What about Protein?
As we focus on consuming more fruits and vegetables this month, we don't want to neglect our protein intake. How much do we need?
Sedentary people should aim for a bare minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day (Or 0.36 grams per pound.)
Adults over 65 should aim for 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. (Or 0.55 to 0.91 grams per pound of bodyweight.) New research shows that most older people need more protein than the bare minimum recommendation to slow down muscle loss.8,9
Athletes and active people should aim for between 1.2 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. (Or 0.55 to 1.0 grams per pound of bodyweight.) People who are overweight and obese may want to stick to the lower end of this range, since protein needs are not as high relative to their bodyweight.
It’s okay to have days of eating lower amounts of protein. The human body allows for some wiggle room. In other words, we can probably meet our basic protein needs over a number of days.
WHAT ARE THE BEST PROTEIN SOURCES OTHER THAN MEAT?
We all know that meat, eggs, and fish contain protein, but which plant-based foods are high-protein?
Do you need to worry about timing of protein intake?
Unless you’re an elite athlete or pursuing extreme fat loss or muscle gain, you don’t need to worry too much about when you get your protein. Eat protein when it makes the most sense in the context of your daily life.
Should you use protein powder?
While whole-food protein is best, it may not always possible to get all the protein you need from whole foods. Ultimately, there are two big reasons you might want to consider adding protein powder to your diet.
Convenience: In some cases, you just don’t have time to (or simply don’t want to) sit down and eat a whole-food meal.
Appetite: Other times, people don’t feel hungry enough to eat the amount of protein they need. This might happen when a person is:
But you don’t NEED protein powder to be healthy. It’s a supplement, not an essential food group.
What kind of protein powder is best?
Plant-based vs. animal protein
Animal protein options can be divided into two categories: milk-based and other animal protein sources.
Milk-based protein powders
The most popular and well-studied protein powders are made from milk. They’re all complete sources of protein.
Whey is usually recommended for post-workout shakes because it’s an incredibly high-quality protein that’s fast-digesting and rich in BCAAs. You’ll commonly see whey protein in concentrate, isolate, and hydrolyzed formulas. (More on what those mean in a moment—or you can jump right to our section on protein processing.)
Casein is often touted as the best type of protein powder to have before bed, since it digests more slowly. You’ll find it mostly in two forms: micellar casein (an isolate) and hydrolyzed casein. Since hydrolyzed casein is more processed and theoretically digests faster, it sort of defeats the purpose of opting for a slow-digesting protein.
Milk protein blends usually include both whey and casein and are marketed as the “best of both worlds.” The reason: They provide both fast- and slow-digesting protein.
Usually, you’ll see them on the label as milk protein concentrate or milk protein isolate. You might also see them listed separately, for instance: whey protein isolate and micellar casein.
Some brands also sell mixtures of concentrate and isolate of the same type of protein. For example, you might see both whey concentrate and whey isolate in the ingredients list.
Other animal protein powders
For those who can’t or prefer not to use dairy products, there are several other types of animal-derived protein powder.
Egg white protein is often a good option for those who prefer an ovo-vegetarian (milk-free) source of complete protein.
Collagen is very popular right now as a skin, joint, bone, and gut health supplement. Collagen peptides, the most common form of collagen in supplements, are usually derived from bovine hide or fish. Some people also use it to boost their protein intake, and there are a few collagen powders marketed specifically as protein supplements.
Meat-based powders are often derived from beef, but they usually have an amino acid profile similar to collagen. That means they’re generally incomplete, lower-quality proteins. On the other hand, some research has shown that beef protein isolate is just as effective as whey protein powders for increasing lean body mass.14,15 However, more research is needed.
Bone broth protein is made by cooking bones, tendons, and ligaments under high pressure to create a broth. Then, it’s concentrated into a powder. Much of the protein in bone broth is from collagen. So, similar to collagen peptides, it’s not a complete source of protein.
Bone broth powder may be helpful for increasing your protein intake if you can’t have common allergens like dairy and soy, but it’s not ideal for use as a protein powder. This is especially true because bone broth protein tends to be expensive, and it hasn’t been well-studied for use as a protein supplement.
Plant-based protein powders
Not all plant-based proteins are complete proteins. We’re going to share which ones are complete and incomplete for your information, but just a friendly reminder: As long as you eat a varied diet with a mix of different protein sources, you’ll get all the amino acids you need.
Soy protein is effective for promoting muscle growth, and it’s also a complete protein. In fact, research shows soy protein supplementation produces similar gains in both strength and lean body mass as whey protein in response to resistance training.16
It’s also been the subject of much controversy, particularly when it comes to hormonal health. (If you want to dig deeper into soy, here’s more info.)
Soy is a fairly common allergen, so that may also factor into your decision.
Pea protein is highly digestible, hypo-allergenic, and usually inexpensive. It’s rich in amino acids lysine, arginine, and glutamine. Although as we mentioned earlier, it’s low in EAA methionine, so it’s not a complete protein.
Rice protein is also a good hypo-allergenic protein choice, and tends to be relatively inexpensive. It’s low in amino acid lysine, so it’s not a complete protein source.20
Hemp protein powder is made by grinding up hemp seeds, making it a great whole-food choice. Because of this, it’s high in fiber and a source of omega-3 fats. But like rice protein, hemp is low in lysine, so it’s an incomplete protein.11
Blends are common among plant-based protein powders. Often, they’re used to create a more robust amino acid profile, since different protein sources contain various levels of each amino acid. For example, rice and pea protein are frequently combined.