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Shake up: tips for taking protein with a purpose

PROTEIN POWER: It’s important to know what you are taking right down to the last added ingredient

SO WHAT'S the deal with protein shakes? The fitness industry, in my personal opinion, has a high tolerance of “monkey see, monkey do”. When it comes to protein shakes, we see this approach in the form of new recruits to the gym who have minimal knowledge of what to do, let alone what their nutrition should look like, witness a group of people drinking protein shakes and automatically feel as though they should do the same.

From experience, this is expected as people’s biggest influences are other people, but it doesn’t mean this is right. Without the correct research and lack of knowledge, the observer has no idea what others are drinking, no idea of the purpose, but instead see the protein shake as an everyday staple. This is merely not the case and not everybody requires it.

What is the purpose of protein powder?
Protein powders are merely a supplement and not a food replacement. They are there to be used in addition to what you eat by enhancing the amount of protein required per day to meet the intake that you’ve calculated your body needs to reach your desired goal. Protein, a macronutrient, is a type of food that is needed in large amounts in the diet, whether your fitness goals are to build muscle or lose weight.

If you are new to exercise, I wouldn’t spend too much time trying to decide what protein shakes you should have. Your main focus should be putting together a regular health and fitness routine that you can maintain as a lifestyle to help achieve the goals you set.

The in-depth information regarding protein is vast and would take a considerable amount of time to gather a real understanding into the different types and their benefits, yet with this in mind, many disregard all the facts down to lack of research. People decide on a protein within five minutes of walking into a store, through one recommendation or simply from what is most consumed. Not all protein powders are made the same and my theory is that if it comes out of a packet, it is not food. A lot of protein powders contain ingredients that are high in chemicals, flavourings and sugar.

The protein shake industry is growing rapidly. With so many to choose from, it can become a little daunting and overwhelming when the only obvious ingredients to many are how many grams of protein, carbs and sugar are contained within the product. What about all the other ingredients such as lactase enzymes, sucralose (sweetener), nicotinamide, zinc oxide, beta carotene, instantising agent, soya lecithin, pyridoxine-5-phosphate, flavouring and the list goes on.

It’s important to know what you are taking right down to the last added ingredient, both good and bad. Research shows that foods and substances consumed in a liquid form will be absorbed into the bloodstream a lot quicker than food, which is a clear advantage when it comes to drinking protein shakes. In turn, this also means that your body will also absorb any present chemicals into the bloodstream a lot quicker too. So it’s important to make sure you know what you are drinking.

Now of course, there are benefits to protein shakes, such as the aid of muscle production and weight loss. When we train, we tear muscle fibres and tissue, caused by muscle contractions when we exercise. Therefore, proteins are the building blocks which help repair muscles and without enough protein our body lacks the ability to put together cellular structures which are also used to produce hormones and enzymes just to name a few.

However, while protein shakes are great to have, they are not a necessity, they are not a “be-all and end-all” in order for you to achieve the ultimate goal, they are just an added extra. If you feel as though you are supposed to get 130g of protein and you are only able to consume 100g of protein through food, then the additional 30g scoop of protein powder in a shake is going to help you reach the desired amount that you have set for yourself through your macronutrients calculation.

While I’m not disregarding the use of protein shakes in the slightest, I’m merely encouraging you to first adopt a healthy nutritional plan that you can follow as part of your lifestyle. Build a regular and consistent fitness routine, decide on an achievable fitness goal and finally if advised or through a personal decision you want to start taking protein supplements, then read and research what is on the label. Don’t become a “monkey see, monkey doer” become responsible, knowledgeable, accountable and make the right choice.

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