What is protein and why do I need it?
Protein is one of the three main food groups: carbohydrate, fat and protein. It’s an essential part of any balanced diet. Proteins are made up of amino acids – chemical ‘building blocks’. Our bodies use amino acids to build and repair muscles and bones, as well as to make hormones and enzymes. Protein can also be used for energy. Getting enough protein helps regulate your internal systems, maintain energy levels, and strengthen your muscles and bones.
How much protein do I need?
So, we know protein is important but how much do we actually need? Protein needs differ between gender and change as we age. According to HCF, 15-20% of our daily energy (kilojoules or calories) should come from protein. For a man, the general rule of thumb is 0.84g per kilogram of body weight. So a man who weighs 85kg should eat about 71 grams of protein a day. For a woman, it’s 0.74g per kilo of body weight. So a woman who weighs 70kg is recommended to eat 52 grams of protein each day. This amount increases when we age and can be increased if partaking in vigorous exercise or weight training. Pregnant and breastfeeding women also tend to have higher protein needs. You can use the government guidelines to see how much protein is recommended for you.
Some good protein sources include legumes and pulses like chickpeas and lentils, hemp seeds, edamame, tofu and other soy products. You might be wondering if you’re lacking protein in your diet? If you have low energy, frequent headaches, weak or ridged nails and feel very burnt out after exercise then yes, you might need to add some more protein into your meals. It’s always good to speak with a doctor, though, before making diet and lifestyle changes.
Benefits and types of protein powder
Most Australians actually get more protein than they need, simply by maintaining a balanced, healthy diet. That said, there are benefits to using a protein powder. A protein powder, as the name suggests, is a powdered form of protein that’s made by extracting the protein from a food source and then processing it into a powder. Often additional nutritional ingredients are added like vitamins and minerals.
A protein powder is often used for its convenience—it’s a simple way to get a boost of protein and maintain your health with a busy schedule. A protein shake is also a quick way to get a lot of protein to your muscles after a big workout. Protein powders tend to be faster absorbed than whole sources of protein. There are many food sources that are used to make protein powders. Some of our favourites include pea, hemp, soy and rice. Each of these plant-based foods has a level of protein that can be extracted and powdered for a flavourful and nutrient-rich protein powder.
There are many benefits to using a plant-based protein powder including reduced risk of bloating, suitable for lactose intolerance, plenty of gluten-free options, and it tends to be lower in fat and calories – making it great for weight loss. Macro Mike is one of the best brands for an allergen-friendly, plant-based, gluten-free protein powder that actually tastes amazing.
Can you build muscle with plant-based protein powder?
You might be wondering if a plant-based protein powder is suitable for those looking to build muscle mass – it is! The only reason a vegan protein powder wouldn’t be as effective for bodybuilding is if it wasn’t a complete protein. Remember, protein is made up of amino acids. A protein must contain nine essential amino acids to be considered a complete protein. That said, if you’re enjoying a balanced plant-based diet alongside using a protein powder then you’ll have no trouble eating a range of amino acids. If you want more information on using a plant-based protein powder for muscle growth, we suggest watching the documentary The Game Changers.
Choosing a protein for your needs
Which protein powder you choose will depend on your health and lifestyle goals. Here are just some of our tips for choosing the right protein powder for you.
One of the most common reasons for choosing a protein powder is to support the growth of muscle after resistance/weight training. A good protein powder for muscle gain is one that’s easily absorbed and utilised by the body. You might also want to choose one that has a higher amount of protein per serve. Soy protein tends to be very high in protein and is a great alternative to weigh protein powder for those who are lactose intolerant or following a plant-based diet.
If you’re looking to lose weight healthily and steadily then a protein shake can be a great meal option. Most plant-based protein powders are great for staying lean as they naturally contain no cholesterol and are lower in fats and calories. Just avoid a protein powder with added BCAAs as these can promote muscle growth and weight gain.
For those who experience poor digestion, flatulence or bloating, we recommend choosing lactose or dairy-free protein powder. You can also look for a protein powder with added fermented ingredients or other nutrients that promote better gut health and digestion.
Using in recipes
If you’re wanting to make healthy snacks like bliss balls and protein pancakes, then you’ll want a protein powder that works well when baked and mixed with other ingredients. Macro Mike is made for use in yummy healthy recipes like brownies, cookies and pancakes. Plus the Macro Mike flavour range means you’ll be boosting the taste, not just protein, of your treats.
Some protein powders are made specifically for the family, including kids. The Nutra Organics Thriving Protein has a little bit of plant-based protein but is supercharged with essential vitamins, minerals, folate and calcium, as well as a billion probiotics for gut health. Adding a protein powder like this to smoothies or healthy treats will ensure your kids get enough healthy protein and micronutrients to support their growth and development. It’s not recommended to add regular protein supplements that are high in protein to a child’s diet, however. A balanced diet of whole foods is always best, especially when developing.
Looking to use a protein powder to help strengthen your hair, skin and nails? You can find plant-based protein powders with added beauty-boosting properties. Nutra Organics’ Vegan Collagen Glow protein contains zin, vitamin C and pre & probiotics to boost your collagen production and improve the health and appearance of your hair, skin and nails.
What to look for in a protein powder
No matter what protein powder you choose, there are a few things you should look out for. Firstly, ensure that the protein powder has been made from high-quality ingredients. If you can find a protein powder with organic protein sources, even better. You’ll also want to avoid any protein powders that contain lots of sugar or artificial sweeteners. And look out for filler ingredients like flours and any other things on the list that you don’t recognise. If a quick internet search can’t tell you what an ingredient is, then it’s probably safe to assume that it’s a filler or chemical preservative.
Lastly, always read reviews when shopping for a protein and look for sample packs so you can try them before you buy. Macro Mike has a packet of samples so you can try a range of flavours to see which one suits you best. Finding the right protein for you is a process but it’s worth it.