ELHAM NUMAN/THE VARSITY

I never took supplements as a child and I grew up healthy, so I never saw the need to take them. I became intrigued when my boyfriend began bodybuilding and was encouraged to start taking protein supplements. As a pro–whole food kind of person, I did some research on the benefits of protein shakes.

Humans regularly need about 0.8 daily grams of protein for every kilogram they weigh. For those looking to gain some muscle, the recommended target is around 1.5 grams. Bodybuilders are encouraged to take protein supplements for muscle tissue repair and building. The body also demands protein when recovering from an injury, growing, or switching to a plant-based diet.

Different types of protein powders

Whey protein powders are the most popular on the market and provide all the essential amino acids needed for muscle repair and building. Derived from dairy proteins, whey is digested quickly and isn’t too filling. It typically comes in three different forms: concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate..

Concentrate is 35–80 per cent protein. It is the cheapest option and the easiest to flavour. Isolate is processed further to remove more fat and lactose, and it contains 90 per cent or more protein. Hydrolysate — the most expensive form — comes in a pre-digested state, making it the quickest to absorb. It is favoured by athletes, as well as those with immune problems because it is non-allergenic.

Soy protein powder is an alternative to whey. Derived from soybeans, it is appropriate for lactose-intolerant people or vegans. Like whey, it also comes in different forms: concentrate and isolate.

Casein protein powder is another common form of the supplement. It comes from dairy and is preferred when making shakes for its thickening properties.

Other protein powders include egg, hemp, rice, and pea, although they are not as popular. People with more restricted diets may favour these alternatives.

When to drink protein shakes?

Quick, easy, and rich in nutrients, protein shakes can be used as meal replacements. You can adjust the taste and nutrient content, but they do not compare to whole foods; be moderate in using protein shakes as meals.

Protein drinks can be beneficial after workouts. As mentioned earlier, the amino acids help your body repair torn muscle tissue.

Why not whole foods?

Although you can get the same amount of protein from whole foods such as meat, eggs, milk, fish, and nuts, protein supplements are more cost-effective and convenient. In addition, there are a large variety of flavours and ingredients that cater to different diets and individuals.

However, protein supplements are, as their name suggests, designed to supplement your diet and cannot take the place of whole foods. Supplements can certainly help you achieve your fitness goals if used as an add-on to a healthy and balanced whole food diet.

Stay up to date. Sign up for our weekly newsletter, sent straight to your inbox:

* indicates required