However little you know about exercise, you’ve probably heard the two most popular rules: carbs are bad, and protein is good. In recent times, sugar is being vilified more than carbohydrates, but proteins are still accepted as the gold standard of working out. Even vegetarians agree that protein matters, although they disavow its typical sources.
Protein includes meat, fish, chicken, legumes, mushrooms, milk, eggs, and cheese. Vegans get their protein from soy, tofu, nuts, tempeh, and non-dairy milk. The function of protein is to grow your muscles, tissues, organs, and hormones.
Protein is also important in healing. It does this by repairing injured muscles, producing depleted hormones, and restoring damaged organs. Eating the right type of protein can help you lose weight. This is because our bodies prefer to draw energy from sugar and carbs, while our excess weight is mostly in the form of fat deposits.
When we go on a protein-heavy diet, we limit the amount of carbs and sugars we consume. We can’t eliminate them completely, since even meat and vegetables have a little fat and carbs in them. However, while plain protein has enough nutrients to sustain our bodies, it can’t be burned for energy.
For this reason, our bodies are forced to burn fat for energy. This reduces our accumulated fat stores, which results in weight loss. This is the simplistic, theoretical version of the story, the actual weight-loss-via-protein process is far more complex, and depends on various factors including exercise, genetics, and protein quality.
Protein is good for your brain too. It keeps your mind alert, and because it promotes fat burning, it regulates your blood sugar levels by reducing sugar spikes and dips. Fat metabolises more slowly than glucose, so limited amounts get into the blood stream at a time, which prevents the unhealthy cycle of sugar highs and crashes.
Studies disagree on the amount of protein your body needs, but it’s guesstimated at 0.8g to 1.2g for every kilo of body weight. So if you weigh 80kg, you should consume between 60g and 100g of protein every day. That’s roughly half a kilo of lean meat, 15 to 20 eggs, or six cups of cooked beans, which is a lot of food.
Protein supplements are a good way to get your recommended protein intake without eating like a pig. These powders can be added into a smoothie, mixed with water or milk to make a protein shake, or sprinkled onto your fruit salad, cereal, pancake batter, or even ice cream. Some people like to put a few teaspoons in their coffee instead of milk or creamer.
Protein powder allows you to pack tons of protein into a few spoonfuls. Some of the more popular options include powdered whey, casein, hemp, peas, eggs, and mixed plants. Each powder serves a different function, so your choice depends on your health goals.
If you’re focused on losing weight, try a mix of whey and casein. They’re both very filling, so they will reduce your physical hunger. Use the protein on a fibrous fruit mix or add it to a kale smoothie. This is useful because fibre adds to that full feeling. Some products that effectively combine casein are whey include Quest Protein Chips.
This crunchy snack is great for weight loss because it offers the psychological satisfaction of crisps with none of their fats and sugars. Each 30g pack contains 21g of protein and 120 calories, of which only 1.5% is fat and 2% is carbs. In addition to casein and whey, they also contain dried potatoes, sunflower oil, and sea salt.
If you’re more concerned about building muscle, look for a whey concentrate. Some whey products contain whey isolates instead (such as the protein crisps we mentioned earlier), but isolates contain less protein, so check the ingredients to be sure you’re getting concentrate.
Optimum Nutrition 100% Gold Standard Whey combines whey isolate, whey concentrate, and whey peptides into a proven protein blend. Each scoop has 24g of protein and offers 120 calories. It only contains 3g of carbohydrate, of which 1g comes from sugars. If you’d like your whey in breakfast form, grab a scoop of Optimum Nutrition’s Natural Oats & Whey, just like Little Miss Muffet. Add it to your early morning shake, and look out for spiders !