Which macronutrient is the most important for your results?
Well, I wouldn’t necessarily say that any macronutrient is more or less important than the others. However, protein has been getting a lot of attention in the media in recent years for the positive effects it can have on a person’s results.
I vividly remember when I first started my health and fitness journey, thinking protein was only for bodybuilders. In my mind, it was the key to them being so big and strong.
Yes, it does play a role in this, but that's not all ... because even a normal person needs a minimum amount of protein each day to function properly.
Now, if you are working to lose fat, gain muscle, improve performance, or be healthier overall, getting "enough" protein may not be enough to get the results you want.
Those situations above may call for an improvement from getting "enough", to getting “optimal” amounts of protein ... allowing your body to function at the highest level possible.
See, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and since protein is something we can control on a "per meal" basis, we can keep it from being the weak part of our nutrition plan.
To start, I can tell you I struggled to hit my ideal protein number at first. I had to really focus on increasing my intake of eggs, meat, chicken, and fish ... but I still couldn’t quite get there consistently.
Once I realized I needed a quicker, more dependable option for hitting my protein goal, I looked into protein drinks. Again, I had no idea what to look for, or which protein drinks were right for my situation and my goals.
Fast forward years later, and protein supplements have become a staple in my daily nutrition plan. They help me make sure I hit my daily goal without much thought, ultimately helping me to stick to my meal plan much easier!
But the question is, which protein drink is right for you? Well, with this article, I want to save you from repeating my mistakes, and hopefully save you some frustration along the way.
What exactly does protein do?
I truly think it is beneficial for you to have an idea as to “why” protein is so important for your results.
Protein is made up of amino acids, and these amino acids help with quite a few processes in the body.
The main thing that people know protein for is building lean muscle. What you may not realize is that protein also plays a role in building & maintaining healthy skin, cartilage, organs, and bones.
Protein even helps with improving immune function, increasing metabolism, optimizing hormone production, and decreasing hunger.
In addition to that, an increase in lean muscle tissue will also increase the number of calories you burn daily. This will allow you to maintain results better and eat a little more!
How much protein do I need daily?
This is a tricky one and goes back to the difference between “enough” vs “optimal” ... because if surviving is your only goal, then hitting that bare-minimum protein level will allow you to do just that.
Now, if you are trying to thrive, and want to improve your body composition, physical appearance, or health ... it would be a good idea to shoot for a higher protein intake than that.
I am going to break this down as simply as I can, because there is so much information about “how much protein you should consume daily” out there.
Daily protein intake = .8 - 1.2 grams per POUND of lean body mass.
To get an accurate number of where you should be, it's best to have a body composition scan to see how much lean body mass you have. Now, I know that's not a possibility for a lot of people ... so a general rule of thumb if you're trying to lose weight would be to eat 1 gram of protein per pound of your goal weight. So if you weighed 200 pounds, and your goal weight is 180 pounds, 180 grams of protein daily is a good number to shoot for.
Again, this is speaking generally, and there are always exceptions to that. If you need help figuring out how much protein you should be eating for your specific goals, consult with an expert. You can also talk with one of our NASM Certified Personal Trainers for free!
What are protein drinks made of?
Protein supplements come in all varieties of flavors, sources, and qualities.
They can be made from beef, egg, fish, soy, pea, brown rice, or milk.
These sources are typically dehydrated and processed into powder forms, then flavored for you to mix with water or milk before consuming it.
The king of protein sources is whey protein, which is derived from milk. It has the highest content of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), and more specifically, packs the most Leucine per serving.
Whey has the greatest effect on muscle protein synthesis, or repairing and rebuilding broken down muscle tissue. In turn, it can help you build more muscle, burn more calories, and get better results.
I also want to point out that if you have a lifestyle that does not allow you to eat animal products, aka milk, there are plant-based protein powders that can definitely benefit you as well!
Which protein drink is the best for me?
Again, this is going to be a situation where it depends on the individual. There are many protein supplements out there that contain different ingredients, and serve different purposes.
Understanding what makes them different will help you make the right decision.
The 2 main protein types are:
1) Rapid Assimilation Protein Powder
These digest more rapidly than whole foods, and are ideally taken immediately after an intense workout ... such as a challenging WOD, weight training session, or even an endurance workout.
This is when you would look for a Whey Protein Isolate to help fill this role. That is your best protein option after an intense workout.
When you're working out with any resistance, even body-weight exercises, you're breaking down muscle. You create little micro-traumas in the tissue that need to be fixed, which is where protein comes in. The more rapidly you get the protein to the broken-down muscle, the better you can recover.
Side note: this is also where you would want to utilize a rapid-digesting carb to help with recovery and replenishing the muscle fuel we used. This combo is ideal for the post-workout setting!
2) Sustained Assimilation Protein Powder
This will break down similarly to a whole food protein source, like a chicken breast or eggs. These are perfect for any time you cannot eat protein with a meal, or even a quick snack, and act as a "meal replacement".
A blended protein that contains whey protein isolate, whey concentrate, and casein protein will fit best in this role, since they digest like a whole food protein source.
Why? Well, getting a complete protein source every 3 hours or so is optimal for muscle protein synthesis and overall results.
Also, a sustained assimilation protein powder is the best choice for a protein smoothie recipe! Plus, even on rest days from the gym, you can still use sustained assimilation protein powder to help with recovery.
What should you look for in a protein supplement?
I mentioned earlier that there were different flavors, sources, and qualities of protein drinks. I want to hit on some factors that dictate the quality of a protein drink, and give you things to look for when shopping for a protein supplement.
First, look for a product that is Low-Temperature Processed. This will ensure that during the processing and manufacturing, the protein was NOT exposed to high heats. High heats can denature the protein and amino acids that make up that product.
If the protein is denatured, then your body cannot use it as effectively to help with repairing & rebuilding, which can ultimately cause your results to suffer.
Think of a slow-cooked chicken breast vs a burnt chicken breast, and how the slow-cooked chicken breast still contains a much higher nutritional value than the burnt chicken breast.
The same thing happens to protein when it's exposed to high heat.
Second, your protein should be Cross-Flow Micro-Filtrated. This means it was separated from carbs and fats using natural ceramic filters, rather than chemicals.
This can also affect the quality of the protein you're using to help you with your progress.
Both low-temperature processing and cross-flow micro-filtration will help ensure that your protein is not only the highest-quality, meaning you can get the best results from it, but it'll taste great as well!
Protein drinks that are processed using high heats and chemicals are usually the ones that taste bad and upset your stomach.
So, do you need protein drinks?
The short answer is, not necessarily. However, getting in enough protein to support your goals can be a challenge.
If you're like me or others out there that use protein drinks on a daily basis, and cannot get to your daily protein goal without shakes ... then I would recommend looking into our protein powder options.
Phormula-1 is our rapid assimilation whey protein isolate. It's ideal for helping you recover after a workout, while maximizing results.
Level-1 is perfect for any time you need protein for a meal, snack, or just to curve that sweet tooth. This is because it's our sustained assimilation protein, containing a blend of protein sources.
Vegan Power Pro is our plant-based option that is perfect for anyone who lives a lifestyle without dairy. It can be used as a meal, snack, and as a post-workout shake, if needed.
All 3 of these protein supplements are incredible options, and can help you achieve your fitness goals, if you're doing the work. They will help make sure you have optimal protein intake on a regular basis, and quite honestly, they just taste so freaking good!
Now, if you do have any questions at all, please reach out to our Customer Loyalty Team here at 1st Phorm. We are happy to help you navigate which product is best for you and your goals!