Is Your Body Wasting Away?
After we hit 30 years old, our bodies become more susceptible to losing lean body mass (muscle), a condition referred to as sarcopenia. Sedentary lifestyles and poor nutrition can accelerate this degenerative condition. On the other hand, this loss of muscle can be prevented with regular exercise and getting adequate high-quality protein and protein drinks in our diets. In fact, a study performed at the University of Texas found that eating more protein can help seniors slow down muscle loss and stay strong, more so than exercise alone. Another issue as we age is that our digestive systems make less hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes, making it more difficult to digest the protein in our diets. When this happens, people typically avoid foods that are high in protein due to the uncomfortable sequelae—bloating and indigestion.
Exercise and Protein—A Winning Combination
As you increase the physical demands on your body, it is of increasing importance that you get adequate, high-quality protein from your diet. The current RDA for non-pregnant adults is .36 grams of protein/day per pound of body weight. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you would multiply 150 x .36 = 54 grams of protein per day. A review published in Clinical Nutrition in 2008 reported that the current RDA is too low to support optimal health and function and suggested elderly adults consume .68 grams of protein/day per pound of body weight. This is nearly double what the current RDA is. There are several other reports that have supported increasing protein intake above the RDA, unless you have a health problem such as kidney disease which requires a more restricted protein intake.
What Is the Best Type of Protein For You?
Protein drinks can be very beneficial if you are not getting enough protein in your diet, and they are typically easier to digest and absorb than most high-protein foods. What type is best–whey, soy, casein, brown rice, vegetable pea? Out of all of the forms of protein supplements available, whey protein has the highest biological value, meaning that it is the easiest to digest and absorb into your cells. Research has also shown that easily digested and absorbed proteins such as whey consumed within two hours of a workout boost recovery and muscle rebuilding. Casein is the other protein counterpart to whey that is naturally found in milk. Casein can also be a beneficial source of protein. I recommend avoiding soy protein for a couple of reasons. Over 90 percent of soy is GMO (genetically modified) and it also has an estrogenic effect on the body. If you are looking for a vegetarian source of protein, it is best to get a mix of vegetable pea and brown rice protein. Blending these two vegetable proteins together creates a full spectrum of amino acids—the building blocks of protein.
Are All Protein Supplements Created Equal?
The next dilemma to face is what you should look for when choosing a protein powder. Considering that whey and casein come from milk, the source should be certified hormone-free from cows not given rBGH or BST. These proteins should also be processed at low temperatures to avoid damaging the proteins plus naturally occurring immunoglobulins, which are necessary for proper immune function. If your choosing a vegetarian protein source like vegetable pea or brown rice protein, make sure that it is not genetically modified (non-GMO).
Last but not least, you want a protein powder that tastes good. If it tastes like you tried to put a piece of cardboard through your blender, you are less likely to make these protein drinks a part of your day. Also you want to make sure the protein powder is naturally flavored instead of artificially flavored. Typically protein powders will have a sweetener added to them. Avoid powders with added sugar, corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame. These sweeteners can promote an increase in body fat. A natural sweetener such as Stevia is recommended for optimal benefits.
Protein powder has many benefits including ease of use for both you and your body. Using these basic guidelines you can be sure that you choose what is best for your health and well-being. Protein powders should mix instantly with your beverage of choice—water, milk, almond milk, or kefir (my favorite), for a delicious post-workout smoothie.