Protein Powders – Should You Supplement When Working Out?

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I would like to point out that as a personal trainer and nutritionist, I never recommend any specific types of nutritional supplements to my clients. This is an important decision that must be made by them alone. I always let them know that it may not be necessary to supplement if they’re getting enough protein through whole food sources in their diet.

I believe additional protein is necessary for anyone who is training hard and wants to keep their hard-earned muscle. Training athletes and bodybuilders require more protein than sedentary people. Without protein you cannot build muscle, it’s that simple. No matter what type of diet you’re on, you need one that is rich in protein. Exercise increases the need for protein and amino acids. The harder you train, the more important dietary protein becomes to help with the muscle-building process.

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There are so many different types of quality, whole food protein sources available to you which include foods such as turkey burgers, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, etc. These are natural, nutrient dense whole foods. There are a variety of protein supplements on the market today as well. My personal opinion is that whey protein is the best. It has superior biological value which means it “yields” more usable grams of amino acids than other protein supplements. It’s also low in lactose (for those of you who are lactose intolerant) making it easier on the stomach. This helps prevent stomach upset. Whey protein is a high quality source that is fast acting and very easy to use.

I remember the old days when I first started supplementing my diet with protein powders. They tasted nasty, did not mix well and I would force myself to chug them down. Today, things have changed and protein powders are much better quality and they taste great. They mix easily and they are easy on the stomach. Whey protein is high in essential amino acids (up to 50%). Half of these are muscle-preserving branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). This is important to bodybuilders or fitness competitors when dieting down for a show. These individuals require additional protein and must add it with protein powders when making a protein shake or protein smoothie. Below is my staple post-workout meal after an intense training session. This is when I enjoy a quick protein smoothie mixed with fruit.

Protein Smoothie with Spinach and Mixed Fruit

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh spinach leaves
  • ½ cup raspberries
  • ½ cup blackberries
  • 1 medium kiwi (peeled)
  • 2 TBSP of ground flax seed
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 scoop whey isolate protein powder (vanilla cream flavor)

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Directions
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until everything is well mixed. If you want a colder smoothie, add 6-8 ice cubes. I split the mixture into two containers and refrigerate one while drinking the other, to keep it cold. This entire mixture is one serving size. Enjoy!

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Macronutrients Per Serving:

  • Calories: 328
  • Carbs: 38.5 grams
  • Protein: 37.5 grams
  • Fat: 8 grams
  • Servings: 1

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I always try to get my protein requirements by eating nutrient dense whole foods, but when dieting for a figure show or photo shoot, I add in additional protein through my post-workout shakes and smoothies. I feel that whey protein is the best protein for competitors because:

  1. It has the highest biological value.
  2. It’s rich in BCAAs (branched chain amino acids).
  3. It supports the immune system.
  4. It works as an antioxidant.

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Before supplementing with protein powders, try to obtain all of your protein needs with high quality whole food sources like chicken, fish, beef, eggs, cheese, etc. If you choose to add additional protein by supplementing your diet with protein powders, make sure it’s high quality protein. Do your homework and research different brands online. You should try to include protein with each meal and focus on eating some type of protein every 2.5 to 3 hours during the day. As I explained earlier, try to get all of your daily protein requirements with whole foods first and then choose supplements. The more consistent your protein intake is, the more consistent your muscle growth will be. I have included a couple of great recipes from my cook book below. Enjoy!

Guilt Free Triple Chocolate Yogurt Parfait

Ingredients:

  • 7 ounces of Greek Yogurt
  • 2 TBSP of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 squares of 85% cacao extra dark chocolate
  • 2 tsp. of sweetener (I use Truvia)
  • ¼ tsp of vanilla extract
  • .5 TBSP of cacao nibs
  • Garnish with strawberries and shaved coconut

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Directions
Stir cocoa powder into the yogurt until everything is thoroughly combined and set aside. Melt squares of dark chocolate in a microwave until it’s softened but be careful not to burn the chocolate. It takes about a minute while stirring every 15 seconds. Add sweetener and vanilla extract, while tasting and adjusting accordingly. Sprinkle the nibs over the top and add strawberries and shaved coconut. The strawberries and coconut bring to this dish a wonderful guilt free tasty dessert. All the flavor with none of the guilt. You can have your chocolate and eat it too!

Note
This makes one serving which nets 12 grams of carbs. The great thing about dark chocolate is it brings with it potent antioxidants. The cacao nibs are raw, unprocessed cacao. The saturated fats in cocoa are found to boost good (HDL) cholesterol levels. The yogurt provides 15% of your recommended daily allowance of calcium along with 18 grams of protein. As you can see, there are many great health benefits associated with this dessert.

Did you know?
The first recorded mention of cheesecake was during the ancient Greek Olympic Games. Cato the Elder wrote of cheesecake preparation is his farming manual “De AgriCultura” which is dated about 160 B.C.

E’s Blonde Protein Bars

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of oat flour (I ground 1 ¼ cups of oats in a blender to make 1 cup of oat flour)
  • 2 scoops of whey isolate protein powder (vanilla cream flavor)
  • .5 cup of Stevia (or sweetener of choice)
  • .5 tsp. of baking soda
  • .5 tsp. of sea salt (optional)
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup of sugar-free applesauce
  • .5 cup of almond milk
  • 1 tsp. of butter extract
  • 1 tsp. of almond extract

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Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Mix all wet ingredients in another bowl. Add both the dry and wet ingredients together and pour into an 8×8 Pyrex pan sprayed with Pam cooking spray. Cook 25 minutes. Let cool. Cut into 9 bars.

Macronutrients Per Bar:

  • Calories: 103
  • Carbs: 12 grams
  • Protein: 9 grams
  • Fat: 4 grams
  • Servings: 9

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About Author

Eleanora Reeves

My name is Eleanora and I'm a personal trainer and the owner of Reeves Fitness Center in Urbana, Illinois. I'm able to reach others through my healthy lifestyle and help them reach their fitness goals. I live the life in which I talk about with confidence and with passion! See my profile page for more information.

1 Comment

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    Protein powders of the past were of quality too. Do you remember Designer? It was a high-quality whey protein. To say protein powders are better quality now is not really all that accurate. There are just more supplement companies cashing in on the bandwagon these days, and in reality, there is more chance of less quality products available. The amount products being pulled off the market these days compared to 20-25 years ago is much greater.

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