Not all protein shakes are created equal. Protein powders can help you reach different goals, from meal replacement and weight loss, to post-workout muscle recovery, to helping you with your journey of overall better health. Here are some different high quality protein options to help every fitness-conscious woman meet her individual goals.
Fat Burning and Meal Replacement
Whey protein is definitely the most popular protein powder available on the market. Whey is rich in leucine, an amino acid that plays a role in protein synthesis and stimulates fatty acid oxidation. Milk proteins like whey can stimulate the production of a hormone that is released after eating that signals satiety, which is the feeling of fullness and satisfaction after a meal. Try a high quality whey protein as a meal replacement shake when you are trying to burn fat.
Recent research shows that a vegan diet is the most effective for weight loss, and a vegan protein powder like pea protein can be a great tool to reach this goal. Pea protein is high in protein, and a high quality pea protein powder can deliver about 25 grams in every scoop, or approximately the same as whey protein powder. If you are trying to lose weight, increasing your protein intake may help you do it. In a study published in Nutrition Metabolism, participants who increased their protein intake to 30% of their diet consumed an average of 450 calories less each day, leading to an 11 pound weight loss over a 12-week period.
Repair and Build Muscle
One reason that whey protein is preferred by fitness-conscious women is its ability to help muscle protein synthesis (MPS). The amino acids found in whey protein, particularly leucine, activate MPS. Muscle growth can only occur if MPS exceeds muscle protein breakdown, so be sure to have a whey protein shake immediately after your workouts if your goal is to increase muscle mass.
Casein, like whey, is another protein from milk. Unlike whey, which is a fast-digesting protein, casein provides a slower, prolonged release of amino acids over time. This makes casein especially effective at maintaining muscle, and reducing muscle damage that can occur for up to 48 hours after a workout. Casein is also extremely high in the amino acid glutamine that can help support a healthy immune system.
For maximum muscle-building benefits, incorporate both whey and casein protein into your shakes. Immediately after your workout, have a protein shake with whey powder, and before bed have a shake with casein powder.
Replacing animal protein with soy protein has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, and studies have shown soy protein to help control hypoglycemia symptoms and reduce body weight. In postmenopausal women, soy was found to positively influence bone and calcium levels to help reduce the risk of bone loss.
Brown rice protein is a completely gluten-free protein option that provides beneficial fiber, which is important for heart and digestive health, in addition to B-vitamins and complex carbohydrates. Brown rice protein lacks the amino acid lysine, but if you pair it with milk or soy milk you can turn it into a complete protein.
Vegan and Vegetarian Lifestyle
Hemp protein provides beneficial fiber and Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids, in a balanced anti-inflammatory ratio. Hemp protein has plenty of vitamins and minerals, like vitamin E, calcium and magnesium. Although hemp protein has all of the amino acids to be considered complete, the levels of lysine, leucine and l-tryptophan are extremely low. That means hemp is best mixed as a complementary protein, or mixed with another protein like pea or soy.
Peas are almost 80 to 90 percent protein, and pea protein has plenty of branched chain amino acids (BCAA) close to those found in milk and eggs. BCAAs have been shown to delay fatigue during exercise. Pea protein is a completely vegan protein with a neutral flavor, and is hypoallergenic. People with allergies to soy, dairy, and gluten can all benefit from pea protein.
Brown Rice Protein
Brown rice protein has been studied against whey protein, and has been shown to decrease fat mass, increase lean body mass, and increase power and strength in numbers comparable to whey protein isolate. The amino acid content of brown rice protein is similar to that of whey. Whereas whey is a quick digesting protein and casein is slow, brown rice falls right in the middle, helping with MPS and reducing muscle damage post workout. Brown rice is also hypoallergenic.
Once you have decided on the perfect protein powder, or powders, to help you achieve your fitness and weight loss goals, try to think outside of the blender. Your protein powder can be more than a shake; it can be used to create protein powder pancakes, mixed with pudding to create a delicious dessert, or become the star ingredient in a homemade protein bar.