Protein supplements have been around in various forms for centuries, and they’ve been used for everything from fueling ancient armies to building muscle and strength for modern athletes.
Even with all the fancy new supplements that come on the market each year, a good, solid protein powder remains at the top of just about every serious strength athlete’s list of essential dietary tools, and for good reason — it works!
If you’re not already paying attention to your protein intake, here are 5 benefits of protein supplements and why you should be taking them now.
Bigger Muscles and Increased Strength
Of course, the main reason that guys lift weights and take supplements in the first place is to build bigger muscles and move more iron in the gym. Right?
If our biceps swell or our squat numbers go up, then we’re happy, and helping us in this quest is the main strength of protein supplements.
After all, the building blocks of human muscle tissue are amino acids, and the ONLY way to get all of the eight essential aminos is to eat plenty of high-quality protein. Modern supplements can provide us with the purest forms of protein on the planet and help us supply our muscles with all the amino acids they need, when they need them.
That’s not just theory, either, as US Army researchers reviewed literature in 2015 and reported that protein supplements can help strength athletes add significant amounts of lean mass and improve training performance.
Better Workout Recovery
Even if you’re not too concerned with muscle size, chances are that you want to perform your best in the gym, which means that you need to recover optimally from each session.
Protein supplements have you covered there, too.
In particular, a 2010 study out of The College of New Jersey reported that post-workout supplementation with protein can improve short-term muscle recovery by 2-3 times over a placebo.
Getting enough quality protein throughout the day can be a real challenge if you rely just on “real” food. Not only do you have to carry your meat or eggs (or whatever) with you wherever you go, you also have to figure out a way to keep them refrigerated until you’re ready to eat them.
It can be done, but what a pain!
Protein supplements make sticking with your eating plan much easier, because they’re so darned convenient.
You can take protein bars or little baggies of protein powder with you no matter what you’re up to, and most modern powder mixes easily with water. Just tear open the bar or stir your protein into a cup, and you have an instant, high-quality protein source.
No muss, no fuss, and you’re back in business in less than five minutes.
Aside from requiring a lot of time and effort, whole food protein sources can be tough to digest if you’re consuming 30 grams or more several times per day. That amount of protein would have you eating pounds of meat or dozens of eggs to meet your daily requirements.
Do you think that amount of high-protein food would be hard to digest? You bet it would!
In contrast, one scoop of a typical whey protein powder provides 20-30 g of protein, which is roughly a meal’s worth. Mix it with water, drink it down, and you’ll have amino acids coursing through your blood stream in no time.
That’s a marked difference from the hours of digestion time required to get at the protein from a slab of beef.
Now, whole food provides all sorts of other nutrients and benefits that a simple protein powder does not, and food should still form the bulk of your diet. But supplements are a great way to boost your protein intake without killing your digestive system.
While you CAN get all your protein from whole food, it gets expensive fast. Not many lifters have the budgetary flexibility to eat lean steak several times a day, after all.
There are more affordable whole-food sources of protein, of course, with eggs, peanut butter, milk, and beans all fitting that bill. They all have drawbacks, though, ranging from poor protein quality to high fat content.
A good whey powder, meanwhile, falls right in line with the most affordable whole-food options to provide you with a cheap, quality protein source.
More, More, More!
The more scientists study humans, from peak performance to aging, the more clear it becomes that protein is an essential part of an optimal diet. Modern protein supplements are now used across a wide range of health fields, and new benefits emerge all the time.
Clear any dietary changes with your physician, but if you need a dietary boost, it might be time to start the benefits of protein supplements.