The Ultimate Guide to Protein Supplements: What They Are, When to Take Them & How They Work

Whatever your health, fitness and general lifestyle goals may be, protein plays a crucial role in helping you achieve them.

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding protein supplements and we’re here to clear things up.

Although it is true that protein helps with the maintenance and growth of muscle mass, supplements, shakes and bars are not the sole preserve of frequent gym-goers looking for bigger biceps – far from it in fact. Protein is an essential macronutrient and is key to developing strong, healthy bones and also helps with the creation of red blood cells.

While there’s simply no substitute for a balanced, healthy diet, protein supplements are an excellent way to increase your daily protein intake, especially if you lead a particularly busy lifestyle.

In this guide we’ll cover some of the most pressing and frequently-asked questions relating to protein, the various benefits and types of supplement that you can use, as well as how and when you should consume protein to maximise its potential.

What is protein?

First things first then, let’s answer the burning question – what is protein? Regardless of your age, gender, health, fitness levels or personal goals, we all need protein in our diets.

But why?

Protein is defined by many experts and sports nutritionists as the building blocks of our bodies, providing us with the platform from which we can grow, tone, maintain and repair muscle, bones, cartilage, skin and blood. It is a component of every cell in our body; for example, your hair and nails are mostly made of protein.

You need it to make enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals. It also helps us to fight back against illnesses by developing new antibodies that help our immune systems to function to their full potential. A lot of proteins are made naturally within our bodies, but in order to get the “ideal” amount we have to look to different food sources.

What foods are high in protein?

Meats such as chicken and steak, alongside fish, eggs and nuts are all excellent sources of protein. For those who are vegetarian or allergic to any of these; Quorn is also a suitable protein source.

Other high-protein foods include peanuts, pistachios, beans and pulses, quinoa, turkey and – like them or loathe them – Brussels sprouts!

Protein is also available in the shape of various supplements and shakes which, in some cases, are easier to consume than the various food groups. Those with specific dietary requirements or allergies to certain foods such as dairy products may be unable to consume cottage cheese, Greek yoghurt or milk for instance, and may require a different method to get their daily protein intake.

This is where protein supplements, shakes and bars can be particularly useful as part of a well-structured diet and not only to help build muscle mass.

What are the benefits of protein?

In order to create energy for your body to use, we all need three macronutrients: fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Each of these bring a number of calories, which are transformed into energy. Many of us are wary of calories because we have to work them off so as not to put on excess weight.

Protein, as we’ve already covered, is used in the growth and repair of muscles and as such we need this particular macronutrient in order to rebuild our muscles after exercising, to transport substances around the body and to help us lose weight by kick-starting the metabolic process, which we will cover in more detail shortly.

Can a high-protein diet help with weight loss?

Various studies – such as this one conducted in the US in 2014 – have suggested that protein can help to speed up your metabolism – the process in which the body turns food into energy. A faster metabolism means that the food is used up more quickly and this increases your chances of losing weight.

Your metabolism is a series of chemical processes which your body performs in order to keep you alive. These processes include breathing, repairing cells and digesting food and transforming it into useful energy, which you can then use throughout the day or in shorter bursts during a cardiovascular training session.

A high-protein diet can help with weight loss provided that it is consumed in the right way – as with all diets, it is important to consume the right amounts of each of the different macronutrients. Taking on too much protein, either through high-protein foods, whey protein shakes or other supplements, can have a negative effect because the body will take on additional calories, meaning that you may end up putting weight on by mistake.

It’s important to note, however, that protein can make you feel fuller for longer, making you less likely to eat fatty or sugary snacks that help to satisfy your cravings. A study by researchers at Maastricht University in The Netherlands compared a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet against a low-fat, high-protein diet; those on the high-protein diet were more successful in maintaining or losing weight over a 12-week period.

The demand for lean protein supplements has increased dramatically in the UK in recent years, as shown by the Google Trends graph above, which highlights the growing number of people using the search engine to find “lean protein powder” since 2004.

That’s why it’s always important to check the nutritional tables on supplements. Products like the Active PRO80 powder are particularly good for those who want to up their protein intake while at the same time keeping an eye on their waistline.

What is whey protein and how does it stack up against other supplements?

“What is the best protein powder for me?” This is an extremely common question and understandably so – after all, there are many different types of supplement out there.

For fast availability before, during or after a workout, whey is your best bet. Whey protein is rapidly and easily absorbed by the body, helping to repair the muscles quickly while also satisfying the craving for something to eat having used your energy during exercise.

Our whey protein powders are designed to be mixed with water, ensuring that it gets to your muscles as quickly as possible. It’s ideal if you’re looking to build muscle.

Whey is certainly not your only option, though. Whole milk protein products have the highest biological value, taste fantastic and tend to be more filling (though not as fast-acting as whey).

Aside from protein powders, many people use branched chain amino acid (BCAA) supplements. Used to support muscle building and reduce tiredness and soreness, they are best consumed pre or post-workout. Containing Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine, BCAAs play a vital role in protein synthesis.

How much protein should I consume each day?

This very much depends on the make-up of your body and your goals. As a general guide, the average person is recommended to take in between 1.5 and 2g of protein per kilogram of body weight.

Of course, this can vary depending on your diet. inkospor® shakes are classified as “food” and there are clear directions for use on all products.

When should I have a protein shake or supplement?

There is a lot of confusion and misinformation around when the best time to take protein supplements is or when you should have a protein shake.

The fact is that there is a period of time immediately after exercise known as the “anabolic window” where the body has between 30 and 45 minutes of recovery time. This is the best time to have your protein shake or bar, as it can get straight into your system because your metabolism is still working hard and protein will help to rebuild muscle and to reduce any soreness or fatigue that may otherwise develop.

After a workout, we recommend taking one serving of protein, equating to approximately 20 grams or one scoop of whey protein, for the best effect; rather than “harder” proteins such as meats, which the body has to process far more rigorously.

If you’re just looking to increase your daily protein intake in general, then protein supplements or shakes can be consumed at any time of the day. Again, it’s important to note that they shouldn’t be seen as meal replacements but as part of a balanced and healthy diet. You should also look for at least one protein source per meal.

Is it worth taking protein supplements if I’m not trying to increase muscle mass?

In short, yes! Protein is far more than just a part of your muscle tissue.

In total, protein makes up between 15 and 20 per cent of an adult’s body mass, of which only half is located in the muscles. The other half is split between the connective tissue, organs and the blood. This means that it is a vital part of our diets, helping us to fight back against potential illnesses by creating as strong and as healthy a body as possible.

Would I be better off with protein bars or powders?

Nutritionally, pure powder is the best choice as it is low in carbs, sugar and fat. However, bars can be far more convenient, which makes them ideal for those who lead a hectic lifestyle.

As we’ve already covered, if you’re looking to lose weight, be sure to check the calorie count. It’s also worth pointing out that we have super-tasty low-sugar protein bars available.

Can I take protein supplements when pregnant?

This is a surprisingly common question and it’s difficult to provide a universal answer. Everybody is different and we’d always recommend that pregnant and breast-feeding women seek medical consultation before they start taking supplements. The Active PRO 80, for example, is legally in the classification of “food”, so no special requirements are necessary.

What sets inkospor®’s protein supplements apart?

Firstly, you have to like what you are drinking or eating! Our products have been developed since 1982 and numerous awards later (we won the Body Life Award in the food and food supplements category seven times in a row in Germany), we can safely say that our supplements taste great.

Also, inkospor® products have a significantly high chemical score, which means you can rest assured that our ingredients are high in quality. This is an internationally-recognised standard in determining the quality of protein.

We know that many people find it difficult to lead a healthy lifestyle; work, family and other commitments can leave us with very little spare time. That’s why we’ve ensured our products are as convenient as they are effective. We’re here to help you overcome your challenges and smash your goals. Our mantra will always be the same: Be You and Improved!

Written by Inkospor UK