How Important Is A Protein Supplement?

It doesn’t matter where I’m living or who I meet, I always get asked about supplements. Which is interesting to me since I don’t focus that much on them. I take a good amount of supplements and I believe in their benefits, but you have to be eating well in order to feel the impact. 

Supplements can help fix nutrient deficiencies, improve hormonal imbalances, support digestion, and so much more. They truly are a miracle, especially since you can get whole food based supplements. The problems begin to arise when people focus on supplements first. There is no supplement that will solve all of your problems and help you reach your goals. Food, habits, sleep, stress, your relationships, and movement are going to do that. 

 

Once you get all of those other areas in a good place, then you can begin looking at supplements and how they can benefit you. 

So what’s the first supplement to discuss? The most popular one I get questions out: Protein!

Supplementing With Protein

There are a lot of different types of protein supplements out there. Whey, Vegan options, beef, egg white, casein, hemp, collagen, etc. The most popular protein is whey and is what most people think of when they hear the phrase “protein supplement” so that’s where we will start. Before we go into detail on the different types of protein out there, let’s go through some questions to figure out if a protein supplement is right for you. 

 

Should You Take a Protein Supplement?

This depends. I believe most people can benefit from using a protein supplement, but I don’t think they are essential. Below are some solid reasons to consider using a protein supplement. 

• Utilizing a protein supplement helps you meet an appropriate protein intake for your body and goals, that you may otherwise not meet with food alone.

• The convenience of having protein in a powdered, nonperishable form helps to keep you on track with your nutrition goals.

• You train at a high capacity and have a lot of lean body mass that increases your protein requirements.

If any of those above situations fit you, then read on and figure out what type of protein supplement might work best for you. 

 

50 Shades of Protein

There are many different types of protein. Let’s dive into the details of some of them here and see what could be a good fit for you. 

 

Whey Protein

Whey is the by product of making cheese and yogurt. It’s a liquid, but is then powdered and used for supplements. I like whey protein because it’s made from a whole food and is not super processed (depending on what brand you get). 

Whey Protein is high in glutamine, which is good for gut health since it can help reduce intestinal permeability also known as leaky gut (1). Whey protein is efficiently digested (pending you don’t have any allergies or intolerances) and great for muscle repair and growth (2). 

It’s important to look at the quality of supplements, which we will go into more detail on, but not just to avoid ingredients. A high quality,  grass-fed whey protein is a great food form of glutathione, which is a powerful antioxidant that works in every one of your cells. Antioxidants work to eliminate free radicals and toxins. Glutathione is essential for both phases of detoxification in the body. If this interests you, you can read more about detox in this post or this post

Brands I Like:

True Nutrition Grass-fed Whey ($14-$15/lb)

Pure Whey (~$16/lb)

Naked Whey (~$18/lb)

SFH Whey Protein (~$25/lb) *They also make single servings that are great for traveling!

Reserveage Whey (~$28/lb)

 

Casein

When milk curdles and is used to make cheese or yogurt, those curdles are casein. Casein is known for being absorbed much slower than whey protein, in part due to it’s gel-forming capabilities that make it similar to fiber. If you add water to casein you can make a pudding. 

Casein actually contains more glutamine (great for the gut) than whey protein, but both are good sources. 

Brands I Like:

True Nutrition Casein (~$14-15/lb)

NOW Foods Micellar Casein (~$15/lb)

Naked Casein (~$19/lb)

Whey & Casein Summary

Whey protein and casein are great options for those that can tolerate dairy/this form of dairy and are looking for optimal muscle recovery and growth (3).

 

Beef Protein

Beef protein is pretty cool. It is made from beef, but doesn’t taste gross (depending on the brand). The main perk of using a beef protein supplement is that it is well rounded. Beef offers not only high quality protein, but also collagen, gelatin, and other micronutrients that you would not get from a traditional protein. This helps to provide a variety of nutrients to your body, while also getting protein in a convenient form. 

Brands I Like:

True Nutrition Beef Protein Isolate (most economical & can customize) (~$12-13/lb)

Equip (formerly known as PureWod) you can also find it on amazon here (~$34/lb)

Beef Protein Summary

Typically, there is no dairy, whey, eggs, or nuts in beef protein, which makes it a great option for those with multiple food allergies/intolerances. 

 

Collagen

Collagen is currently my favorite/go to protein supplement. Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in our bodies. You may think of aging when you hear the word it since it’s most widely advertised in beauty products that defy aging, but there’s a lot more to it. 

As we get older we produce less collagen, which leads to wrinkles, sagging skin and joint pain. Collagen is like the glue that holds our bodies together. You can find it in muscles, bones, skin, our digestive systems, tendons, and even blood vessels.

Collagen provides the following benefits:

  • Provides amino acids like glutamine, glycine, arginine, and proline that help build new collagen, produce healthy DNA, support bone and muscle repair and heart health
  • Improves gut health, which boost immune system and digestion
  • Improves skin quality
  • Provides arthritis relief
  • Can enhance athletic performance related to muscle and ligament repair
  • Improves sleep–glycine plays an important role for the neurotransmitters in the brain that affect sleep

Brands I Like:

Great Lake Collagen Hydrolysate (~$21-22/lb)

Great Lakes Individual Packets (great for travel)

Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides (~$31-34.40/lb)

Collagen Summary

This is a great option for those that cannot tolerate whey and maybe want to avoid beef or don’t love the flavor. If you are looking to optimize your gut health, improve skin/hair/nails and don’t eat organ meats, this is the protein for you. 

 

Hemp 

The above proteins are all from animals. This means we absorb 85-95% of the protein that is in them. That’s really good! If you can opt for whey, beef protein, or collagen that is the most optimal. You will get the most bang for your buck with protein absorption and amino acid profile. I do understand that some people cannot tolerate animal proteins or wish to avoid them. The next best thing is going to be hemp protein. 

We absorb about 75-80% of the protein from hemp, which is the highest amount of any vegan protein options. I always recommend to opt for hemp over pea/rice options for this reason. They are typically naturally high in fiber and other beneficial nutrients like magnesium, zinc, iron, and healthy fats.

 Go for cold pressed, organic non-GMO and made from raw hemp seeds if possible. I do not personally use hemp so I’m unsure of the flavors of the brands below, however, they all contain optimal ingredients. 

Brands I Like

Navitas Organics Hemp Protein (~$.86/ounce)

Manitoba Harvest Organic Hemp Protein Vanilla Flavor (~$.87/ounce)

Manitoba Harvest Organic Hemp Unflavored (~$54/ounce)

Hemp Protein Summary

If you wish to avoid protein supplements made from animal products then this is the protein source for you. 

 

 

Choose Quality Supplements

Just like food, quality matters when it comes to supplements. There are so many brands out there it can be really confusing. Be careful when reading labels on supplements. They are regulated and have to have science to back any claims they make on the labels, however, it is easy to alter the language used and get around this. 

I listed the brands I like because they avoid all of the potentially harmful ingredients to avoid. Supplement companies are popping up everywhere. There may be other good brands out there that I did not include so make sure you read labels and keep your eyes peeled. 

Ingredients To Avoid

• Artificial Sweeteners (commonly listed as: sucralose, aspartame, acesulfame, saccharin, glycerol, glycerin, isomaltitol, hydrogenated maltose, d-glucitol)

• Dextrin/glucose (added sugar as a filler and to sweeten)

• Skim milk/milk powders (often used as a bulking agent to cheapen the cost to create the product)

• Soy protein (usually come from genetically modified sources and are heavily sprayed with pesticides)

• Vegetable oils/fats (hydrogenated vegetable oil is super common in cheaper brands and risks exposure to trans fats, which increase risk of heart disease AND take 6 months for the body to process…like..wha??)

Whey protein, casein, beef protein and collagen should all be sourced from grass-fed cows whenever possible. Remember, what you eat, digest, and absorb makes up the cells in your body (really though, it does). By purchasing grass-fed animal products/supplements, you are ensuring that the animals lived healthy lives and are free of excessive toxins, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, etc. 

Questions about anything you read or want to connect with me? Email amandamontalvord@gmail.com. You can also find me on Instagram and Facebook @amandamontalvord

1. https://examine.com/supplements/whey-protein/

2. https://examine.com/nutrition/whey-protein-and-efficiency/

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27271661

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