However- I forget that not everyone lives this kind of lifestyle and has such a regimented diet.... nor should they! It's hard to remember the days where I would eat whatever I wanted and not plan my meals a week ahead or based on my training levels!
A lot of my friends come to me for nutrition advice which I love giving out- I love helping people and I was just as misinformed/ uneducated as them not too long ago so sharing my own knowledge and experiences is something others can benefit from but I am totally happy to help!
One thing I get asked about a lot is protein. I honestly believe that getting your head around protein and increasing your protein intake is the key to a good diet. Some girls ask me "but doesn't protein make you put on weight" or "do I need to drink protein shakes then?".... I totally understand it can be confusing so here are a few questions and answers which should help.
By the way I am not a registered dietitian or nutritionist or have any qualifications to be giving out dietary advice, however this is based on what has worked for ME and what I have learnt from various sources including my own trainers, other dietitians and other credible sources- however if you feel that my advice is incorrect please let me know! I am also continually interested in learning about nutrition!!!
How much protein should I be eating in a day?
So the recommended intake for a woman is between 36-60g of protein a day- however if you are weight training and lead quite an active lifestyle I would go as far as saying near enough DOUBLE this....
I try and include a protein source in every single meal as well as protein supplements as protein helps repair, restore and build muscle- all my main priorities in terms of training.
Protein also reduces your appetite and boosts your metabolism, therefore making it a staple part of your diet can help you to lose weight and stop you snacking throughout the day and help you feel fuller!
I would aim for 1/4 of your meal to be made up with protein as a starting point, with another 1/4 carbohydrates and 1/2 made up of vegetables. This is a rough guide to make sure you get enough on the plate!
What are the best protein sources?
So protein is found in meat, fish, eggs, beans and pulses, certain vegetables and dairy products. However- not all of these foods are complete proteins- this is a key piece of information!
There are 9 amino acids which your body needs (8 essential, this is debatable) and they must be obtained from your diet, the other 12 your body can make itself however it is critical you get ALL of the others from your diet.
Animal proteins have all of the essential amino acids and therefore are your best bet at getting a complete protein source. The best are fish, chicken, turkey, salmon, shrimp and lean beef. Eggs and dairy are also complete protein sources as well as soybeans, hempseed, buckwheat, blue green algae and quinoa, which are the only non-animal sources of protein!
There are other non-complete protein sources such as nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains. However these do not contain all of the essential amino-acids and therefore it is important to combine more than one source in order for your body to absorb the protein.
I seriously wish someone would have told me this when I was a vegetarian- there was me eating a bag of peanuts thinking I was getting enough protein and I was totally unaware my body wasn't absorbing the protein! Hense I was tired, weak and skinny fat!! Going back to eating chicken was one of the best things I did in terms of diet!
Should I be taking protein shakes?
This is an entirely personal choice and you can still get amazing results without drinking protein shakes! However- I personally do have a protein shake after training in the gym as I try and consume a high level of protein throughout the day and especially after a weight training session, it's important for your body to absorb protein within 30 minutes of your workout to start the muscle recovery process. It would be impractical for me to cook up a chicken breast or have boiled eggs after the gym, I find it much easier just to take some protein powder and make it up and drink it as I leave the gym.
If you're struggling to obtain a high level of protein elsewhere in your diet, shakes are definitely useful and are a great way of upping your protein quickly, hassle-free with little preparation.
Which protein shake should I go for?
This entirely depends on your goals!
There are a few different types of protein shakes and it can be a little confusing at first when deciding which one to go for!
Whey protein: it's a by product of milk and therefore contains all of your amino-acids and is the most common type of protein supplement. It tastes the best, is usually fairly cheap and is widely available.
Whey concentrate: This has small amounts of carbohydrates and fat in addition to pure protein content.
Whey isolate: these are further processed to remove carbs and fats which make a more pure protein source, however they are usually more expensive and can be absorbed by the body much faster.
Casein protein: this is the other part of the milk (i.e. not the whey), however the body takes much longer to aborb this type of protein.
Soy and hemp: These vegetable-based proteins do contain all of the essential amino acids, but they don't taste nearly as good as the milk-based proteins (in my opinion) are aren't as widely available. However they are a good option for vegans!
What are the best brands for protein shakes?
OK- don't be pulled into marketing cons with this one, there is no better male/female protein shakes and usually they contain the exact same ingredients! However, there are some protein supplements which offer unique benefits such as PhD Diet Whey which has whey concentrate, isolate AND soya protein, green tea, flaxseed and other supplements which support weight loss. This is my go-to protein shake as it tastes absolutely delicious and is of really good quality! However it is a little pricey!!!!
My protein also has a vast range of protein sources in some really yummy sounding flavours! They also do a diet whey similar to PhD!
Finally Protein world are a really highly recommended brand, however they are on the pricey side!
Make sure you shop around to get the best deals, it's worth checking amazon/ other fitness sites to check if they have offers on! Make sure you check the ingredients so you know what you're getting!
When should I take protein shakes?
If you decide protein shakes are the next step for you in terms of increasing your protein intake, then I would recommend taking them post-workout to increase muscle recovery, however you can also use protein powder as a baking ingredient in some yummy healthy recipes!
But PLEASE, I repeat PLEASE do not use them as meal replacements!!! They are not food they are a supplement and therefore should be treated as an addition to your diet- they aren't a balanced meal made of protein, carbohydrates, fats and vegetables and therefore shouldn't be in replacement of one!!
I think I have answered all of the questions I could think of! I think the bottom line is, in order to lose weight/ build muscle/ get a healthier diet, you need to up your protein intake, make sure that you are consuming complete proteins regularly, whether that be through animal proteins, a combination of non-animal proteins or protein shakes. Protein shakes are NOT just for bulking up and can be an effective way of getting more protein into your diet but are not 100% essential!
Please get in touch should you have any more questions- I will always do my best to help based on my own knowledge and experience!