Protein: To Supplement or Not to Supplement

protein shake

Photo Credit: Pseph 

We are a society that is constantly on the go. When you’re running from work to the gym to picking up the kids from daycare, it can be hard to get the necessary nutrients your body needs, especially if you’re hitting the gym a few days a week.

Marketing firms for health-related companies have become experts at convincing even the average fit person they need supplements of all kinds. Protein powders and shakes are some of the top-selling supplements on the market.

Now, we’re not here to crush your hopes and dreams of building a chiseled figure or just maintaining a healthy lifestyle. We actually have some great news: By working in the gym and eating the right foods, you probably can get pretty lean and in shape without buying into the protein supplement ideology. Your body and your wallet will thank you for it! Let’s dive into the “why.”

Protein Facts You Should Know

Protein is a vital part of your diet, and most people think of meat when they think of protein. Meats are considered to be complete sources of protein, which means they provide the 9 essential amino acids your body needs to function. Plants, on the other hand, are considered incomplete proteins because they do not contain all 9 of these essential amino acids individually. A variety of plant-based items, like nuts, beans and leafy greens, should give you a more balanced diet.

If you were a non-exercising adult, you’d only need about 45 to 65 grams of protein a day. That might sound like a lot, but you’d almost reach your daily maximum with just two eggs (12 grams of protein), one three-oz. serving of tuna (25 grams) and ½ cup of cooked chicken (20 grams). Throw in some high-protein Greek yogurt and some nuts, and you’ve reached your daily-recommended value. Surprising, isn’t it?

How Much Protein Do I Need?

Your protein intake will differ greatly depending on your gender and how active you are. In order to find your ideal protein intake if you are not working out on a regular basis, do the following simple equation:

Current weight x 0.38 = daily protein intake in grams

If you are working out, you should aim higher by multiplying your weight with a number between 0.50 and 0.80. For males, you should select in the higher range, while females should select in the lower. If your workouts are a bit more strenuous, aim for a higher number, too. There are also very easy online calculators you can use for a more accurate read!

What Happens When I Eat Too Much Protein?

Consuming just one protein shake can really add a high dosage of protein into your diet for the day. It’s tempting to do this frequently, too — bottled protein shakes are very convenient, making it hard to break the habit of cracking one open when you’re hungry.

While protein is important to the functioning of your body, there are some not-so-good side effects of consuming too much protein, including:

  • Weight gain
  • Kidney strain
  • Dehydration
  • Potential increased risk of cancer

If you still want the convenience of a shake, don’t always pick one based on the grams of protein in it. Even one with 10 or 15 grams of protein is enough to keep you full without pushing you over your daily limit. If you’re really set on your shake consider using it as a meal replacement, rather than using it as a “snack” throughout the day.

When Should I Consider Adding a Protein Supplement to My Diet?

The truth is, as long as you plan ahead on your meals, you probably wouldn’t ever have to add a protein supplement into your diet. Think ahead on snacks by keeping the following in your work refrigerator or a small lunch box in your car:

  • Mixed nuts
  • Small containers of Greek yogurt
  • Beef jerky
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Hardboiled eggs
  • Kefir drinks

If you have to have a protein shake, try making your own without the powder supplement! Add spinach, kale, peanut butter, milk and chia seeds into the blender along with  some blueberries for a fantastic breakfast or pre- or post-workout shake. You can make the shake the night before, pop it in the fridge and grab it on the way out the door for a portable breakfast you don’t feel guilty about.

Unless you’re a professional athlete or bodybuilder who works out almost the entire day, it’s a good assumption you can ditch the synthetic protein powders all together. You can’t beat leaning out the all-natural way!

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