Protein shakes should be viewed as a food supplement, to help ensure you consume enough protein and also for convenience.
Protein is made up of amino acids which are the building blocks of your body, from repairing muscles to refreshing skin. Ultra Nutrition recommends 2 grams of protein per 1 kg of body weight, every day.
Protein shakes come in 2 main varieties, whey protein or plant-based protein. Here are the components of them.
Whey protein is a biproduct of the cheese making process. The whey is processed to remove the carbohydrate and fat and you are left with a high purity whey protein. Whey protein is seen as the king of proteins because it is so easily and quickly absorbed. Generally, most whey proteins are so low in lactose that individuals with lactose intolerances can safely consume them.
This comes in a large variety of forms. There are a multitude of different plant-based proteins. Ultra Protein is a blend of 5 different plant-based proteins. This ensures that all amino acids are present and in the optimal quantities to ensure the protein is absorbed effectively by your body. Some cheaper plant-based proteins may only use pea protein or a blend of two plant-based proteins. This can lead to poor levels of the important amino acids which are required for the protein to be absorbed by your body.
Plant-based proteins offer a good non-dairy alternative way to bolster protein intake, the Ultra Nutrition blend is almost as high in the important amino acids as whey protein. A big benefit of plant-based proteins is their high fibre content.
Our advice would be to mix it up, have a few flavours of plant-based and whey and alternate them to ensure they taste fresh, so you don’t get bored and to ensure your amino acid intake is as broad as possible.
When to take it
The ideal situation for your body to be in is to constantly have a supply of protein. Different proteins take different amount of time to be processed and absorbed depending on the meals you consume so if you eat protein in every meal as we suggest you should always have it available in your body as it is constantly being digested.
If you want to take a supplement, we suggest taking it immediately after you exercise as a convenience measure. Its easy to shake a shake following a gym session and drink it, not so easy to eat a chicken dinner or a plate full of tofu.
Consuming it immediately after exercise will ensure the protein is there to repair your damaged muscles, however its also important to train hard enough to require it. You can’t expect to make strength gains, develop muscles or illicit a calorie burning response from your muscles repairing themselves if you don’t push them hard during sessions. If you have protein post workout you should have it with some carbohydrate to replace glycogen stores and no fat so that the protein and carbs are rapidly absorbed.
As well as post workout you can also use supplements between meals to ensure you hit your daily protein intake target, if you are doing this we would recommend treating it as you would any meal or snack and having it with fat, carbohydrate and fibre to make it a ‘complete’ meal.
You can find out more about Ultra Protein here.