Everything You Need To Know About Protein Powders And Supplements
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The ins and outs of protein supplements and whether you should consider buying one

woman putting protein powder in a cup

 When it comes to protein powders, there is so much confusion around what they are, how they can best be used and if protein powders are necessary. Considering this, I’ve decided to put everything you need to know about protein powders in a blog post to help you make an informed decision on whether to include these in your diet. Let’s get started…  

    What do protein powders and supplements do?  

    In order to decide on whether a protein supplement is right for you, we have to first understand what their purpose is. Let’s first breakdown the purpose of protein in general…  

    • Protein is made up of amino acids (AA). Essential AA cannot be made in our bodies and must be consumed through food. A complete protein contains all of the 9 essential AA our body needs and are mostly animal based proteins such as: meat, fish, milk or dairy products, eggs, soy
    • Protein provides the body with energy if we are not getting in enough energy from other sources (this is an important point to remember!)
    • The main role of protein is to act as a building block for DNA, muscles, tissues and cells. With adequate intake, protein helps muscle to maintain strength and function and repair tissues after damage (as in after a workout).
    • Protein serves many other roles such as making antibodies for immune function, aides in blood clotting, is a part of hormones, and so on.  

    Protein supplements are simply a source of protein! They are created to ‘supplement’ food as a convenient option. I want to emphasize that we can meet all our protein needs with protein-rich food, and powders/supplements are not needed. Protein powders are there for convenience and as another protein option.  

    Who can benefit from protein powders and supplements? 

    As I mentioned previously, protein supplements are not necessary but serve as an option for protein and are a convenient choice as they do not require refrigeration.  So who can benefit from protein shakes and supplements:  

    Athletes or active individuals

    Protein supplements are an easy option for post-workout or training recovery. 

    Picky eaters

    Individuals who have a difficult time meeting their protein needs with food due to the lack of variety in their diet, supplements can be used to help them meet their essential AA needs. 

    Busy-on the go Individuals

    If you are busy and have a tough time getting in enough food throughout the day, protein supplements can be used as a convenient, quick option. 

    How much of a protein supplement should I take?

    A mistake many individuals make is to consume protein supplements without adding in any carbohydrate. As I highlighted before, protein will be used for energy if energy needs are not being met. Therefore, if we are going to use protein supplements properly, we need to make sure we consume them with a source of carbohydrate so we can spare protein for protein use (building blocks).  

    The recommended amount of protein for recovery and for consumption in 1 sitting is:  

    • 0.2-0.4 g/kg bodyweight  

    Pair this with:  

    • 1-1.2 g/kg bodyweight of carbohydrate 

    In general numbers that is about 20-30g of protein and about 50-100g of carbohydrate for an adult. All recommendations in this blog post are for adults or teens over the age of 16 years old. Protein supplements under the age of 16 are another topic and it is best to consult your Dietitian before use.  

    Our bodies cannot digest and use protein for protein use beyond 0.4 g/kg bodyweight. If more is consumed, it will simply be used for energy!!  

    Are protein powders safe? 

    Protein supplements are not regulated like food. They are under the Natural Health Products act which means there is VERY VERY little regulation on them. With this being said, to ensure your safety I recommend only taking supplements/powders that have been third party tested by either:  

    If you choose to take a powder that is not tested by one of these testing bodies, take them at your own risk.  

    The bottom line 

    Protein powders or supplements can be a great option for some individuals. Protein supplements are not necessary as we can meet all our needs with food. But when convenience is needed, they make a great option that can be paired up with a carbohydrate. A great way to consume them would be:  

    • In a smoothie
    • Mixed with water and paired up with 2 pieces of fruit or a peanut butter sandwich 
    • Added to a coffee and paired with a muffin and fruit  

    Are you interested in receiving personal nutrition support? Our team of Registered Dietitians can help!

    Our Registered Dietitian team specializes in nutrition for mental health, meal planning, weight concerns, emotional eating, eating disorders, digestive health and more. Find out more about our Dietitian Nutrition Counseling Programs here.

    As trained Registered Dietitians, you can count on us for credible advice and practical meal planning so you don’t have to stress about food anymore. You can achieve a healthy and joyous relationship with food and your body. Let’s talk about what this can look like for you.  

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