This is a question I get asked all the time and in a nutshell the answer is – it depends.
Protein shakes fall under the category of nutritional supplements – just like vitamin C or calcium tablets. Supplements are only useful when you aren’t achieving what you need through your diet. If you are already achieving enough protein through your diet, then an additional shake is only just extra calories and a few wasted ££.
So here is a few dietitian top tips to find out if you need a protein supplement.
1.Do you exercise regularly? If not then your protein needs are going to be fairly low (0.8-1g/kg body weight/ day) – this is easily obtained through an average diet.
2. If you do exercise regular – is it mostly weight based or endurance? Those who do a lot of weights will have a higher protein need (1.2-1.7g/kg/day) than those who do mostly endurance exercise (1.2-1.4g/kg/day).
3. Go food first. This simply means ensuring there is a source of protein at each meal e.g eggs at breakfast, beans with your salad at lunch and a chicken breast with your evening meal. There is no point in having an unbalanced diet which doesn’t meet you protein needs then having to supplement on top.
4. Snack. Again, snacks between meals are a great way of getting enough protein with food first. Snacks such as low fat baby bells, boiled eggs, low fat yoghurts and nuts provide a nutritious source of protein.
5. Monitor. If you notice that you aren’t recovering well from workouts or your muscle mass is not increasing with workouts then you may not be having enough protein. However, these things can also be due to lack of overall calories, poor training and inadequate rest. So this is where more specialist help comes in.
6. Supplement. Whilst supplements shouldn’t be your first step, they can certainly be useful when used properly. Protein powders can be either made into shakes or added into foods such as cookie mixes and porridge. Which ever method you choose – research, research, research. Each one will contain different amino acids (the building blocks of protein), carbohydrates and calories. This is simply because everyone has very different needs and goals. Again, professional advice always comes in handy to optimise the benefit of supplements.
If you would like any dietitian support with protein supplementing please contact me.
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