Protein Powder: Yes or No?
In the past few years, protein powders have become increasingly popular and, everywhere you look, people are drinking protein smoothies and trying to convince you that their protein powder is the best one. But what should I look for in a protein powder? Is it even healthy and necessary? Let's take a closer look!
Everyone knows we need enough protein to survive and thrive. It's essential for muscle growth and repair, DNA synthesis, hormone production, transportation of substances within the body, hair, skin and nails, and more. But how much protein we actually need, and how easy it actually is to meet our protein needs, is something most people seem not to be aware of.
If you are eating a whole foods diet, that is, one with plenty of veggies, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and you are eating enough food, it is almost certain that you're also meeting your protein requirements. Therefore, no, protein powders are definitely not a requirement for vegan, or non-vegan, diets. I am all about whole foods, and getting your nutrients (all nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and macronutrients) from whole plant foods will always be best.
HOWEVER, there are a few reasons why you might like to include a plant-based protein powder in your diet:
- You struggle to eat enough calories. Adding protein powder into smoothies, bliss balls and bars, plant milks and oats can be a great way to add in extra energy without having to increase the volume of what you're eating.
- You aren't meeting your protein requirements. This goes hand in hand with the point above.
- You have a high training volume, and therefore will have a high energy, and also protein, requirement. Protein smoothies are an easy, nutritious and tasty way to refuel with carbs and protein post workout.
- You're after a quick and easy source of protein. Easy to take with you, quick to prepare, lasts for ages, and you can easily add it to so many different foods.
- Just for the taste! Protein powder makes smoothies super creamy, satisfying and filling, as well as adding a different flavour. Protein powder can also be great to add extra flavour to oats, bliss balls and other treats.
The most important thing to look at when choosing a protein powder is the quality of the powder, ie. what's in it. If there are any ingredients in it that you don't recognise as food, don't eat it. Look out for any added sugars and sugar alcohols, fillers and thickeners and artificial ingredients, such as flavours, sweeteners and preservatives. Instead, choose one with all natural, wholesome ingredients. The ones with minimal ingredients are usually the best, and I definitely think, when it comes to protein powder, paying extra for a good quality one is worth it!
The best protein powders I've found are made from organic hemp, brown rice or pea protein. And most of them also include a few 'superfoods' and all-natural flavouring ingredients, such as stevia, vanilla bean powder, cinnamon, cacao powder, coconut milk powder etc.
Personally, I have found many to be gritty, overly sweet and sickly, and even leave me feeling bloated and just icky (definitely not what we want!), while others have a great taste and texture, and leave me feeling great! I suggest trying and testing them out to find one YOU personally enjoy, if you're looking for a protein powder. Some brands that I like are: Prana On, Bare Blends, Vida Glow, Coast Nutrition and Sunwarrior.
The one I am currently using the most, Coast Nutrition 'Daily' in vanilla flavour, for example, only has pea protein, natural vanilla flavour and stevia as ingredients. It also makes smoothies super creamy, fluffy and tastes like white chocolate in my opinion! I also love that the company is honest, educated and down-to-earth. They've even been kind enough to give me a discount code "NATURALLYNINA" to share with you all, to get 10% OFF and FREE shipping if you'd like to try out this protein, which I definitely recommend if you're looking for one (and this isn't sponsored by the way!).
Another important thing to note, studies show that it is much more beneficial for muscle growth and maintenance to spread out protein intake throughout the day (such as roughy 20-25g every few hours), rather than having a large hit in one go by loading up on protein powder, and not having much protein the rest of the day. Too much protein isn't good for you either. The extra protein that isn't used by the body just gets peed out, and places strain on the kidneys to eliminate the breakdown products.
Personally, I like to add a serve of a good quality plant-based protein powder to my daily post workout smoothie bowl for extra taste, energy and creaminess. I also sometimes add protein powder to bliss balls, as I think it can add great extra flavour and texture.
A quick summary: Protein powder on a vegan diet isn't essential, you're more than likely already getting plenty of protein from eating enough whole foods throughout the day, and nutrients obtained from whole foods will always be the best! Having said that, protein powder may be beneficial for you if you are struggling to eat enough and/or meet your protein needs, if you're looking for a really quick and easy way to boost your protein intake, or want to add some extra flavour, texture and creaminess to your smoothies. In this case, look for a natural, minimally processed protein powder that you enjoy!
I hope you've learnt something from this post, and if you have any further questions on protein powders, don't hesitate to leave a comment below! xx