Protein has become the world's most popular supplement, with seemingly everyone using or have used some kind of protein powder. But what is Protein? Why is it advantageous? Should you even take it? There is a lot of misinformation out there, so here is the one stop guide for all of your protein questions.
What is Protein?
Proteins are macronutrients made up of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are required by the body to keep it going day to day. There are 20 amino acids in total, of which eleven of these are produced naturally by the body.
The other nine amino acids are known as essential amino acids, and are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. Normally you'd get these through essential amino acids through your food. However, depending on your diet or the amount of exercise you're doing it can be much more practical to fulfil your protein needs through supplementation rather than your normal diet.
Protein For Muscle Gain
Protein is most important for repairing and building muscle tissues and fibres which are damaged as a result of training or exercise, and moreover hitting your protein requirements is important for your health. This damage isn’t a bad thing however, it means these muscles will come back stronger each time.
Protein helps us to recover more efficiently and accelerate the process of protein synthesis. The way muscles grow, by repairing small tears on the cellular level during exercise, requires the amino acids which are present in protein, so consuming more can aid exercise and fitness goals.
Don’t forget though that protein has a number of other health and fitness benefits. If you’re dieting it is perfect as not only is it low in fat and carbs, but also helps you to feel fuller for longer. Meaning you consume less calories, pair this with a workout plan and you’ll see the pounds fall off.
It is not as simple as eat more protein and experience weight loss and muscle mass growth. Alongside a diet plan and workout regime, you also need to consider the quality of protein, the different sources of protein, and protein content.
Types of Protein
When consuming protein to enhance workout goals, it's important to know which type of protein is best for your results. There is a wide variety of places you can get your protein in powder from, each offering similar but slightly different results. The main sources include:
- Whey (Hydrolysed/Isolate/Concentrate)
- Vegetarian/Vegan (Pea/Rice/Soy)
All powders are water soluble so can be made into a shake, but also consider using them in cooking or baking too!
How to Gain Muscle As A Vegan
Gaining muscle on a vegan diet isn’t as hard as it seems, but it requires a bit of extra effort. For those following a plant based diet there are a number of key areas to consider when it comes to protein and muscle growth.
Vegan protein powders are just as good as any meat or dairy based protein and offer similar results. They are usually a mix of pea, rice and soy protein; this is because individually none of those are complete proteins, but combine them and you have one. Soy is very similar to whey and although it differs in some places, will do the job for you just as well.
The vegan diet can mean that those following it miss out on a number of key nutrients compared to those who consume animal foods. Because you are cutting meat out of your diet, you are also drastically reducing the amount of protein you consume. Meats like chicken offer 25g of protein per serving so missing out on that is tough.
Protein supplementation is therefore vital to ensure that you will gain muscle, but also to ensure you are hitting the required amount of protein in your diet. Good sources of protein are out there in food or supplements. Nuts, seeds, and grains all offer natural protein while a vegan protein shake is essential for getting in some more protein. Protein snacks are also a great way to do it with more and more bars becoming available all the time.
Here's the perfect high protein vegan snack - our zero sugar version of Millionaire Shortbread, the Millionaire Crunch
Protein deficiency isn’t the only thing to worry about however as a vegan, you could also be missing out on a number of essential nutrients by not eating meat. Plant food sources don’t have enough of a number of key vitamins and minerals like Vitamin B12, Iron, Calcium, Vitamin D, and Omega-3 fatty acid.
Some of these like Vitamin B12 contain nutrients only found in meat or dairy products. Finding sources of vitamins on a vegan diet as not only can things like Vitamin B12 or Iron deficiency be a risk, you will also find you cannot hit your muscle gain goals because of the lack of these nutrients.
As a vegan you really need to carefully plan your diet to ensure you are getting all of your essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Without doing so you run the risk of serious deficiencies in later life, so make sure to plan plan plan!
The Whey Forward
So the short answer to whether or not you should take some form of protein supplement is a yes. Protein is an essential macronutrient whether you have goals of building muscle, losing weight, or most importantly living a healthy lifestyle.
Protein supplements are everywhere from powders to a wide variety of protein snacks, even some specifically for those who are vegan or gluten-free. So make sure you are doing everything you can to get some extra protein into your diet.