Protein is an essential daily beauty food and a good quality powders can help you get enough.
Protein is crucial for maintaining a healthy metabolism, stimulating fat loss and maintaining lean muscle mass. “As a major contributor to strong muscles, hair, nails, blood and our internal organs such as the brain, protein is vital for a healthy body,” says nutritionist, chef, author and presenter Zoe Bingley-Pullin.
“Without it, we wouldn’t be able to complete the day-to-day tasks we often take for granted.”
Basically, every time we exercise (from a walk to a marathon) we are causing minute damage to our muscles or tiny tears that helps them strengthen. “Protein makes sure these tiny muscle tears are repaired, making the muscle stronger than before,” Bingley says. “A long term lack of protein can lead to muscle mass deterioration leaving us with a poorly toned body, thin brittle hair and even skin conditions that take time to improve.”
Eating enough good quality protein every day also keeps you full and lowers the glycaemic indices of the food you are eating to help you maintain stable blood sugar levels, she says.
How much do you need?
Getting enough protein means more than eating the occasional steak. You need it every single day from a variety of sources. On average women aged between 19-70 need 0.84-1.07 grams per kilogram of body weight. So a 60kg woman needs roughly 50 to 64 grams per day. Breastfeeding women need 1.1 grams per kilogram of body weight and pregnant women needs about one gram per kilo.
How to get enough
Try to get your daily needs from a range of good quality sources such as dairy, beans, eggs, fish and lean meats. And keeping a good quality protein powder handy in your pantry is another good way to make sure you are getting enough.
How to choose a good protein powder
Always read the label. Look for additional benefits such as vitamins and minerals, as well as digestive enzymes, prebiotic fibre and probiotics for nutritional and digestive balance, Bingley-Pullin says. Skip the artificial colours and flavourings often found in some lower quality proteins. Also avoid additional sweeteners, emulsifiers and preservatives. “If you can get your hands on a good, clean protein powder you can then add it to a more complex recipe such as a dessert or smoothie, adding natural ingredients you’ve put in yourself,” says Bingley-Pullin.
Other ways to use protein powder
“My top uses of protein powders are in smoothies, added to yoghurts, made into ice-cream or ice-blocks, baked into muffins, or (my ultimate favorite) mixed with dates, nuts and coconuts and rolled into raw protein balls,” she says. You can generally add a scoop of protein powder to any of your favourite raw ball recipes.
Who should avoid them?
People with kidney issues and who have trouble processing protein. “It’s also important for diabetics and those with hyperglycemia to be wary of what proteins they use, as whey protein can quickly raise the blood sugar and insulin levels,” she says.
Don’t worry about bulking up
Body composition is a result of the combination of physical training and diet. “When using protein powders as a supplement to a healthy diet, they will serve the purpose of muscle repair and nourishment,” says Bingley-Pullin. “Protein powders can of course be used for the purposes of bulking, but excessive amounts will need to be taken, and your style of training will need to be based around muscle growth.”
If you become bloated...
Bloating can be caused by poor quality powders which you can’t digest properly. Or you could have an allergy to an ingredient in the product, says Bingley-Pullin. “We are extremely lucky now to have protein powders made from a variety of sources, whether that be whey, pea, egg white or rice protein. With this variety, most allergies and intolerances can be catered to.” And don’t forget you can trial different powders by buying sample sized sachets to help you find the one you like best.
A quick guide to protein powders
Whey protein: Bingley-Pullin says whey protein (derived from the protein portion of whole milk) is the best all-round choice in terms of taste, quality and cost for most people. And it comes in two types: whey protein concentrate contains low levels of fat and low levels of carbohydrates (lactose). Whey protein isolate is further processed to remove all the fat and lactose – it usually sits at around 80 per cent protein.
Egg white protein: like milk proteins, egg white is also naturally low in fat and carbs. “Egg white protein is cholesterol-free and an excellent choice for those who wish to avoid dairy products,” Bingley-Pullin says.
Brown rice protein: Brown rice protein has many benefits for health and fitness enthusiasts, she says. “It’s a convenient source of protein for vegetarians and others who follow strict diets, and it is allergen friendly,” she says. It is also low in fat, low in calories and contains nine essential amino acids - the amino acids that cannot be synthesised within the human body and therefore need to be supplied by the diet.
Pea protein: “The humble pea is a power-packed veggie protein source that is especially good if you have specific food allergies or sensitivities,” says Bingley-Pullin. “If you exercise regularly, pea protein can help provide a pre-workout energy boost and improved post-workout muscle recovery. It has a complete array of amino acids including high levels of three essential amino acids called branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).” It also digests easily since it contains no lactose or glutens - and that means no bloating.
Recipe: the power date smoothie by Zoe Bingley-Pullin
One scoop of protein powder
One third cup almonds (blanched)
Two thirds cup water
Five dates, pitted
One tsp. honey
Blend the water and almonds extremely well until the mixture is smooth. If you have used unbalanced almonds, strain the mixture at this stage to remove the ground up husks. Add the other ingredients and process well. Serve immediately. You can choose any fruit or dried fruits to this mixture to change the flavour.