If you don't yet know about the importance of protein for fat loss, building muscle, and overall health, you'll want to change that, stat.
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Protein contains amino acids - the building blocks for muscle growth. It's easily found in the foods that we eat, but can also be supplemented in protein powders, sometimes available as shakes, bars and capsules. Hitting your protein goals while working out is a sure-fire way to see results, and the likes of Victoria Beckham, Kourtney Kardashian and Adele love the benefits.
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What is protein powder good for and when to use it?
Protein is a macronutrient (or an important part of your diet, to you and me) that helps to reduce your hunger hormone levels, as well as helping to repair muscle and promote muscle strength.
Impact Whey Protein, from £12.99, Myprotein
Introducing a protein powder to support your daily diet can seriously help to amp up your muscle gain, and accelerate fat loss. The NHS recommends 0.75g of protein per kilogram of body weight a day but, several recent studies suggest that if you're highly active, you need far more protein in your diet to see results. This is where protein powder comes in, in the form of pre or post-workout smoothies, protein baked goods and tasty protein-rich recipes. Think of it as your rocket fuel for a healthy, active lifestyle.
Personal trainer Tom Opper, founder of Top Fitness explains: "This amount should be scaled up dependent on your current calorie intake and levels of body fat - as a general rule of thumb, if you are in a calorie deficit you’ll require more protein to maintain or build muscle mass, and this is amplified dependent on how lean you currently are. Essentially, the less body fat someone has, and the less they eat, the more protein they’ll need to maintain and build muscle." Noted!
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How to choose the right protein powder
Choosing the right protein powder for you depends on your fitness and lifestyle goals, and luckily there's plenty to choose from.
- Whey protein is one of the most commonly used proteins and is best for everyday use to build muscle. It contains all of the essential amino acids and is easily digested, helping to boost energy and can reduce stress levels.
- Soy protein helps reduce high cholesterol and can even ease symptoms of menopause for some women. Soy is a key ingredient for building bone mass, which can ease osteoporosis.
- Egg protein, released more slowly than whey, can be taken throughout the day and is great for muscle recovery. Milk proteins help support immune function and enhance muscle growth.
- Brown rice protein, which is 100% plant-based, is a great protein alternative for vegans. It’s also gluten-free.
- Pea protein is highly digestible, hypo-allergenic and economical. It's full of fibre too, which helps decrease bloating and improve digestion.
- Hemp protein is also 100% plant-based. It’s a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
How to use protein powder
You know why you need protein, but how do you use it? For best results, most guidelines recommend taking your protein within 60 minutes of a workout. That’s when your muscles are most responsive to the use of protein for the repair and growth process. Try blending your protein powder into a healthy post-workout smoothie, or baking it into flapjacks or banana bars for a sweet treat after getting your sweat on.
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If weight loss is part of your fitness journey, it’s best to consume a steady supply of protein at each meal and snack to help keep you full throughout the day.
Best protein powder for weight loss
Shreddy French Vanilla Protein, £20, Superdrug
Founded by Grace Beverley, SHREDDY's three proteins are made of pea protein, meaning they’re entirely vegan-friendly. They’re also a great source of fibre, which is essential for regulating your digestive system and helps to keep you feeling full and keep cravings at bay. Dessert delicious, totally nutritious - this vegan French Vanilla protein powder tastes way more indulgent than it really is.
Myprotein Impact Diet Whey
Impact DIET Whey Protein, from £8.99, Myprotein
Impact Diet Whey is a whey protein powder that has been specially developed to provide a boost of protein without unnecessary carbs. With added glutamine, which naturally occurs in protein, this protein helps to build and repair new muscle - without the high-calorie content of most protein powders.
Best protein powder for women
Dose & Co
Collagen Protein Powder, £24.99, Holland & Barrett
The perfect powder blend to boost energy, increase muscle strength and support muscle recovery. With 10 grams of bovine collagen and 20 grams of whey protein per serving, this high dose collagen combination supports hair, skin and nails as well as helping you hit your muscle growth goals.
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Best protein powder for muscle gain
TRIBE Vegan Protein Powder, £15.50, Amazon
TRIBE's popular protein powders are made from an optimal combination of pea protein and rice protein, a blend that provides a complete amino acid profile. Each TRIBE Shake Blend is comprised of just 4 additional ingredients, specifically selected to support the recovery process after your gym sesh.
Best tasting protein powder
The Organic Protein Company
Organic Whey Protein Powder, £24, Amazon
Finding a protein powder that provides all the ingredients to support your lifestyle and fitness goals and tastes good is easier said than done. Luckily, the Organic Protein Company is changing the taste game when it comes to protein, and their organic whey powders boast rave reviews for flavour and hundreds of five-star ratings.
We tried the Banana and Lucama flavour to see if it lived up to the hype - and we weren't disappointed. Deliciously malty and a natural banana flavour without the lasting artificial taste that comes with most proteins, the Organic Protein Company have nailed the balance between key, quality ingredients and delicious flavour.
HERMOSA Sculpt Protein, £65, Oxygen Boutique
Even Harry Styles used to ask for tubs of HERMOSA to take from behind the Fuel Bar after a Barry's Bootcamp as he was such a fan. David Beckham and Ellie Goulding also can be counted as fans. HERMOSA powders are made with only the best, non-GMO ingredients, responsibly sourced - criminally smooth and super clean. And HERMOSA thinks they taste so good they’ll become your reason to work out in the first place.
Best whey protein powder
Pure Whey Protein, was £18.99, now £10.14, Bulk
The central building block to any training programme and trusted fan favourite, will replenish you with over 22g of high-quality protein after a workout. Available in almost every delectable Bulk flavour one could wish for, including Salted Caramel, Rocky Road and Chocolate Cookies, Pure Whey also provides 5g of BCAAs to enhance and support your muscle growth.
Blue Fuel Rebuild Whey Protein Powder, £13.99, Amazon
Loved by the players of Chelsea Football Club, Blue Fuel is an ultra-popular protein powder amongst athletes. Recent studies show that whole-body exercise requires a higher amount of protein per day to help athletes maintain and grow muscle mass. That’s why Blue Fuel added 30g of whey protein to their Rebuild Powder – to help support muscle maintenance and growth after playing or training.
Best vegan protein powder
Vegan Protein Powder, £19, Misfits
Not only does this vegan-friendly protein powder pack a serious punch when it comes to providing your workout fuel, but the formula also contains Papain, an enzyme found in papaya fruit. This facilitates the breakdown of proteins and stimulates digestion to help you get the most from your protein (and avoid that nasty bloat).
Inulin (a prebiotic) and Bacillus Coagulans (a probiotic) not only help the digestive system but can also benefit the digestion and absorption of the proteins.
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