Not so many years ago, before I understood fitness and nutrition, I imagine I had the same opinion about protein as the majority of other people “it’s not something that’s for me because I don’t want to grow huge muscles!” Oh how wrong I was! But how very normal it is to not understand something until you gain experience; hence why I feel the need to share the importance of consuming enough protein in a daily diet for fitness enthusiasts and everyday people alike.
Our hair and nails are actually mostly made of protein – not just our muscles- as the body uses protein to build and repair tissues from the moment we are born until the day that we die. Protein is also responsible for making enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals and is a vital building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood.
Protein For Weight Loss / Gain
When it comes to fat loss and getting in shape protein is a key player too, all without needing to restrict foods because protein reduces hunger and boosts the metabolism – it’s a case of everything in moderation. Whilst there are plenty of ways to up your daily protein intake, sometimes we can be creatures of habit and not have as varied a diet as necessary but sticking to foods such as white-fleshed fish, plain greek yogurt, beans peas and lentils, skinless white poultry, low fat cottage cheese, tofu, lean beef and peanut butter can help.
Providing an increase in muscle mass, more satiety from food and an overall higher metabolic rate from protein the body has greater potential to lose fat – yet many people fear consuming protein will make them gain weight instead of lose it. Gaining weight from muscle mass whilst losing body fat may cause the scales to stay pretty much the same in digits, but you’ll notice the difference in your shrinking waist measurements and more toned appearance which is where it counts most.
Weight gain is caused when you consume more calories than your body burns through exercise, creates a caloric surplus, however most protein powders contain around 100–150 calories per serving and are low in carbs and fats making them perfect additions to meal times and tasty energy rich shakes throughout the day.
Whilst protein shakes can be whey (dairy) or plant-based, being vegan I adore the non-dairy protein alternatives and find that my muscles recover far more quickly from training because of it. In fact, many bodybuilders turn to a vegan diet to assist in muscle recovery and fat loss whilst prepping for bodybuilding contests as vegan protein powder is also a great source of fibre to promote a healthy bowel and lower cholesterol levels.
Plant-based and vegan proteins are generally lower in calories than meat and dairy-based protein supplements as they contain around 90 calories per serving, whereas whey protein ranges between 100 and 150 calories per serving. It’s recommended that adults consume 10-35% of their total daily calories from protein based foods which is around 46 grams of protein for women and 56 grams of protein for men.
Plant Based Protein Powder Sources
When vegan protein powders first came about there was very little variety and some rather questionable flavours to say the least. Thankfully, in recent years choice and variety has expanded immeasurably and as veganism grows in popularity year on year so does the choice and quality of plant-based protein shakes.
Most brands now recognise the importance of plant-based protein and focus their products around the natural ingredients of pea, hemp, pumpkin seed, brown rice, soy, sunflower seed and chia to name but a few. It’s also pretty fun browsing the aisles of health stores and discovering new vegan friendly products and brands to assist in my healthy active lifestyle without the guilt of over-consuming on calories when I’m trying to stay in shape.
Whilst protein shakes became an essential part of my bodybuilding journey when I was competing in natural bodybuilding, they’re also still a great addition to my day in general whether I go to the gym or not. Regardless of how active I am my body still needs fuel for energy and to repair and rebuild tissue 24/7 which is the main purpose of protein.
A vegan protein range that I can’t get enough of at the moment is by Bodybuilding Warehouse for which their PURE vegan protein is a plant based blend packed with essential amino acids, prebiotic fibre and phyto-nutrients and contains 18g of protein per serving. Amino Acids are the building blocks of muscle and for which this blend importantly contains all 9 essential amino acids (EAA), making it a great alternative to animal based proteins like whey or casein.
I’m currently making my way through their huge 2kg bag of strawberry vegan protein which contains 80 servings – that’s about three months worth of shakes and I would recommend it to anyone looking to increase their daily protein intake with the addition of prebiotic fibre. Vegan proteins are also an excellent source of protein for vegetarians, vegans or for anyone that suffers with a lactose or gluten intolerance too.
I also got a 1kg bag of vegan chocolate protein which I use for making protein cookies for breakfast by pouring a protein shake over gluten-free porridge oats and baking them in the oven for 10mins.
Finally I’m really enjoying their delicious grape and bubblegum flavoured BCAA Amino Blast which stands for Branch Chain Amino Acid and is useful for building lean muscle and speeding up the recovery of muscles. BCAAs are essential because the body is unable to make them out of other amino acids so you have to consume them through a variety of food or in supplements. I add a scoop of BCAA to my water bottle and sip it throughout my workout or when I’m on a walk and because it contains zero sugar and zero carbs it keeps me focused and gives me a much needed energy boost whilst allowing me to be fit and healthy. Certainly food for thought no matter your fitness goals!