Hey D.C. this cold has been shaking a girls boots, but it looks like spring is on its way, just very slowly. I’m so ready to step outside for some of my workouts but I don’t really like the cold so I’ve been staying true to my indoor circuits. Hopefully you guys haven’t let the cold weather slow you down.
Today I want to move away from the workout tips and swing over to the place where all the real differences happen, the nutrition side. I get lots of questions about workouts and what to do to achieve your certain goals, but I think I get even more questions about nutrition and supplements. What’s good? What’s bad? And some people just want to know what they are. This is a great time to touch on one of the biggest topics I get questions about: protein shakes.
Proteins are macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) found in foods that help the body build muscle. As it applies to building muscle and fitness, think about it like this: your workout breaks down your muscles while the protein you eat helps you build them back bigger and stronger. The most plentiful sources of proteins are found in meats like fish, chicken, game and steak, though you can also find smaller sources in various plant products. These whole food sources generally take longer to break down and absorb into the body than liquid forms and this is where protein shake supplements come into play.
So the simplest way to think of a protein shake is as fast absorbing “liquid chicken.” Toward the end and right after your workout your body is most receptive to absorbing proteins directly to the muscle, so this is the best time to get these nutrients into the body. Many experts debate about when is the absolute ideal time to take the shake, whether it be 10 minutes before you finish your workout or within 30 minutes post workout, but almost all agree that the recovery protein is important.
Generally speaking how much protein and calories you ingest throughout the day is really driven by your sex, weight, activity level and goals. As with all science, different scientists believe in different amounts, but an easy rule of thumb is if you are trying to really pack on the muscle, you can look to take between 1.0-2.0 grams of protein per pound you weigh.
On the low end, the USDA recommends around .37 grams of protein per pound of your weight. I think a good realistic goal is to shoot for at least 25 grams of protein at every meal. That’s the equivalent to a serving of chicken breast. When looking for a protein supplement shake, make sure it packs at least 20 grams of protein per serving and under 10 grams of sugar per serving. Some shakes have so much sugar in them that they could cause you to gain the wrong type of weight. When choosing a protein supplement, whey protein is the most common and is one of the quickest to absorb into your body’s muscles. Also make sure to check out the ingredients and try to find one that does not have artificial sugars or a lot of different additives. Sometimes they pack so many additives into the shakes that it may be doing more harm than good. I’ve found that when it comes to protein shakes, you generally get what you pay for.
Adding in protein supplements to the end of your workouts or as a meal supplement can help you maximize your results, by feeding your muscles the nutrients they need to recover and grow. Make sure you do your research before purchasing a certain brand to make sure you are getting the right shake for you. Overall try to add in more protein to your diet at each meal to go along with your workouts and your body will thank you.