Types of protein that support health and fitness
Protein plays a multifaceted role in fitness. It aids in muscle growth, repair and recovery, helps manage body composition and supports overall athletic performance. By incorporating high-quality protein sources into your diet, you can optimize your fitness journey and achieve your goals effectively.
Quality protein sources include:
- Lean beef, pork or chicken (90% lean or higher)
- Salmon, tuna, herring, sardines, cod, tilapia, halibut or haddock
- Walnuts, pecans, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds
- Beans and lentils
Protein supplements, such as protein powders, offer a convenient and concentrated source of protein to support muscle growth, recovery and overall fitness goals.
The different types of protein supplements include:
- Whey protein: Whey protein is one of the most-used protein supplements. It’s derived from milk during the cheese-making process. Whey protein is highly regarded for its complete amino acid profile, excellent digestibility and rapid absorption. It’s rich in essential amino acids, which are crucial in stimulating muscle protein synthesis (MPS).
- Casein protein: Like whey protein, casein protein is derived from milk. However, it’s digested and absorbed more slowly than whey protein. This slow-release characteristic makes casein a popular choice as a nighttime protein supplement or for prolonged periods without food, such as during sleep. It provides a sustained release of amino acids, supporting muscle recovery and minimizing muscle breakdown.
- Soy protein: Soy protein is derived from soybeans and is a suitable option for individuals following vegetarian or vegan diets. It is a complete protein source and contains all essential amino acids. Soy protein also offers additional health benefits, as it is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and may positively affect heart health.
- Pea protein: Pea protein is derived from yellow split peas and is an excellent choice for those with specific dietary restrictions or allergies. It’s naturally vegan, gluten-free and hypoallergenic. Pea protein is rich in branched-chain amino acids, which are important for muscle recovery and growth.
- Rice protein: Rice protein is derived from brown or white rice. It is also suitable for individuals with dietary restrictions because it’s vegan, gluten-free and hypoallergenic. Rice protein is easily digestible and provides a good source of amino acids, although it may be lower in certain essential amino acids compared to other protein sources.
- Hemp protein: Hemp protein is derived from hemp seeds and is a plant-based protein option. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and minerals. However, it may be lower in some essential amino acids. Combining hemp protein with other plant-based protein sources can help create a complete amino acid profile.
While protein supplements can be a convenient way to boost your protein intake, they shouldn’t replace whole foods, which provide a wide range of essential nutrients for your overall health. Protein supplements support a well-rounded diet.
How much protein is recommended?
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dieticians of America and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend physically active individuals to consume 0.5 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
They also recommend consuming an average of 15 to 25 grams of protein up to two hours after exercise to increase MPS. That same amount is recommended every three to five hours over multiple meals to maximize muscular adaptation. Your protein needs may vary depending on factors such as training intensity, duration and personal goals. Consulting with a registered dietitian or a sports nutritionist can help you determine the optimal protein intake for your specific fitness requirements.
Read this blog for information on how protein helps you reach your fitness goals.