Protein is quite likely the most important macronutrient consumed in our diet. Not to forget the importance of dietary fats and carbs, but there is something about protein that is alluring both regarding taste, as well as its scientifically verified effect on our health and wellbeing.
Maybe it’s protein’s ability to accelerate muscle gain or to help us shed fat that makes it the macronutrient centerpiece most dishes are based around. Regardless of the reason, there’s much more to protein lingering below the surface of your next meal.
Which brings up the big question: are you getting enough protein? Do you honestly know that you’re eating enough protein every day to achieve maximum muscle growth and improve your health? Chances are you probably aren’t, but don’t worry, the cavalry is here!
Why Use Protein Powders?
Protein powders are convenient, condensed sources of protein that help you easily meet your daily protein requirements. Because you lead a hectic life is why a good protein powder can be a real lifesaver, and it’s the main reason they are the most popular fitness supplements on the market. Let’s make one thing clear though, protein powders won’t ever replace high-quality sources of real meat, which is best source of protein in the world (in particular, we love grass-fed, organic steak).
But because we know it’s not practical to buy and cook expensive steak several times per week, a high-quality protein powder supplement is a great nutritional substitute!
The fact that you are reading this blog post – and are here with us at WellnessFX – means that you are genuinely interested in promoting your health. There are various protein types, each one with its own unique characteristics, that makes one preferable to another based on your particular biochemistry, health status, and what your supplementation goals are. So let’s take a closer look at how consuming the right protein will help you achieve your goals.
Protein Powder Supplements
Starting our list is the most uncommon protein source today, but which holds extreme promise – if you are open-minded enough to try it. Insects are incredibly dense in protein, as well as containing considerable amounts of vitamins and minerals, which makes for an unexpectedly nutritious protein powder supplement.
Guess we finally found a purpose for all those roaches running around kitchens, eh? Joking aside, you might be blown out of the water to know that some insect proteins (cricket protein in particular) have been found to contain twice the amount of protein than beef – when compared on a gram-per-gram basis. Cricket protein is also extremely rich in zinc, magnesium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Maybe their protein content isn’t why insects are considered a delicacy in some parts of the world, but they are being studied as the superfood of the future. The five insect groups that are currently being studied for their protein content include:
• Honey bees
• Domesticated silkworms
• Yellow mealworms
• Larvae of the African palm weevil
So if you’re looking for a protein powder that also can serve as a natural multi-vitamin/mineral of sorts, then look no further than insects, because they could be viewed more like a nutritious whole food supplement that is also very high in protein.
Even if you’re a vegan or vegetarian, your protein needs are the same as everyone else’s, except you have a much harder time meeting those needs. Humans have grown accustomed to consuming an omnivorous diet, so when you opt to remove animal sources from your diet, it can become a real challenge to ensure all your nutrient requirements are being met. One of the most challenging requirements to meet? You guessed it: protein consumption.
A few decades ago, soy was virtually the universal protein source for vegans. But thankfully those days are gone, because today there are multiple sources of vegan proteins you can take advantage of, all conveniently made in powdered supplemental form.
And before we get down to the details, if you’re male, make sure to skip the soy. Soy has a structure that closely resembles estrogen (a potent female phytoestrogen) and it has been shown to demonstrate estrogenic-like actions when consumed. Consuming soy protein regularly could result in hormonal imbalances if you are sensitive, affecting your androgen profile negatively as you may screen for with the WellnessFX Premium package.
Soy protein in moderation is fine for women, although ideally it should be from an organic source because much of it is GMO (genetically modified). Other notable vegan protein powders include:
• Chia seed
• Brown rice
You might need to make use of more than one of the above sources for best effects, because some are incomplete proteins. Incomplete proteins don’t contain all the essential amino acids, so you should keep that in mind when making your selection. An excellent choice is Vegalite from Thorne Research, a blend of pea and rice proteins that covers a broad range of the amino acid spectrum.
Collagen is an essential structural protein that ensures that the vascular integrity of the joints and connective tissue is maintained. Collagen protein powders are derived from the connective tissues of animals, which are widely deficient in the modern diet because we tend to focus only on the muscle meats.
There are many collagen supplements on the market – some expensive, some cheap – which have similar benefits. An alternative course is to consume a supplement that contains the amino acid glycine, the amino acid that makes up the majority of the amino acid composition of collagen and gelatin. Glycine is very effective at increasing collagen synthesis in the body.
If you’re using collagen as a protein supplement, then it’s good to remember that, like the vegan proteins, it’s not a complete protein. Collagen does not contain the essential amino acid, tryptophan. Collagen is also low in methionine. So it’s best to use other protein sources to balance this out.
Milk-based proteins are the undisputed cream of the crop in protein powders. Why? Because milk-based proteins offer clear benefits for health and in the ability to increase muscle mass. These proteins are also versatile and they taste good.
There are three distinct types of milk proteins, although only the first two are well known:
The most versatile protein in the world, whey is cheap and is one of the most condensed sources of high-quality protein available, with an average supplement scoop having over 20 grams of complete protein. Whey protein is also absorbed into circulation much faster than other types – great when speed matters, such as after waking up and the peri-workout period. Whey isolates offer the best value for the money because they have a high density of amino acids and are very affordable.
Are All Whey Proteins the Same?
Simply put: no, they aren’t. Ninety-five percent of the whey protein powders on the market is not from grass-fed or organic animals, so the five percent that are is the cream of the crop. Grass-fed animals produce a better fatty acid balance, and organic protein is free from damaging man-made hormones or pesticides. Grass-fed whey protein is a great go-to supplement for almost all people.
Casein is the most abundant protein found in milk, but it’s still whey’s little brother. Casein is a much longer-acting, slower-digesting protein, and is best consumed before bed or when meals are far between. Casein is great for helping you feel full because it stays in the stomach much longer than whey does. And casein possesses immense muscle-building and positive health benefits, similar to whey – it just needs to be taken advantage of in a different way due to its timing profile.
Colostrum is unique, because it’s not derived from “true” milk – rather, it comes from the clearish liquid produced by the mother cow’s mammary glands during the first several days after a calf is born.
Colostrum is loaded with protein, carbohydrates, and minerals, as well as antibodies that boost the immune system. Most important are the presence of natural growth factors, with IGF-1 being key.
IGF-1 is a hormone that plays a central role in muscle protein synthesis. Colostrum supports healthy IGF-1 stores in the presence of growth factor deficiency1.
If you have generally low levels of IGF-1, then colostrum would be a great choice as part of your supplemental protein intake.
Proteins are essential, so be sure to get enough in your diet – and from a variety of sources. Use supplements wisely, to add to your intake and for their health benefits.
Remember that protein is a cornerstone of overall good nutrition, but protein isn’t everything. To learn more about your overall health and nutritional status, you can take a deeper dive with one of the advanced biomarker panels offered through WellnessFX.
1. Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition. 2008 May-Jun;32(3):266-275.
Alex Eriksson is the founder of Anabolic Health, a men’s health blog dedicated to providing honest and research backed advice for optimal male hormonal health. Anabolic Health aspires to become a trusted resource where men can come and learn how to fix their hormonal problems naturally, without pharmaceuticals. Check out his guide on The Ultimate Guide to Manly Cooking or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.
The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.