When it comes to training and working out, it is common to see people use protein supplements in their diets.
As a new gym-goer or even a regular one, you may wonder which option – between protein supplements and protein-rich foods – is best for your body. Well, it’s safe to say that it all depends on your workout goals.
You may be working out so that you can lose weight and maintain a healthy size, which is often the case with females. For others, they may aim at going further to getting abs and building muscle.
What Are Proteins And Why Are They Essential To The Body?
In short, proteins are macronutrients with chains of amino acids in charge of DNA replication, speeding up metabolism, molecule transportation, and responding to stimuli. Proteins also build bones, skin, muscles and more.
There are two sources of proteins; plants and animals. Plant protein can be found in beans, lentils, chickpeas, and others while animal protein is meat such as beef, chicken, seafood, fish, milk, and eggs.
You can say that animal protein recommended because it contains all nine amino acids, however, red meat especially includes a lot of fat, which can lead to heart disease and high cholesterol to humans.
Plant proteins are suitable for vegans and vegetarians, however, in chronic situations, they may need all nine amino acids, which is a limitation of (most) plant sources.
So, there is no direct response to which protein is best; it all depends on your goals and what’s happening with your body at that point in time.
Protein Powder Basics
Protein powder, as the name suggests, is protein in powder form. It is pure protein extracted from various sources and sold to individuals who want to consume large amounts of protein without having to consume the requisite amount of actual food required to get that protein.
Three of the main types are whey, casein, and soy. Whey and casein are made from dairy products while soy is extracted from soybeans (one of the few plant sources with all nine essential amino acids).
For protein shakes, whey is the type that is usually used because of its water solubility and quick absorption.
Protein Powder vs Protein Rich Foods
1. Ease and Speed in Preparation
One of the most significant advantages of protein supplements is that they are easy to prepare.
A protein shake takes less than five minutes to prepare, however, preparing a protein-rich meal could easily take more than 30 minutes.
So, if you have a tight schedule, you should opt for a protein shake usually.
If you prefer meals, a good option that saves time would be conducting a 7-day meal preparation. With this, you can save on daily cooking time and still eat your healthy protein food.
2. Fat Content
Protein food has higher fat content because:
- All meat sources come with fat
- They are usually prepared using oil (fat)
Therefore, by preparing meat using cooking oil, you almost double the fat content you are taking in. This is unhealthy on a large scale and can lead to long-term complications such as heart disease or high blood pressure.
The fat content of protein powders, on the other hand, are minimal.
When training your body to lose weight or gain abs, limiting your intake of trans and saturated fats is one of the main things to consider.
Whey protein shakes are quickly absorbed by the body, usually taking less than thirty minutes after drinking to reach the muscles.
Protein-rich foods, on the other hand, are slowly digested over a much longer period so it takes way longer to reach the muscles after feeding.
Therefore, it is advisable to take protein supplements immediately after working out, however, during the day, you can feed or snack on protein foods and allow them to digest and break at their pace.
Many people assume that protein foods taste better than supplements but that’s usually because they’ve never had a flavored protein powder.
Some whey protein powders have an improved taste due to sweeteners or sugar which make them much more palatable without needing to add a bunch of extra stuff to your shake for flavoring.
And though the sugar content isn’t usually too bad, it’s still advisable to always check the ingredient list or nutrition facts to ensure they are not overdone.
The best protein powder can’t hold a candle to a well prepared, balanced meal; and the reason is simple.
Proteins are just that – proteins.
A balanced meal, however, provides the body with a long list vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and healthy fats for a more synergistic effect on your overall health.
Where you choose to get the majority of your protein depends on various factors such as your goals, your schedule, and your lifestyle.
If you’re just looking to stay fit, tone up or gradually build muscle over a long time, you can get your protein purely from your diet, however, if you’re looking to build muscle fast, you will need to incorporate a protein powder into your routine.
Still, a protein shake should never be used as a replacement for a balanced meal because it simply cannot provide the nutrients needed for a healthy mind and body.