Protein Intake: Who Can Benefit From Supplementation

Protein Intake: Who Can Benefit From Supplementation

Protein, the "building block" of life, plays a vital role in maintaining overall health and well-being. Why is protein such a crucial nutrient, who stands to benefit the most, and what are the various types of protein available, and the benefits they have to offer? Let's take a look...

Who Can Benefit From Protein Supplements?

Protein serves as the foundation for numerous bodily functions, including muscle building and repair, enzyme and hormone production, immune system support, and tissue maintenance. It's essential for individuals of all ages and lifestyles, but especially so for growing children and teenagers, active adults, athletes, the elderly and post-operative patients.

Protein supplements can benefit a wide range of individuals, including vegetarians, those following a plant-based diet (or predominantly plant-based), athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and the elderly. The recommended daily protein intake ranges from 0.8 to 1.9 grams per kilogram of body weight, depending on activity level, age, and life stage. Athletes require more protein for muscle recovery, adaptation and growth, whilst vegetarians and vegans may need supplements to ensure they receive all essential amino acids.

What is a 'Complete' Protein?

Proteins are made up of linked organic compounds called amino acids, which are essential for various functions in the body. They play a critical role in processes such as tissue repair, nutrient absorption, and the production of enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters. There are 20 different amino acids that the body uses to build proteins, and they can be divided into three groups: essential, non-essential and conditionally essential. Without an adequate supply of all the necessary amino acids, the body cannot efficiently produce the proteins needed for growth, repair, and maintenance.

A complete protein source contains all nine essential amino acids that the human body cannot produce on its own. Consuming complete proteins ensures that your body receives all the building blocks it needs to maintain and repair tissues, support immune function, and sustain overall health. Common sources of complete proteins include animal products such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy. There are also some plant-based sources, like quinoa, soy, and teff, which provide all essential amino acids, making them valuable additions to vegetarian and vegan diets. Blends of different sources of vegetarian and vegan protein are often combined in order to make a complete protein such as pea protein combined with brown rice protein.

When to Use Protein Supplements?

Protein powders offer a convenient and versatile way to boost protein intake, supporting health, muscle growth, repair, and athletic performance. They can aid in weight management by promoting satiety and slightly boosting metabolism. Additionally, protein powders can enhance nutrient intake, support bone health, and are available in various types, including vegan and allergen-friendly options. They can be easily incorporated into different recipes; smoothies, shakes, baking, and cooking, making them a practical choice for individuals with busy lifestyles or those who are finding it challenging to meet their protein needs through diet alone.

What Protein Supplements Should I Take?

Protein supplement choice depends on your dietary preferences, health goals, and any potential allergies or intolerances you may have. Each source has its own benefits and can be a convenient and effective way to ensure you get enough protein, especially if you have higher protein requirements or dietary restrictions. If you're not plant-based the two protein options are whey and casein: 

Whey Protein

  • Benefits: Complete protein source with all essential amino acids, particularly rich in leucine, which is crucial for muscle protein synthesis. Quick absorption rate makes it ideal for post-workout recovery and muscle building. Supports immune function and contains bioactive peptides that may have additional health benefits. 
  • Best For: Individuals needing a convenient, high-quality protein source to supplement their diet. Athletes and bodybuilders looking for a fast-absorbing protein to aid in muscle recovery and growth. Suitable for those who are not lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy products.

Casein Protein

  • Benefits: Slow-digesting protein, providing a steady release of amino acids. Ideal for muscle recovery during sleep. Helps in muscle preservation and growth.
  • Best For: Individuals looking for a slow-releasing protein source, ideal for nighttime use to support muscle recovery and prevent muscle breakdown.

What's the Best Vegan Protein Supplement? 

There are several vegan and vegetarian protein supplement options available, each offering unique benefits:

Hemp Protein

  • Benefits: Complete protein source with all essential amino acids, rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, high in fibre, and contains minerals like magnesium, iron, and zinc. Easily digestible and suitable for individuals with dairy or soy allergies.
  • Best For: Those looking for a well-rounded protein that also supports heart health and digestion.

Pea Protein 

  • Benefits: Made from yellow peas. High in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) for muscle growth and repair, easily digestible, hypoallergenic, and rich in iron. Environmentally friendly.
  • Best For: Individuals with allergies or sensitivities to dairy, soy, or gluten, and those looking to support muscle recovery.

Soy Protein

  • Benefits: Complete protein with all essential amino acids, rich in BCAAs, and contains antioxidants, phytoestrogens, and isoflavones which may have additional health benefits.
  • Best For: Those looking for a high-quality plant-based protein that supports muscle growth and overall health.

Brown Rice Protein 

  • Benefits: Easily digestible, hypoallergenic, rich in BCAAs, and contains fibre, vitamins, and minerals like magnesium and phosphorus.
  • Best For: People with food sensitivities or allergies and those looking for a protein source that supports muscle recovery and overall health.

Mixed Protein Source

  • Benefits: Often plant proteins are combined to create a complete amino acid profile such as pea, rice, and hemp. Balances the benefits of various plant proteins. Can provide a broader range of nutrients and health benefits.
  • Best For: Vegans and vegetarians looking for a balanced, complete protein source.

Protein is an indispensable nutrient that plays a crucial role in supporting overall health and well-being. Whether you're looking to maintain optimal health, take care of yourself through a particular life stage, build muscle, or enhance athletic performance, ensuring your diet provides you with enough protein is essential.

If you are considering adding a protein powder into you diet have a look at our fantastic protein products from Innermost and Nuzest.

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