When is it right to add a protein supplement?

Joshua Steckler, owner of Push Fitness, a personal training studio located in Schaumburg specializing in weight loss, muscle toning, and nutrition recently shared in the Daily Herald’s Health and Fitness section that to ensure a variety of dietary nutrients, we recommend eating a combination of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

Many clients come to us eating too many carbohydrates and not enough protein. Not that protein is more important than carbohydrates, or fat for that matter, but if you lack quality protein, you’ll have a hard time maintaining healthy body composition.

Protein is essential for preserving and building muscle, and its consumption helps reduce hunger while stabilizing blood sugar levels — all of which help you burn fat while supporting overall health.

We always preach the importance of building your diet on a foundation of natural and wholesome foods, especially protein-dense foods such as beef, chicken, fish, and eggs. Additionally, having a whole food alternative like a protein powder is a great option for a pre- and post-workout shake or convenient snack options.

So how much protein do you really need? The American College of Sports Medicine suggests that those individuals who are strength training regularly need 0.5 — 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. You may need more or less depending on your body composition and individual goals, but this is a good rule of thumb.

We recommend the following protein powder supplements if you aren’t getting enough protein from whole foods.

• Whey Protein Powder. Whey is a type of protein derived from dairy products. It contains all the essential amino acids our body must obtain from food, so it’s a top choice of many athletes or those wanting to maintain and build muscle. Whey should be avoided by those with lactose issues or those who may have an intolerance to dairy.

• Egg Protein Powder. Egg protein is generally a powdered version of egg whites. It contains all the essential amino acids and many vitamins and minerals, so it’s also a great source for muscle-building proteins. Egg protein is lactose-free, so it may be a good option for individuals who can’t do whey protein.

• Hydrolyzed Collagen Protein Powder. Collagen protein powder is made from the connective tissue, skin, and bones of animals. It might not sound appealing, but hydrolyzed collagen is similar to bone broth or gelatin used for cooking and it contains a substantial amount of protein. Collagen has a slightly different amino acid profile than whey or egg, but it can still help repair and build muscle, while supporting bones and connective tissue. A good-quality collagen supplement may be an option for someone with both dairy and egg allergies.

• Plant-based Protein Powders. Vegetarians as well as those wanting to get more plants in their diet may benefit from a plant-based protein supplement. A combination of rice, pea, and hemp protein will give you a dose of all the essential amino acids and adds the benefit of phytonutrients as well.

With any supplement, it’s important to understand that its safety and efficacy will be dependent on the ingredients. Is the source grass-fed or raised on factory farms? Are the animals treated with hormones or antibiotics? Were chemical pesticides or artificial sweeteners used? Was the protein powder heated during processing or chemically treated? These are all important questions that should be answered before you make your purchase.

So ensure a balanced diet by eating quality protein from whole foods often, and supplementing when needed.

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