Protein powder: necessity or gimmick?

No matter how much we’re told that a proper diet and exercise are the ways to get fit, there’s always something out there to confuse us

On a recent trip home, I was baffled when I witnessed my mother religiously drinking protein shakes every morning, claiming it helps her build muscle.

All this time I thought protein powder was just another unnecessary health trend that people were tricked into thinking they needed.

Do we need to add protein powder to our drinks each day to see results in our workouts? Or should we leave the powder to the guys on Jersey Shore?

According to Peer Health Outreach Coordinator Beth Doxsee, protein accounts for a small percentage of our daily required macronutrients.

“About 15 to 20 per cent of your diet should be protein,” she said, adding that 55 to 60 per cent should be carbohydrates and the rest should be fats.

Common sources of protein in an everyday diet are red meat, chicken, fish, tofu, almonds, eggs and lentils.

Although protein powders are marketed mostly towards men who are weight training, many different groups of people use it because of how easy it is to mix into a drink.

While protein does play an essential role in cell growth, repair and maintenance, Doxsee said, many people overestimate how much they need. Movie stars, for example, who train for several hours a day to build muscle for a role consume more than the average amount of protein.

“Their caloric intake has increased significantly. Most people in North America have enough protein in their diet, if not too much.”

Although protein is important for muscle repair when heavy weight training, it’s not the only thing that people should focus on consuming.

“If someone is doing heavy weight training it’s really important to make sure you have a mini meal after,” she said. “Something that includes protein, carbohydrates and fats.” For this reason, Doxsee said she prefers more natural sources of protein.

“You should know the ingredients of foods you’re consuming.” Doxsee said she would recommend something as simple as having a piece of bread with peanut butter and banana for a good after-workout meal because it includes all three macronutrients and is less artificial.

In other words, stick to regular food and you’ll do just fine.

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