Protein Powders – What You Need To Know

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They were once the sole domain of body builders, but these days protein powders are promoted as a way to shed excess kilos, and according to accredited practicing dietitian Melanie McGrice, there’s a good reason: “Protein has high satiety so it helps keep you feeling fuller for longer, which can translate into needing to eat less food.” A 2011University of Missouri study proved that those who eat a protein-rich breakfast consistently consume less at lunch. “But people need to be careful not to think of protein powders as a magic bullet, so that they can eat whatever they like, consume a protein drink and still lose weight.”

Description: Description: Protein has high satiety so it helps keep you feeling fuller for longer, which can translate into needing to eat less food

Three things to remember:

1.    Not all powders are created equal: “Provided you’re using a nutritionally complete powder, protein drinks used as a meal replacement can assist with weight loss,” says McGrice. “But you have to differentiate between a straight protein powder and one that’s nutritionally complete, otherwise you risk missing out on essential nutrients.” While “straight” protein powders consist mainly of protein, those designed as meal replacements should also contain a full line-up of vitamins and minerals as well as some fibre.

Try: Products like IsoWhey Complete, Swisse Slimshake and those that are part of the Cambridge Weight Plan are meal replacement powders.

2.    You need to count the kilojoules: And think about how they contribute to you overall daily intake. “If you don’t, and have a protein drink as well as eating “too much” food, you could consume more kilojoules than you were before,” says McGrice.

3.    More protein isn’t always better: “Take a supplement on top of your diet and isn’t certainly possible to consume too much protein,” says McGrice. “So, as with any supplement, I wouldn’t recommend taking one for weight loss without seeking advice from a dietitian or GP.”

Other health benefits

Weight loss isn’t the only reason to take protein powders. They can also:

·             Preserve muscle mass: A University of Illinois study discovered that daily protein supplements can help postmenopausal women to avoid loss of muscle mass, which can be a common side effect of weight loss. Muscle loss slows metabolism and, as we grow older, increases the risk of falls.

Try: “Straight” protein powders such as Musashi ISO8 and Body Science WPI are ideal.

·             Maintain bone strength: A high protein consumption has been linked to an increased risk of osteoporosis. US researchers have found that postmenopausal women on weight-loss diets where 30 per cent of their daily energy came from protein (which, for the average woman, means consuming more than 140g of protein each day), risk losing bone density. But recent research confirms the importance of adequate protein for healthy bones, as it increases calcium absorption and the production of a hormone vital to bone growth and density.

See “How Much Protein is enough?” (Below) to work out the amounts of protein foods you need to consume day.

Try: Some protein powders are designed with bone health in mind – for example, Blackmores Acti-Life Protein Powder Plus contains calcium and vitamin D.

·             Encourage wound healing: “Protein is critical for new tissue growth, so dietitians often prescribe supplements to people who have had surgery or experienced a severe illness, to help their recovery,” says McGrice.

Try: A natural, chemical-free powder, such as 180 Nature Protein Superfood, which contains healthy extras including chia seeds and B vitamins, can be used as a meal replacement.

Description: Description: Made from soybeans, powders like Nature’s Way’s Instant Nature Protein

What are powders made from?

Only a few types of dietary protein are used, including:

Whey: A dairy-food byproduct, whey protein is available as a concentrate, isolate or in a hydrolyzed form. Concentrate is the cheapest, but it has larger protein molecules and can cause bloating. Isolates have much the fat and lactose removed, so contain more protein per serve, while hydrolyzed whey is the most easily absorbed.

Soy: Made from soybeans, powders like Nature’s Way’s Instant Nature Protein are free of animal products and lactose, which suits vegans and people with lactose or egg intolerance.

Vegie and grain sources: Powders produced from non-soy vegetable or grain sources are available – for example, Sunwarrior Protein Powder is made from brown rice, while Martin & Pleasance’s Vital Protein is made from golden pea protein isolate. They’re usually gluten – and dairy-free, and many are 100 per cent natural

What to look for?

Straight protein powders should contain at least 75 per cent protein (75g per 100g), but more is better, because with more protein, there’s less room for “other” ingredients. Some of these (such as amino acids) are good for you, but some (such as flavorings, sweeteners, thickeners and even fat and carbohydrates) are just “fillers”, used to bulk out the powder. Meal-replacement drinks have many different components, so talk to your dietitian about which best suits your needs.

How to take them:

Meal-replacement drinks can be used to replace one or two daily meals, as guided by your dietitian, while protein drinks can be taken with meals, in-between meals or first thing in the morning, depending on your goals. Most of taken mixed with water, juice or skim milk, or added to a “shake”.

How much protein is enough?

The average woman needs 0.75g of protein per kilogram of body weight, increasing to 1g when pregnant or breastfeeding and past the age of 70. It means a 40-year-old; 70kg woman needs 53g of protein a day.

To consume 53g protein from food, you’d need to eat:

·             Half a grilled chicken breast (27g protein)

·             100g tinned tuna (22g protein)

·             1.5 tablespoons low-fat cottage cheese (4g protein)

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