Protein is one of the 3 major macronutrients (protein, fats & carbohydrates) which is required by the body to function properly and provide energy. Chains of different amino acids make up the building blocks of protein and are found in every cell of your body. The word protein originates from the Greek word 'protos' which means first or "of prime importance" - besides water your body is mostly made up of protein. Your muscles, organs, skin, hair, cells and hormones are all made up of protein - it's therefore a really important nutrient and essential for healthy body function.
The role of protein - the science bit!
Protein can be used in the body to build, repair and maintain healthy muscle tissue and having sufficient protein intake will put you in an anabolic state which means your muscles can grow. Muscle growth only happens if muscle protein synthesis exceeds muscle protein break down. Protein synthesis is a biological process where the cells build new muscle proteins, and this impacts hypertrophy (growth of the muscles). In other words, in order to prevent muscle breakdown after exercise it is important to have plenty of protein in your diet to feed your muscles.
How much protein do I need?
Adults should aim to have at least 0.8g per kg bodyweight each day, however individuals who exercise regularly should be aiming to consume at least 1.2-2g per kg bodyweight each day, to accelerate muscle recovery and growth, prevent muscle catabolism and enhance overall sports performance. For example, if you weigh 70kg, ideally your protein intake will be at least 100-130g each day.
But will protein make me gain weight or become "muscly"?
There is a common misconception, especially in women, that taking protein shakes will make you "bulk up" or become really muscly but this isn't true - especially as women have lower testosterone levels than men which makes it harder to build muscle quickly. Increasing your protein intake will simply help your muscles recover after exercise. To start seeing visible muscle building changes will require consistent training and good nutrition, with progression towards a lower body fat percentage and lean mass. Choosing a protein powder which is low in sugar is a good option for weight loss.
Why take a protein shake?
Protein shakes are a convenient and cost-effective way of boosting your protein intake and can be taken as a meal replacement or just as a snack to fill the gap between meals or before or after a work out. It can help trigger the muscle recovery process and muscle protein synthesis after training, to begin repairing the muscles and support growth. It is a good appetite suppressant so people who are on a low-calorie diet may find that protein supplements are a helpful snack to include in their diet. Protein is also a great source of energy and helps to improve your metabolism, increasing calorie burn throughout the day. They are easily digested and rapidly absorbed in the body. Protein powders are a by-product of food, so although they are slightly more processed than fresh poultry or meat, it still comes from food - so it's not an unnatural source of protein. Brands such as Kinetica and Diet Food use high quality ingredients to create their protein formulas, use all natural flavours and are low in sugar. Diet Food protein powders are all organic and also offer a range of vegan options too.
Types of protein
High quality proteins include meat and poultry, eggs, fish, milk and yogurt. It can sometimes be difficult to meet your daily protein targets through diet alone so that's why protein powders and supplements can be a great cost-effective and convenient option - to fill gaps between meals and boost daily protein intake. There are many different types of protein powders available from dairy to plant-based options, with different blends and flavours:
Whey protein is a fast digesting milk protein, derived from dairy, and has a high concentration of all essential amino acids. It acts almost immediately to deliver amino acids to the muscle for protein synthesis, it is completely absorbed by the body and broken down and digested easily, which makes it a great option for a post-workout shake. Whey is the most common type of protein powder on the market and is available in many different flavours. An example of a good quality whey protein, which is low in sugar and made of natural ingredients is Kinetica Whey Protein
Casein protein is also derived from milk, however it is digested much slower than whey, providing a continuous release of amino acids over a longer duration of time. This makes it a good option for consuming before bedtime so that your body has a continuous release of protein throughout the night, to help with muscle recovery as you sleep.
Diet Whey - as well as providing a high concentration of protein, diet whey protein powders usually contain fat-burners such as green tea extract, CLA and l-carnatine which help to boost metabolism and burn fat.
Recovery - recovery blends such as Kinetica 100% Recovery provide a mix of protein and carbohydrate, these are generally designed for sportspersons and endurance athletes to ensure they have the best nutrient support after training.
Prorelease - this is a high protein blend containing fast, medium and slow proteins to support growth and maintain muscle and to provide a sustained release of protein throughout the day.
For those who cannot tolerate cow's milk or gluten, or want a vegan/ non-dairy option, there are a number of plant-based proteins and these are also packed with amino acids to help with muscle recover and maintenance.
This is a perfect option for vegans and vegetarians as it is completely plant-based. The Diet Food Pea Protein powder is organic and low in carbohydrates, sugar and fat, and is derived from organic and unmodified peas.
Rice protein is also a great complement of amino acids for people who can not tolerate gluten or cow's milk protein. Suitable for vegans and vegetarians - it is plant product. It has a slow process of absorption and also contains no cholesterol.
Hempproteinis agreatsource of minerals, vitaminsand fatty acidsnecessaryfor your bodyand therefore is known as a superfood. It contains Omega 3 and 6, as well as a high amount of fibre, as well as magnesium, iron, zinc and manganese. It consists of 50% ofeasily digestiblevegetable protein which helps with muscle building. Hempproteinalso containsall20amino acids which makes it superior to many of the other plant-based proteins in terms of it's amino acid profile.