Perhaps you’ve noticed that powders and supplements are hyped in gyms and on talk shows about general health and weight loss. As a primary building block for muscle, protein is essential to bodybuilders but also to everybody on the planet. But, what is it? How does this wondrous substance benefit the human body? Find out why we should include this critical food in every meal and even every snack.
Let’s look at this. Whether we get it from meat, cheese, fish, chicken, eggs, nuts, or plants, it contain acids the body needs to create muscle, to support brain function, and to repair tissue. When a body is well supplied with these acids (including omegas and branch chain amino acids), a body rebuilds after injury, survives inflammation and disease, and maintains healthy blood flow.
Protein is essential to the growth and health of bones, muscles, skin, hair, and more. When combined with carbohydrates, proteins help facilitate long-term energy rather than the quick boost followed by a crash and burn typical from carb-rich snacks and meals.
Now let’s talk about the body’s ability to absorb. When a person’s diet is healthy it contains nutrients in forms that are easy to digest. Individual bodies have individual requirements. For example, some people cannot digest dairy, eggs, or meat properly. They can, however, digest and absorb nutrients from nuts and plants. A piece of roast beef can be difficult for the body to digest fully when it isn’t chewed completely and most people don’t chew their food very well. When sourced from powders, however, the nutrients are easy to digest. They are found in meal replacement products such as bars, pre-made shakes, and shake powders.
Caloric intake isn’t as important as the quality of those calories so you will often find that a protein-rich product costs more and contains more calories than a product high in processed, simple carbs of minimal nutritional value.
Now let’s have a look at the types of powders and mixes on the market. The very best of these are made with simple protein which has been minimally processed to reduce denaturizing. Consumers want those BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids) to be intact as these are contributing to the growth, restoration, and maintenance of healthy muscles including the heart. Injured or strained muscles respond well to a dose after a workout.
Many of these powders are flavored, so they are more palatable to the average person but they can also contain sugars: you don’t want those, especially not fake sugars. A natural sweetener is better. Stevia is probably about the best because it is from a plant, but calorie-free. If a powder is going into a meal replacement shake, a lot of people will usually add fruit, greens, and juice or milk/milk replacement anyway. Those ingredients will add sweetness and complexity to the flavor.
Whey is considered the perfect protein in its natural form: whey isolate. Other forms are good (or, perhaps we should say “okay”), but organic whey isolate is the most intact.
Now, bear in mind that certain proteins found in seeds, grains, and nuts are also excellent alternatives for people who cannot or will not eat it if it is sourced from dairy products. And, if the quantities of these alternatives now on supermarket and health food store shelves is any indication, the market is growing, especially when it comes to vegan products. New sources of protein are being discovered and experimented with. Costs can be high but competition is helping to stabilize the prices of high-quality vegan powders.