Protein powder definitely has its place if you are leading a very active lifestyle—especially one that involves weight training. Getting protein to your muscles as soon as you're done lifting weights aids muscle growth and recovery. There are also pre-workout protein powders, before bed protein powders and protein powders you can take during your workouts. But, with all of these different types of proteins and powders, how do you know when and how to use them? Here are five easy tips for using them in your diet.
1. Take your protein at the correct time. The best times to use a whey protein (the most common form) is before and/or immediately after you lift weights. Whey protein is designed to hit your muscles quickly so that they can grow and recover. However, you must take it within an hour after your workout or it loses some of its effectiveness. There is still some debate over the window of opportunity you have to take it after lifting weights, but keeping to the 60 minutes is a safe bet.
2. Add it to a pre-workout meal. You can reap the benefits of whey protein or another pre-workout protein by including them before you work out. If you lift in the morning, make a protein smoothie adding it in with your favorite fruits. Flavored proteins like vanilla or chocolate make a great addition to oatmeal or other hot cereals. You can even add some vanilla protein powder to your eggs and make a sweet crepe out of it and then topping it with some bananas and almond or peanut butter.
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3. Make a late afternoon snack with them. When the munchies start kicking in at around three or four o’clock, you certainly do not want to raid the vending machine or pantry grabbing something unhealthy and unfulfilling. One of the greatest things about protein is how it keeps you satiated for a long time so it is an excellent snack to get you over the hunger hump that often hits in the late afternoon. Again, a smoothie (or mixing it with just milk, juice or water) is a great snack and will keep you full until dinner time.
4. Drink a pre-bedtime protein drink. At the end of the day, casein protein is what you want to have as it provides your muscles protection from catabolizing while you sleep. Because you will be in an unfed state for many hours, your muscles can easily breakdown. Casein protein prevents this from happening so all your hard work will not be lost during the night.
5. Take a break from them every so often. There is no harm in using protein powders, but every now and then give your body a break from them. It does not have to be for very long. Even one day is good. Like anything else, too much of a good thing can be just that—too much.
When choosing a protein powder, make sure to read the ingredients. Stick with ones that have mostly natural ingredients without any fillers. After all, the reason for using protein powder is to give you a stronger, better recovered body, so why would you use one that can be detrimental to your health and ineffective?