Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The skinny on protein powder


Somewhere around age 30 we naturally begin lose muscle. In every decade that follows we lose an additional 3-8% drop in lean muscle mass. Fab, right? 

The most important thing we can do to build muscle is to participate in strength training (dumbbells, resistance bands, weight bearing machines, body weight, yoga) at least twice a week. 

Diet also plays a big role in developing and maintaining muscle mass. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that adults get about .8 grams protein per 1 kilogram of weight, which converts to .37 grams per pound.  So, a 150 pound person should ingest about 55g of protein per day.

Protein powders are a common supplement and I am often asked about how to use them and what to look for. I have been thinking about posting about powders for a while now. So here we are.*

You don’t always get what you pay for.


Try not to fall for good marketing. Price ($$) does not always indicate quality, so make sure you are reading the nutrition label. The front label can be deceiving. 

“Sugar free”…but does it have sucralose or aspartame?
“Guaranteed to boost your energy levels”...is there caffeine in there?

Remember, nutrition companies are required to list ingredients in the order in which they appear in the product in quantity (the more of it there is, the closer to the beginning of the list).

If you order your protein online and they don’t offer access to the nutrition label I would avoid the purchase. The doesn’t mean it is bad, but why take your chances where there are so many available options?

More isn’t always better.


30g of protein is about all your body can process at one meal. Go too far past this threshold and you’re taking in extra calories but receiving no additional benefit. No need to double up on serving size or buy the product that boasts 50g of protein per serving. 25-30g should be enough to keep you satiated and in a healthy caloric range. 

Snack, Post-Workout or Meal Replacement

Protein powders a great option for workout recovery or even a meal replacement (though I never recommend replacing more than one meal a day with a shake on a regular basis).

Snack: It’s always best to have a whole food for your snack (this bananas, almonds, nut butters, etc.) but if you are in a pinch, mixing a scoop of protein with 8-10oz of water will keep you fuller longer than a bag of pretzels or another processed food from the vending machine.

Post-workout:  Protein supplementation has been shown to increase muscle fibers, particularly after a tough strength training session. 1 serving of powder and 8-10oz of water mixed in a blender bottle should be sufficient for recovery.

As a meal: You can increase the amount of nutrients, and calories, by adding fruits, veggies and grains to your shakes as you make them.  Refer to my post about How to Build a Green Smoothie or reference these Smoothie Recipes for other yummy ideas.

Shopping advice made simple


1. A short ingredient list. 

2. 20-25g protein per serving.  

3. Manageable calories and macronutrients - all of equal importance.
-moderate calories per serving (120-150)
-low fat (0-4g per serving) 
-low sugar (0-5g serving)

4. $1 - $3 cost per serving.

These guidelines are just that – guidelines - and are certainly not one-size fits all. We are all different and have different goals and lifestyles (vegan, vegetarian, fat loss, muscle gain etc.).

If you aren’t sure what type of protein you should be using or what the different types of proteins do, see my post about Types of Protein

* Disclaimer: The information presented is meant for those who are using protein as a dietary supplement and the active exerciser.  Professional or competitive athletes may have different needs and should consult with a sports nutrition professional in regards to diet.

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