Lifters and athletes have been preaching the gospel of protein for decades, and the rest of the world has been catching up in the last few years. Today, it’s common to see protein products being sold pretty much everywhere, and to hear everyone from your grandma to your teenage nephew talking about trying to get more of it in their diet.
Here’s everything you’ve been asking us, and everyone else on the internet, about the mightiest of macronutrients. If you’re a serious lifter or athlete, are chasing gains or weight loss, or are just trying to eat healthier, this is where the conversation starts!
What Is Protein?
It isn’t just part of what’s on your plate or in your shaker bottle. It’s a major part of who you are, and the same goes for every other living thing.
Proteins have existed on earth for billions of years and are the primary building blocks of most forms of life, from the simplest bacteria to the most sophisticated life forms.
In fact, it isn’t really a thing, as much as it is a category of things. There are millions of different types of protein molecules, all containing different combinations of 20 standard amino acids. But proteins are also by far the most complicated molecules in the human body, and can contain anywhere from 50-2,000 amino acids including the essential 20. To date, about 10,000 different proteins have been identified in the human genome. There are thought to be nearly one trillion different variations on earth.
The body of a 154-pound man contains about 24 pounds of protein. Almost half is in the form of skeletal muscle, with another 3-4 pounds in the form of skin and blood. Bone and organs make up the rest.
In nutritional terms, protein is one of the three primary macronutrients our bodies need to survive. It is a “macro” nutrient because, like carbohydrates and fats, we consume a significant amount of it and use it for fuel. We need a comparatively small amount of vitamins and minerals every day, so they are referred to as “micronutrients.”
Protein is contained in various combinations and quantities in every food we eat—even vegetables. Unlike all these other macro and micronutrients, your body can’t store it, so you have to get it consistently through the foods you eat, and/or the supplements you take.
What Do Our Bodies Use Protein For?
It plays a role in virtually everything that goes on in your body. In your blood, it transports oxygen throughout your body. It builds and repairs tissue (including muscle tissue) and makes enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. It is also a fundamental building block of bones, cartilage, organs, skin, blood, hair, and nails.
The antibodies our bodies use to ward off disease and infection are made of protein, as are the enzymes that read the genetic information in our DNA to make new molecules. Messenger protein molecules transmit signals between cells, tissue, and organs, and transport protein molecules carry atoms and small molecules throughout the body.
What Are The Benefits Of Dietary Protein?
You probably associate high-protein eating with people trying to gain mass. And that’s because it works! Diets that are rich in high-protein foods, in combination with resistance training, have been shown repeatedly to help athletes add or retain lean mass.
However, diets that include moderate or high-protein foods have plenty of other advantages. For one, as Jose Antonio, Ph.D., writes in the article “3 Myths about High-Protein Diets Debunked,” “It’s very difficult to get fat if the only thing you overfeed on is protein.”
Most high-protein foods are themselves very low in fat and carbs. Chicken breasts have 2-3 grams of fat per serving, while cottage cheese has only 1-2 grams. Egg whites and fish are virtually fat-free, and in the case of fish, the fats they contain are often healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
High-protein diets can also help you lose unwanted weight. “Not only will this extra protein help you build more lean muscle mass, but it will also diminish your appetite, making you less apt to cave in to cravings,” says Jose Antonio, Ph.D. “[It] can help you lose weight because of its ability to act as a potent thermogenic agent. That means your body burns more calories digesting protein foods than it takes to digest an identical amount of carbohydrate and fat.”
How Much Protein Do I Need?
The short answer: More than a food label will tell you. Maybe as much as double.
The Canadian government sets the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein, as well as for vitamins, minerals, fiber, fats, and carbohydrates. The RDA starts at a low of around 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight for sedentary adults 18 and over, or about 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. (The RDA for children is higher, at 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.)
This translates into 60 grams per day for a 150-pound person. But that doesn’t mean that’s the target you should be aiming for. For most active people and athletes, these guidelines are considered by most experts to be too low.
“A majority of researchers have been saying for decades that the RDA is well below where it should be—even too low for non-active people, let alone active people,” says Douglas Kalman, Ph.D., RD, the co-founder of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
Douglas Kalman, Ph.D., recommends a baseline intake of 1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight for everyone, or 0.6 grams per pound, for all people. For a 150-pound person, that equates to 90 grams per day.
Of course, getting all of those grams in a single meal would likely leave you with a stomachache. For this reason, our experts recommend spreading them across several meals containing at least 20 grams, and as much as 40 grams. Once you calculate your ideal daily intake, you can work backward to plan out your meals. You can also use this guide to show you what 30 grams of protein foods looks like from common sources.
Do I Need A Protein Supplement?
Some people can get all they need from food alone. But many others find it’s expensive, inconvenient, or just uncomfortable to eat that much. That’s when it can be helpful to use shakes, powders, and bars to help.
Consider powders and drinks to be supplements of convenience—and use them that way. If a shake after training is the only way you’re going to get protein at that time, have the shake. If you’re trying to gain weight—or lose weight—and you’re in a position where you’d either have a shake or miss a meal entirely, have the shake.
If you’re aiming to increase your intake, a shake or smoothie is an easy way to get 25 grams per serving, or more, as a snack or alongside your breakfast. Protein powder also works surprisingly well in many recipes for cooking and baking.
In the past, shakes were something most people associated with bodybuilders or athletes. Today, they’re far more common, and everybody from young people to the elderly regularly use them.
What Is The Best Protein Powder?
Instead of asking this hard-to-answer question, consider asking a slightly different one: What is the best protein powder for you?
The best is the one that tastes the best, gives you the amount you’re looking for, and helps you reach the goals you’ve set for yourself. Your goal might be to just add some extra dietary protein to your diet, to bulk up and add mass and strength, or to lose weight. Some products are made with fast-digesting protein for use right after a workout; others use slow-digesting casein to give your body the nutrients it needs while you sleep.
Finding the right protein supplement is a matter of what you want. OEV’s go-to reccomendations are:
Your body literally can’t create new muscle without protein. Research proves that taking protein before and after workouts is the best way to speed muscle tissue repair and gain more lean muscle. Whey is the go-to protein to take after your WOD because it’s absorbed faster than other forms of protein. And DRIVEN WHEY™ also includes a full array of vital BCAAs and other amino acids to fuel your muscle growth.
- Actually enjoy taking your protein with our complete range of delicious flavors
- Avoid uncomfortable, embarrassing digestive problems so you can feel good in and out of the gym
- Get more results from less product, thanks to cold whey processing, may give you more protein per serving, and more servings per container than other brands
- Build new muscle faster and easier by giving your body the protein and aminos it needs in one convenient mix
- Protect the muscles you’ve already built, because the naturally occurring amino acids in DRIVEN WHEY™ may help keep you out of the catabolic state during your WOD
- Benefit from the superior nutritional profile
- Easily stack DRIVEN WHEY™ thanks to its low-carb formulation, or use it in low-carb recipes like mug cakes
Whether your goal is to increase muscle mass, lose weight, burn fat or just add pure, lean protein to your diet, DRIVEN WHEY™ is the optimal supplement to help you meet your performance goals.
Get it HERE!
Incredibly delicious, the HOMEMADE VANILLA ICE-CREAM PROTEIN POWDER delivers high-quality protein that satisfies your tastebuds while…
- Promoting lean muscle growth
- Increasing fat loss
- Boosting your metabolism
- Supporting cardiovascular health
- WHEY BLEND (WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE & WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE)
- CANE SUGAR: Significant less processing than white sugar & helps revitalize, energize, and hydrate your body after exercise
- NATURAL & ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS (Vanilla): Makes the protein taste delicious, just like real ice-cream
- LACTASE: Supplemental enzyme used to help properly digest lactose
- SUCRALOSE: Low-calorie sweetener
Get It HERE!
When Should I Take Protein Powder?
The post-workout shake is a great ritual of the fit life, but if you’re just trying to make sure you’re getting all you need each day, there is no specific time to take it. Many people start the day with a shake, or even mix a scoop into their cereal or yogurt. But dietary protein is healthy no matter if you have it at breakfast or dinner—or in between.
However, there is also a case for taking protein before working out, particularly if you’re on a low-calorie or low-carb diet.
“Taking it alone before a workout is extremely beneficial during a low-carb diet,” explains nutritional consultant Mike Roussell, Ph.D., Taken at this time, he says, the supplement “leads to an increase in fat oxidation (fat burning) during high-intensity exercise like interval training or metabolic resistance training.”
Don’t like having that shake sloshing in your stomach during training? Roussell recommends taking isolated BCAAs instead.