By Lucy Gornall
There are so many benefits of protein powder, for both your fitness and overall health. But, if you hear the words ‘protein shake’ and automatically think of muscles and lifting weights in a gym, then you’re not alone.
There are so many misconceptions around protein powder, from the idea that you only need to increase your protein intake if you're a bodybuilder to the notion you don't exercise enough to need to increase your protein.
In reality, there are so many benefits of protein powder and protein shakes aren't just for gym buffs.
Whether you mix the best protein powders with water, milk or both, or stir in a cup of protein with your morning oats, protein is a vital nutrient and protein powder can boost your energy levels and help you feel fuller for longer. Plus, some experts even see increased protein as an important part of weight loss, partly because the fuller you feel, the less likely you are to snack throughout the day.
Make your protein shake a part of your everyday life by, for example, mixing up a shake after you put on your fitness tracker to set you up for the day ahead, and you'll soon reap the benefits.
Keen to know more about the benefits of protein powder? Here, nutritionist Rob Hobson explains the benefits of protein powder for women, particularly for those who are over 50.
The main benefits of protein powder
1. Weight loss
Protein is essential not just for gym recovery but also to help maintain muscle mass, aid bone health and keep cravings at bay thanks to the fact that protein helps keep you fuller for longer.
"Protein can reduce hunger, which subsequently leads to less snacking, and less calories," says Rob.
"Plus, protein has been linked to a slightly higher metabolism, which makes you burn more calories throughout the day, and even as your sleep at night," he adds.
If you're curious about how to lose belly fat or want to set yourself a long-term target and find out how to lose a stone, it's important to know that you can't rely soley on protein powder to do the work for you.
When it comes to healthy and sustainable weight loss, a balance of a healthy and nutritious diet, daily activity and regular exercise are key, whether that's at-home workouts four times a week or taking yourself out of your comfort zone and trying something new like boxing for women.
2. Increased muscle mass and bone density
Embarking on a journey into fitness for women over 50 is so important. Focusing on your health and fitness as you approach the menopause and throughout will not only do wonders for your physical health, but could support your mental health, too.
One of the biggest benefits of protein powder, especially for women over 50, is it can help increase muscle mass and bone density.
As we age, our bone density naturally decreases so it's important we counteract this with a good health and fitness routine. Strength training for women can be daunting, but if you start slow with the best bodyweight exercises or resistance band workouts, you'll soon reap the benefits. You can increase your muscle mass, combat natural bone density loss, reduce risk of injury, improve balance and posture, and feel totally empowered by your own body and its ability.
And, this is where protein powder comes in and can help you get more out of your strength training,
"Protein is extremely important as we age," says Rob. "Women going through the menopause may see a decrease in muscle mass, so protein can help avoid this. Plus, bone mass density also declines thanks to the decline of the hormone oestrogen."
How much protein should I eat?
According to the British Nutrition Foundation, women aged 19-50 require approximately 0.6g of protein per kilogram of body weight, each day. So, a woman weighing 70kg (11 stone) would need 42g of protein. Women over 50 should look to increase this to 0.8g per kg of body weight, which means that a woman weighing 70kg (11 stone) would need around 56g of protein.
Whilst this is a fairly easy target to hit if you're a meat-eater—a standard chicken breast provides around 31g of protein. But, protein shakes can be a tastier, easier way to hit the target and a must-have if you're a veggie who struggles to find protein alternatives for your diet. Plus, protein powder is great for those on a vegan or plant-based diet as many protein powders are made from vegan protein sources such as pea, hemp, or soy.
What is the best protein powder for women?
There are lots of different types of protein powders out there, from whey protein and pea protein to rice protein and more. When it comes to choosing the best protein for you, consider if your diet requires a specific type (for example, vegans should avoid whey and opt for pea protein), if there's a flavor you prefer (whether that be chocolate, vanilla, or plain) and how much protein you want to invest in.
So many protein powders are packed with additives and hidden fillers and nasties. Look for a powder with minimal ingredients, ideally no sweeteners or sugar and unless you want to gain weight, try to swerve those with added BCAAs (aka branched chain amino acids).
Lucy Gornall is the former Health & Fitness editor at Future and a personal trainer specializing in pre and post-natal exercise.
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