So I'll get right to it this week - a Whitty Nutrition reader (and family member of mine) requested that I do a post about protein powders since she had some questions about the different types, what to look for and/or avoid when choosing a protein supplement, and if there are better alternatives. Now this is a big topic that is full of debate so I will try to simplify it as much as possible using actual evidence that I have reviewed. After all, dietetics is an evidence-based profession, meaning that our recommendations come from using the best evidence we have available. That doesn't mean that a client preferences aren't taken into account or that clinical judgement doesn't play a role, but keep in mind that although this blog can provide information, it is not a substitute for getting individualized advice from your dietitian or other healthcare provider. Disclaimer? Check!
Now let's get started! Any of you that currently use protein powders (or any nutritional supplements for that matter) know that there is an entire industry devoted solely to the task of coming out with the newest, hottest, most effective, best tasting, flashiest packaging possible. Every company's product is "the best." If you've never tried any type of supplement you might not realize that there are entire stores both in your local mall and online dedicated to these types of products. Now don't get me wrong, some of these products may assist specific groups of people in improving their nutrition status and overall health but let's be honest, most of it is entirely made up.
But I digress. Today we aren't talking about supplements in general and whether you need them or not, but rather focusing on how to successfully wade your way through the giant sea that is protein supplements.
There is a common myth that we need an extraordinary amount of protein to be healthy when in reality, the amount of protein we need is small in comparison to the other macronutrients. For example, the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges are established guidelines used to help make recommendations for how much energy a person should consume from each macronutrient group. 1
For example: A healthy 30 year old woman weighing 150 lbs (~ 68 kg) would need between 55 - 68 grams of protein per day to meet her needs. There are numerous factors such as activity level, gender, lean body mass, etc that can affect this general recommendation so let your dietitian or physician help you determine your needs!
Now I'll be the first to say that as a dietitian I believe in putting food first. That means that the majority of your nutrition needs should be met by consuming whole foods in as close to their natural form as possible. The supplement industry is great at making us feel like we can't possibly eat all the foods or the right combinations of food we need to be healthy and that certainly isn't true. A well balanced diet that includes mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and some meat and dairy (and/or alternatives) will ensure that you are getting all of the macro and micronutrients that you need to be happy and healthy! That being said there are times that supplements can be help to do just that ... SUPPLEMENT an already nutritious diet. Many people with chronic illness, metabolic disorders, long lists of allergies or food intolerances, special dietary restrictions, or increased nutrient needs, may benefit from some type of supplement whether it be a daily does of vitamin D or an oral nutrition supplement such as a protein shake.1 For example, when working in the hospital, I often recommend ready-to-drink protein shakes to help people increase their intake of protein and calories to promote healing after surgery or if their appetite is diminished for a long period of time. After all, hospital fish just doesn't cut it for most people! For those of us in the general, otherwise healthy population, we can almost always meet our protein needs from food alone.
That being said let's talk a little bit about the different types of protein supplements, when they should be used, and what other alternatives are out there!
So what about alternatives? Are there other products that could provide me the same benefits as protein powder? Well, as mentioned above, choosing a variety of protein-rich foods such as milk, yogurt, nuts, lean meat, fish, legumes, and seeds can provide you all of the protein you need along with many other important nutrients.1,2
Below I've listed some alternatives to protein powder/meal replacement powders that will provide you a comparable amount of protein in a serving as indicated. Keep in mind the price per serving will vary depending on where you live, the brand you buy, local sales, etc. Also, keep in mind all prices are in Canadian dollars.
If you have concerns about your protein intake and aren't sure whether or not you are getting enough, make an appointment with a dietitian today - they can help answer the question "what's the deal with protein powder anyway?" along with many other health and nutrition-related questions that are individualized for you!
*cough* shameless advertisement *cough* ;)
Have a great week everyone!
Nutrition facts and cost for all products listed came from company websites as well as http://nutritiondata.self.com, http://globalnews.ca/news/1572673/red-meat-prices-still-through-the-roof-statistics-canada, http://www.walmart.ca, http://www.calorieking.com