If you’ve ever felt like you really can’t get a straight answer to all your protein questions, you’re not alone. Understanding your personal protein needs can feel confusing – especially if you’re stuck in a rut and can’t break past that fitness plateau.
Building muscle mass isn’t just a matter of working out – you have to complement your fitness routine with a protein routine that keeps your body firing on all cylinders.
Use this essential guide to protein to figure out what your ideal protein intake looks like and how you can source high-quality protein for all your fitness needs.
The Importance of Protein & How Much You Need
The importance of protein in the diet can’t be overemphasized. From increasing muscle mass to weight loss, protein plays an essential role in keeping you fit and healthy.
It’s not just about keeping those muscles looking trim. Protein plays an essential role in just about every cell in your body. It helps create energy. It boosts metabolism. Heck, it even plays a role in keeping your immune system fighting.
How much protein your body needs daily varies from person to person. Here are the factors that you’ll need to take into consideration:
- Physical activity level
- Fitness goals
- Current weight
- Underlying health conditions
Most people need between 46 (for women) and 56 (for men) grams of high-quality protein each day. This can vary based on the factors above. If you’ve got an extremely demanding schedule, then you might need a little more to make sure you’re performing at your best.
In addition to this essential guide to protein, you can also use online protein calculators to help give you a better idea of how much protein you need daily.
What Kind of Protein Is Best for Me?
The age-old debate continues to rage: whey protein vs. plant protein. For the most part, deciding which kind is best for you is a matter of personal preference.
Plant-based protein powders can be a great alternative if you’ve got dietary or allergen restrictions. If you don’t do well with soy products or whey protein powders, you can find plant-based alternatives made from chia seeds, brown rice, hemp seeds, and a variety of other ingredients that can fulfill your protein needs.
Ultimately, it comes down to getting the highest quality protein that you can. Whether it’s plant-based or not, focus on making sure it has all of the BCAAs and EAAs (essential amino acids) that you need to perform at your best.
Finding High-Quality Protein
For most of your protein needs, you can use high-protein foods like chicken breast, peanut butter, and yogurt to help provide your body with the protein it needs to build muscle.
But sometimes it can use a little boost – especially if you’ve been going hard(er) through those workouts lately. A quick intake of easily digestible protein can help boost muscle recovery post-workout.
There’s a sea of protein supplements out there. The secret to finding the highest-quality protein powders is simply a matter of reading the nutrition labels. A high-quality protein is made with ingredients that have quality at the source.
When selecting a protein powder, choose a product that isn’t filled with artificial preservatives, fillers, or sweeteners. Here are some ingredients that you’ll typically find in low-quality protein powders:
- Fillers – like coconut flour or psyllium fiber
- Sweeteners (artificial or natural)
High-quality protein powder manufacturers will often send their products out to independent labs for analysis and certification. Look for NSF certification or Non-GMO labels on protein powders to find a high-quality protein powder that works for you.
Timing Your Protein Shakes
It might come as a surprise, but the ideal protein window is before or after a workout.
The trick is to hit that 30-minute window – before or after your workout. That’s when your body is primed to digest and synthesize the protein you consume.
This window is narrow – especially if your life always has you on the go. That’s where protein shakes and supplements come into play. They’re a fast and easy way to get the protein content you need to help your muscles recover and rebuild quickly.
Missing that intake window can mean the difference between hitting it hard again the next day – or taking a rest day cause your muscles are still screaming from yesterday’s workout.
Remember that protein shakes aren’t the only way to get that protein fix. A great protein shake alternative is adding protein powder to your hot coffee. Some forms of protein powders – like collagen peptides – dissolve quickly in hot and cold liquids.
Conclusion: Complete Your Nutrition Regimen with an Essential Guide to Protein
Adding protein powder supplements to your diet can be a quick and easy way to ensure your body is getting the nutrition it needs to thrive. Each person’s protein needs vary based on a handful of individual factors. Skip the powders with fillers and sweeteners to make sure you’re fueling your body with the highest quality protein possible.
Now that you’ve got the protein nutrition you need to supplement your active lifestyle, grab your favorite high-performance activewear, and hit the ground running to conquer all those fitness goals.
As always, consult your physician before making any changes to your diet or fitness routine. They can work with you to develop a regimen that works best for your personal health goals.