Generally speaking most people don’t need a protein supplement as they will be getting sufficient protein through a well-balanced diet. It isn’t always that simple though and there are a number of factors to consider, and protein powders and supplements can provide a relatively cost-effective way of increasing intake where needed.
How much protein do I need?
The recommended intake of protein in the UK (RNI) is 0.75g per kg of body weight per day. So if someone weights 70kg they will require 52.5g of protein a day. There are many factors that can increase the amount of protein needed, one of which is exercise, which we’ll come on to soon, another is pregnancy and breastfeeding. During pregnancy it is recommended the mother has an extra 6g a day and while breastfeeding it should be an extra 11g for the first 6 months and then drop to an extra 8g a day for 6 months and up.
Athletes may also require extra protein to promote skeletal muscle growth and so the daily requirements are increased depending on the level of exercise:
- Minimal physical activity: 1g of protein per kg of body weight per day
- Moderate physical activity: 1.3g of protein per kg of body weight per day
- Intense physical activity: 1.6g of protein per kg of body weight per day
This is again generalised as it can vary between the type of training done
- Strength training: 1.2-2g of protein per kg of body weight per day
- Endurance training: 1.2-1.4kg of protein per kg of body weight per day
Most people will get this increase in protein through their diet with a general increase in the amount of food consumed to compensate for the exercise.
What type of protein should I take?
There can be big differences in the quality of protein powders and supplements available. High quality proteins will contain all the essential amino acids needed (9) and low-quality ones tend only contain some of them.
Animal protein vs Plant protein
Animal proteins are known to be complete proteins as thy contain all 9 essential amino acids, but consuming protein through an increase in meat consumption is not recommended and comes with its own issues. It was also often thought that vegetarian and vegans struggled to get all the amino acids and would need to combine different plant protein sources in the same meal to get all 9. This is NOT the case and as long they consume a variety of plant protein sources throughout the day vegetarians and vegans will get all they need.
Hemp: Hemp seeds are complete proteins (contain all 9 amino acids) and also are a good source of essential fatty acids. A great choice, especially for vegans or those with dairy allergies or intolerances.
Soy: Also a complete protein containing all amino acids and is a dairy alternative.
Pea: Used in many plant-based protein powders and is a good source of arginine. Often combined with other sources such as brown rice to make the powders more complete sources of the amino acids.
Whey: a milk protein that contains all the amino acids. It is absorbed easily but not suitable for vegans
Casein: Another milk protein so not suitable for vegans. It is rich in glutamine, which is associated with muscle recovery, however, it is digested more slowly.
Plant-based protein powders are definitely on the rise in popularity and for good reason. You can now get some great blends to get all the amino acids needed. One product we like is BodyMe Organic Vegan Protein Powder (no affiliation and not an ad, just a recommendation).
In short, most people should be able to get all their protein requirements from a well-balanced diet, however, if you do intense exercise on a regular basis and don’t consume enough protein in your diet then there can be a place for a protein powder, especially vegan athletes and there are some good products out there but always go for quality.
If you are concerned about your protein intake or you are looking for nutritional support for training then get in contact with Helen, as a London nutritionist she has worked with many athletes in London and around the UK. You can get in touch via the website at https://nutritionist.london for more information.