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Published on March 16, 2021

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Do I Need a Protein Supplement?

Protein is an energy-containing macronutrient essential for protein synthesis, muscle growth, organ function, a healthy immune system and more. Your daily protein need is primarily influenced by your age, health and activity level. For most healthy individuals, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. For example, a healthy individual weighing 200 pounds needs around 70 grams of protein per day.

While it’s ideal to obtain your RDA of protein through food sources, it may be challenging for those who need more than the typical 0.8 grams per kilogram. Highly active individuals, for example, may require up to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram in order to adequately recover from training. In such instances, a protein powder may be warranted.

Check out the following information to gain a better understanding of some of the available popular protein powders.

A Closer Look at Protein Types

Whey: Whey is a fast-digesting, milk-based protein that contains all nine essential amino acids. It is a great post-workout choice due to its fast absorption time. Food sources that are high in whey include cow’s milk, yogurt and some cheeses.

Casein: Casein is also a milk-based protein that contains all nine essential amino acids. In comparison to whey, casein is a slow-digesting protein. It is a great choice during longer periods of recovery such as a non-training day or before bed, due to its slow digestion time. Food sources that are a high in casein include dairy products such as cow’s milk, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese.

Soy: Soy protein is a plant-based protein with a moderate digestion time. Unlike most other plant-based proteins, soy protein contains all nine essential amino acids. Its digestion time and non-dairy origins make it a great choice for vegetarians, those with dairy allergies, or those who want a multipurpose protein. Food sources that are high in casein include soy products, edamame and tofu.

Protein Isolate Versus Protein Concentrate

Concentrate: Concentrate is extracted from its protein source prior to being micro-filtered. This process creates a concentrated source of protein with relatively small amounts of naturally occurring carbohydrate and fat.

Isolate: Protein isolate is the result of additional processing to remove the non-protein contents of a protein source (i.e., fats, carbohydrates, minerals and fiber). This process creates a protein powder that contains more protein, less carbohydrates, and less fat per serving when compared to protein concentrate. For this reason, isolate powders are more expensive than concentrate powders.

Choosing a Protein Powder That’s Right for You

When choosing any supplement, it is important to note that dietary supplements have relatively loose regulations. For example, medications must be proven safe to be sold. Supplements, on the other hand, are considered safe until proven unsafe. For this reason, it is recommended that you choose products that are third-party certified.

Third-party certification is when an independent company inspects the products compliance with safety, quality and labeling standards. To check if a product is third-party tested, check the label. Some of the most popular third-party testers are “NSF Certified for Sport” and “Informed Choice Certified.”

Dan Marquette is a dietetics intern with the Avera Human Performance Center

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