Of all the supplements I see in my office, protein powder is the most common. But like all products, even the best powder can fail if not used correctly. So, what should you do to make sure your powder does it what promises to? Follow these steps...
1. Assess your reason for using it
Are you trying to lose weight? Bulk up? Lean out? Are you a vegetarian or vegan needing to up your daily protein intake for overall health? Figuring out why you think you need a protein powder is an important step before you buy a powder. This is because powders are often formulated for specific reasons, from different protein sources and with different additives. Using a good powder for the wrong reasons makes it the wrong powder.
2. Buy a good product
Once you determine your reasons for buying a powder and that you actually need it (note: often protein powders are unnecessary), buy a good product. Pick a product that is certified as clean and safe. Visit www.NSF.org, www.USP.org or www.informed-choice.org to view certified products. These products are certified to be free of illegal and banned substances and to actually contain what the label says. Whether or not you are an athlete being drug-tested, it is nice to know that you are using a clean product. Also, realize that often companies often put a lot of extra "stuff" into protein powders when you really just need protein. More is not better when it comes to the ingredient list.
3. Time it correctly
The best time to incorporate a protein powder is post-workout because this is when liquid calories are most important. Using liquid calories post-workout assures the nutrients get to your muscles fast for efficient recovery. However, many athletes also like to use protein powders in smoothies for breakfast because it is fast and easy. This is the second-best time of day to incorporate protein powder.
4. Don't go overboard
When it comes to protein powders, many athletes believe that more is better. However, I have had athletes put on body fat instead of muscle because they were using protein powders 3 or 4 times a day and/or double the dosage recommended. Too much protein intake can just as easily lead to body fat gain as too much fat or carbohydrate intake. Use protein powders no more than once daily to leave room for protein intake from real foods such as meats, poultry, fish, nuts, nut butters, dairy, beans, soy/tofu and legumes. Protein powders should really only be used for convenience; there is nothing magical about protein in powder form and you won't get everything from protein powder that you can get from food protein sources.
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