How to Use Protein Powder
When it comes to sculpting a healthier, stronger body, everything you need to focus on boils down to essentially two things: your diet and your exercise routine.
Exercise overloads the muscles to the point of micro-trauma, or tiny tears in the muscle fibers, and your diet then fuels your body with the nutrients necessary for repairing and rebuilding these fibers back up again, making them more resistant to tension and stress.
Protein plays a crucial role in this rebuilding process, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re a professional athlete or just another weekend warrior, everyone can use the extra boost that protein can provide.
“[Protein is] necessary to keep muscle and joints strong,” says Joan Endryke, registered dietician nutritionist, “[it] enable[s] the body to manufacture substances, like hemoglobin, insulin, neurotransmitters and others.”
However, do you know how to use protein properly in order receive the most benefits? Is a protein powder necessary for building muscle?
How Much Protein Do You Really need?
According to the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), the suggested amount of protein for a healthy adult is approximately .8 g to 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.
To calculate your protein intake :
1. Divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to find out your weight in kg (or there are plenty of online calculators that will automatically do the math for you).
2. Then multiply that number by .8 or 1.8 (or somewhere in between) to find out how many grams of protein you need daily.
If you’re a sedentary individual simply looking to fill in the gaps of your nutrition, then you’ll want to stick to the lower end of the scale. If, on the other hand, you’re an athlete or bodybuilder who trains for extended periods of time, you’ll experience greater benefits if you increase your protein intake.
For example, if you’re a 154 lb. male who lifts weights and exercises regularly, then your protein equation will look something like this:
154 lbs/ 2.2 = 70 kg
70 kg x 1.5 = 105 grams of protein per day.
Now 105 grams may seem like a lot of protein consume throughout the day, so it might be easy to assume that you need a protein shake just to keep up with it all, but you might be surprised at how quickly that adds up.
Cari Nierenburg, expert at WebMD explains, “Most Americans get more than enough protein each day, and may be getting too much of this nutrient from animal sources, like meat, poultry, and eggs.”
A single egg can offer as much as 6 grams of protein, and a cup of milk or a serving of yogurt can have 8 grams (Greek Yogurt is more concentrated and offers a whopping 17 grams per serving).
If you were to order a cheeseburger with a 4 oz. patty, you’d be consuming 30 grams of protein, if you make it a double…well, you get the idea.
Protein powders and shakes, such as the ones on this site, can offer as much as 20, 30 or even 40 grams of protein per serving, which may be a useful tool for filling in the gaps in your nutrition, but on the other hand, you might not even need one depending on your current diet and exercise levels.
When taking a protein powder or similar supplement, it’s important to take into consideration how much protein you’re already consuming through your diet, and then determine how much more you need from there. While technically you could consume all your protein from a protein powder, most experts recommend that you turn to whole foods as your primary source of protein.
When Is the Best Time to Use a Protein Powder?
When it comes to using protein powders, timing is everything. Since protein isn’t stored in the body like other nutrients, whatever your body can’t use is discarded, so to get more bang for your buck, you’ll want to use protein when it’s most beneficial to you.
However, not everyone can agree exactly when the best time that happens to be. There are various theories, each with scientifically proven benefits, so it’s entirely up to your individual needs and circumstance to determine the best time.
Protein Before a Workout
As mentioned earlier, protein plays a crucial role in the rebuilding of muscle fibers. By taking a protein powder before a workout, you can supply your body with a quick boost of amino acids necessary for preserving muscle mass and keeping glycogen levels in balance.
According to Mike Roussell, PhD, “adding protein prior to your training sessions primes the pump: it starts protein synthesis during rather than after your training session. Pre-workout protein more likely increases amino acid delivery and uptake by muscles during training.”
Whey protein powders are the most popular protein supplements in the industry due to their quick digestion and absorption rates. Studies have shown that whey protein can appear in the bloodstream in as little as fifteen minutes after ingestion.
Protein After a Workout
On the other hand, after an intense workout session, your body will have depleted much of its glycogen stores and protein synthesis will start taking hold.
Young Sub kwon, MS points out “the adaptation of muscle to overload stress of resistance exercise begins immediately after each exercise bout. A single bout of exercise stimulates protein synthesis within 2-4 hours after the workout, which may remain elevated for up to 24 hours.”
In order to maintain maximum muscle growth and experience the best body building results, you’ll need to fuel up with a protein powder within a few hours after an intense workout.
Jeff Volek, PhD, RD, suggests that athletes and dieters split up their protein intake, consuming a total of 10-20 grams of protein both before and after your workout to keep insulin levels raised and prevent muscle catabolism.
Protein in the Morning
During sleep, the body is forced to draw on its glycogen stores in order to keep vital organs and other bodily processes functioning properly. After 5 to 6 hours or more of not eating any food, your body will quickly deplete its glycogen and will then start breaking down muscle protein as a fuel source.
Consequently, your body will need a fast-digesting protein such as whey to prevent muscle catabolism.
According to the British Journal of Nutrition, a study revealed that when people ate high-quality protein foods for breakfast, they experienced a greater sense of sustained fullness throughout the day, making it easier to cut total caloric consumption.
Protein with Lunch
To keep your energy levels up and to supply your body with a steady stream of amino acids, you can power up your lunches with protein as well.
Studies have shown that higher protein intake during weight loss can counterbalance the negative effects on muscle mass.
Ellen Evans, a former associate professor of Kinesiology suggests, “It’s important to eat protein in the moring and through the day so those amino acids are always available . . .it’s easy to add protein into a smoothie or eat a high-protein snack and incorporate a healthier diet into a busy lifestyle.”
Casein protein powders are often recommended, as they can give you an extended release of amino acids. Unlike whey, it takes much longer to digest, so you can stay fuller for longer periods of time.
Protein Before Bed
At night, your body will be working hard to rebuild and repair muscles even when you’re sound asleep, but in order to do so, it needs a steady supply of amino acids and other nutrients.
Opting for a casein protein powder can supply your body with a sustained release of amino acids due to the fact that it is much slower to digest than other types of protein.
Studies have shown that casein protein can remain in the body for as long as 7 hours at a stretch, which makes it the perfect solution for muscle growth and recovery.
As you can see, protein offers numerous benefits no matter what time of day you happen to consume it, and finding the right time to take protein will vary depending on your individual needs and circumstances.
Connie Diekman, RD, leaves us with these final words of advice, “including some [protein] each time we eat can help us make better food choices and trim what we eat the next time we eat.”
So eat up!