can live a healthy life with a balanced diet without consuming any animal foods, and protein powders are not needed, but I just like em. And since I’m naturally pretty scrawny and find it hard to gain muscle, I like to get any boost I can.
Which protein powder should I take?
So shopping for protein powder is kinda like trying to buy new hair elastics. Standing there for hours and even though they all look the same it’s like NO I will stand here for 45 minutes because this decision is so important omg can you image if I chose the wrong one?! So which one should you chose? Well, the most important thing is for the powder to provide a “complete amino profile”. This means that all the 9 essential amino acids are present in the supplement. Incomplete proteins contain only some of them. Of course you can make up for the missing amino acids through the rest of your diet, but if you’re gonna be taking protein powder might as well get em all. If the powder has a complete amino profile, it will be written on the pack. Whey protein, made of dairy, is probably the most popular type of protein powder, as it is a complete source of protein, it’s relatively cheap and widely available. I used to take it but since being vegan I use Sun Warrior raw vegan protein (either chocolate or vanilla; I always have at least 2 tubs of each chilling in my cupboard) which is a combination of pea, hemp, goji berry and coconut, also a complete protein, and completely free of any yucky additives.
How to take protein powder?
Most protein powders are water-soluble, so you can just put a scoop in a shaker, add some water or milk and shake it up. But I like being fancy n shit so I always make a smoothie out of it. When I’m feeling extra fancy, I make a thicker mix (by putting more protein powder, less liquid) and have more of a “protein pudding” that I can eat out of a bowl or jar with a spoon. On a daily basis though, I make a big banana-cacao-peanut butter protein shake after my workout. You can also add extra nutrients by throwing some spinach in there and making some type of green smoothie-protein shake hybrid;) (read my blog post all about green smoothies here). I’ve been having the same protein shake EVERY DAY for OVER A YEAR no joke and I’m still obsessed with it and it’s still preeettyy much my favourite part of the day (no my life isn’t that sad, but this shake is that good). Here’s my standard recipe!!
Banana – Cacao – Peanut Butter Protein Shake
- 1 cup spinach
- 1 scoop protein powder
- 1 tbsp raw cacao
- 1 tbsp peanut butter
- 1 banana
- 1 cup water