There is no doubt that protein is so IN right now! Not that it hasn’t always been IN, but it seems to be packed into our everyday foods…potato chips are now protein-crisps, granola bars are now muscle-boosting-protein-bars, and even our morning cereal has turned into protein-crunch bites! While I am very much on the pro-protein campaign, I thought it may be helpful to review with you why we need protein, how protein-products fit into our diets, and provide you with a few of my favorite protein-packed options.
What is protein?
The formal definition of protein is: any of various naturally occurring extremely complex substances that consist of amino-acid residues joined by peptide bonds, contain the elements carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, usually sulfur, and occasionally other elements (as phosphorus or iron), and include many essential biological compounds (as enzymes, hormones, or antibodies).
But, when you actually think about protein you generally think of foods like steak, chicken, eggs, fish, Greek yogurt, etc. These foods are protein-packed, providing the body with the basic building blocks needed to create various structures—hair, nails, muscles, hormones, enzymes, etc. Not only do animal-based foods provide protein to the diet, but plants also contribute. Foods like whole grains, lentils, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds are great plant-based protein sources.
Why are protein-products so trendy?
With all of the protein options out there, why are protein powders and bars so trendy? My theory is that they fit in perfectly with our on-the-go society. Protein powders help us to meet our protein needs (more about that in a moment), without taking the time to prepare and cook our food.
Who has time to buy, marinade, cook, and chew a steak when you could just grab a quick bar, open up the package, and gobble it up in the car…no cleanup required! And who wants to take out the skillet, scramble a few eggs, sit down at the table and clean up? Especially when you could simply grab a protein shake, chug it at your desk…and again, no cleanup required.
You get my point here—it seems we know the importance of consuming enough protein, but we have to find easy ways to sneak it into our nonstop lifestyles!
How Much Protein Do I Need?
Now the question may be, “How much protein do I need?” While the true answer to this is not so straightforward, the quick answer is this– take your body weight in pounds and divide by 2. If you weigh 150lbs and have a “normal” BMI (18.5 to 24.9), then this equates to 75 grams of protein per day, spread evenly amongst your meals (~25grams per meal).
If your BMI is overweight/obese (>25), then this simple calculation may overestimate your protein needs. If your goal is to gain weight/lean muscle mass then this calculation may underestimate your protein needs.
If you would like a more detailed explanation, feel free to reach out privately.
What Should I Eat To Get Enough Protein?
So now you approximately know your daily protein requirements and you have to decide how to best consume all of this food.
Tadaahhh…protein packed convenience foods!
These protein-products can be pretty useful to provide portable, healthy food options that also help promote satiety, stabilize blood sugar, and assist with building muscle and maintaining a healthy body weight. There are various forms of protein-products out there, with an option to match the needs of most individuals.
*Side note: do not consume protein powders/products if you are sensitive to monosodium glutamate (MSG)*
As an educated consumer it is important to know about your options. Below is a quick analysis of the options you may be currently consuming or considering consuming:
Protein Powder Options
|Powder Type||Protein Classification||Health Benefit/Concerns||Example|
|Whey||Non-vegan (milk protein)||-Concentrate- 70-85% pure protein, immune boosting properties, contains trace amounts of lactose|
-Isolate- >90% pure protein, no lactose
-Both types increase lean muscle mass due to high content of branched chain amino acids
– Best tasting, most affordable, avoid if allergic/sensitive to milk
| Tera’s Whey|
|Soy||Vegan||Provides all 8 essential amino acids, antioxidant and heart health benefits, taste can vary, avoid if allergic/sensitive to soy||Bob’s Red Mill|
|Rice||Vegan||Hypoallergenic, less biologically available protein, does not contain all essential amino acids, may taste chalky||Nutribiotic|
|Pea||Vegan||Hypoallergenic, less biologically available protein (better than rice), does not contain all essential amino acids, may taste chalky||Designs for Health*|
|Blended||Vegan & Non-vegan||Combines the health benefits of various proteins and food sources, often better flavor profile||Vega One|
|Egg white||Non-vegan||High biologically available protein source, potential allergen, good taste, cost may vary||NOW Foods|
Protein Powders, Bars, & Other Product Recommendations:
|Product||Type||Calories/Protein per serving|
|Quest bar||Whey||170-190 calories, 20g of protein|
|Rise Protein bar||Pea and Whey options||280 calories, 15-20g of protein|
|ThinkThin bar||Whey, soy||230 calories, 20g of protein|
|Organic Food Bar protein||Vegan blend||330 calories, 22g of protein|
|Vega One Bar||Vegan blend||240 calories, 15g of protein|
|Tera’s whey concentrate||Whey||110 calories, 21g of protein|
|ALT bars||Pea||210 calories, 10g of protein|
|Vega One Protein powder||Vegan blend||90 calories, 15g of protein|
|P28 Bread||Whey||130 calories, 14g of protein|
|Quest Protein chips||Whey, milk||120 calories, 21g of protein|
|Barilla Protein Pasta||Blend (egg, legume, flax)||190 calories, 10g of protein|
|Strong & Kind bar||Pea||230 calories, 10g of protein|
*Tip: Be sure to look at the label of the next product you purchase. It may be marketed as a protein bar or shake, but actually only contain <5g of protein per serving and >20g of sugar! Also, be sure your protein shake or bar does not contain artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.
Protein is a healthful addition and essential nutrient. You may help meet your protein needs by using some of these convenient protein products like powders and bars. Check out my favorite morning protein shake on my next blog post!