One of the most common supplements that athletes may have been told they “need” to take is protein powder. These can be useful tools in your nutritional bag of tricks, but it is important to know why, for whom, when and which to use.

Why use a protein powder?
Protein powders are concentrated, processed forms of real foods. Keeping this in mind, this is obviously in direct opposition to the Paleo recommendation of eating whole foods that come without an ingredient list. Care must be taken as it can be quite easy to consume more liquid calories than one would if they were to eat solid foods. The upside is that they are quick to prepare, highly portable and easy to store. It is quite feasible to keep a canister at your desk at work to be used in case of a lack of better options.

Who should use protein powder?
The best populations to use protein powders on a regular basis are those who cannot manage to eat enough solid food protein daily due to appetite or dietary restrictions (vegan/vegetarian), those looking to gain weight and as part of a plan for post-workout (PWO) nutrition.

When should you take your protein powder?
If looking for weight gain, supplement with protein powder in-between regular meals to get an easily digestible blast of calories and nutrients. If you just can’t bring yourself to eat enough real foods and you know you’re shorting yourself, add protein shakes one or more times a day but ensure you still have solid foods to keep your digestive system working properly. PWO nutrition is self-explanatory — consume within roughly 30 minutes of finishing your workout. Robb Wolf has an excellent article on whether you should make your PWO shake high- or low-carb, depending on your goals.

Which kind of protein powder to get?

There are a number of different proteins to choose from. The most common choice will be whey protein, which is made from milk. It is highly and quickly digestible, which makes it a great choice if being used for PWO purposes. The downside if using as a meal replacement is that you will get hungry quite soon after consuming. It also may be a problem if you have milk allergies. A decent rule of thumb when determining if whey (or any dairy, for that matter) is causing you problems is if you experience any of the following:

  • Do you feel gassy and bloated?
  • Do you suffer from flatulence?
  • Do you have a stuffy nose?
  • Do you feel excess mucous production in your head and throat?

Another milk derived protein is casein and is subject to the same allergy issues as whey. This is a slower digesting option which should be reserved for times other than PWO. It is commonly used prior to bed and may also stave off hunger longer than whey.

For strict vegans, there are soy, brown rice, hemp and pea proteins. These are better than nothing at all, but if you’re not vegan I would recommend avoiding these.

The problem with most of these proteins is that they will have a large dose of artificial sweeteners. However, you can often find egg protein powder without sweeteners. Even better, most egg proteins are fully Paleo-compliant. The downside is that not all brands taste very great. You may need to try a few different egg proteins before you find a palatable option.

Used in moderation, protein powders may help keep you on track when you have a lack of other options or boost the nutritional content of your recipes. By no means are they an absolute necessity. In fact, you should ensure you have your fish oils before shopping for any other supplements.

WOD – 10.26.09

15 WB
Med Ball Run
5 Basket Tosses

cash out: 5 Partner Pistols (each leg)

8 Responses to “Supplements: Protein Powders”

October 26, 2009 at 8:15 AM

Ooo OOooh!
I love surprise WODs!
…as in: ‘Surprise! Serena can’t make it!’

October 26, 2009 at 10:09 AM

She is just afraid I will smash her on burpees…

October 26, 2009 at 2:34 PM

Hahahahaha… oh man, Jake, that’s a good one!

Can’t wait for the next showdown! ;)

Michael H
October 26, 2009 at 9:23 PM

Awesome job everyone… Good seeing ya back out Michelle and Al! Nick lookin strong can’t wait to see ya at full capacity because you’re gonna explode!

4 rds @ 8:58
20 wall ball
15 sit ups
5 pushups
5 ball toss

October 26, 2009 at 10:42 PM

15 wb #14
15-20 sit-ups with #14
5 basket toss

October 27, 2009 at 10:31 AM

It’s always fun working out in the park! My new goal is to do a full flipping burpee – awesome warmup today Ruth.


October 27, 2009 at 1:11 PM

Yes, I totally agree!! Stephanie was so much fun :) hehe

15 wb #8
run w/ med ball #8
5 basket toss #8

October 27, 2009 at 1:48 PM

Oops – almost forgot to post my time!! Had a great time yesterday – thanks for letting us crash the WOD.