Protein it’s THE thing at the mo isn’t it? You only have to go on Instagram and something pops up with #protein this and #protein that and you can pretty much get any flavour of protein powder you fancy these days to help pimp and power up your shakes, smoothies, pancakes, cakes… you name it… it’s got protein powder in it. But why exactly has the world gone protein crazy and from a female perspective how on earth do us girls try and reap the benefits of including protein powder in our diets without the risk of looking like the Incredible Hulk!?!
Well firstly, let me stop you there, because the popular belief that protein powder bulks you up like Eddie Hall (which let’s face it isn’t at the top of many women’s beauty wishlists) is one big old bulky fitness myth. No to the contrary, if you get the balance of proteins right, then actually it can help with weight loss. But hang on a min, why powder, why can’t we just have a good old gnaw on a few extra steaks to ensure we get our protein levels bang on?
Let’s take a look at protein in a bit more detail…
Protein is a macronutrient; it’s something the body needs in big quantities to function at its best. The human body needs three macronutrients, protein being one of them and the others being carbohydrates (sugar) and lipids (fats). Each one of these macronutrients provides energy in the form of calories, and getting the right balance of where you’re receiving your calories from will produce different outcomes to how your body performs and consequently how it looks.
So let’s focus on protein then, after all that is what this article is about!
Protein is the thing that helps build muscle mass, but that doesn’t translate as bulk, no it simply means that it builds and repairs. Amazingly, humans have over 10,000 different proteins, all working away on the body’s building site. And these proteins are created from amino acids, which the body can either make by itself or by modifying other amino acids that it receives from the food we consume. Food such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy products all contain high levels of these essential amino acids, however there are also plant based proteins, although quinoa and soya beans are the only sources to contain all 9 essential amino acids.
In the UK, it is recommended that women should aim to eat about 45g of protein a day, which equates to around about 2 palm-sized portions of meat, fish, tofu, nuts or pulses. It doesn’t sound too much right? So that begs the question – why use a protein powder?
Well, yeah in an ideal world of course we;d have enough time to work out the nutritional content of each and every meal we eat, and yes we’d always have time for breakfast, we’d always have a healthy snack in our bag, and we’d always have the right foods in the cupboards to whip up a delicious, nutritious dinner from scratch each and every night. But come on… this ain’t the flippin’ Walton’s!
Back in the real world, we’re just about managing to scrabble around and grab a banana as we rush out the door, and when it gets to 4 o’clock and you’re proper starvin’ marvin I know what I’m choosing to snack on (ummmm helloooooo biscuit tin) and then dinner… on a good day I’ve put the slow cooker on and there’s a yummy spag bol waiting for us, on a bad day it’s a beige freezer meal. Just saying…
So factor in those days, when there simply aren’t enough minutes in the day, not enough food in the cupboards, and nowhere near enough energy to contemplate going all Jamie Oliver in the kitchen, throw into the mix the fact you’ve been to the gym that day then all of sudden those protein levels are looking seriously depleted.
And that’s where protein powders come in!
You see it’s proper easy to bung a scoop of powder into some milk, or blitz up with some fruit in a blender, then pour into a cup and consume on the commute. Sure it’s not a ‘meal’ per se, but when time is short it’s a protein lifesaver. Plus, and here’s where us women get all excited, not only does eating the right amount of protein help develop lean muscle (well OK you’ll have to do some weights at the gym as well, but that’s a whole other article!), but it can actually help you lose weight. Yes, you read that right! Protein fills you up for longer, keeping those hangry hunger imps at bay and unlike say a chicken breast, protein powder contains little if any fat or carbohydrates, which means less calories… and we know what that means!
Look, I’m not saying ditch the food and only eat powder (jeez what kind of a life is that), but what I am saying is that if you’re a particularly active female, who wants to tone up, possibly bag yourself some muscle gains along the way, and seriously doesn’t have the time or inclination to work out a weekly meal plan with detailed nutrition content, then adding some protein powder into your life could be the way to go.
And as you can see, protein powder isn’t just a man thing, it’s a human thing. It’s a supplementary aid for people who feel they aren’t getting enough protein in their diet.