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You may have started off the year with some healthy resolutions – a promise to eat better, sleep earlier, and work out harder. Whether you are new to the gym scene or have been a fitness freak for years, the question of using protein powders and health supplements always comes up. Some swear by it, others caution you to stay away from it. More recently, the conversations have evolved to pit animal protein powders against plant-based protein powders, and these are touted for their various health benefits.
If you are looking at adding protein powders to your fitness plan, here are a few things you should keep in mind.
The human body can’t store a lot of protein in the body, so we do need to make sure that we take in enough protein through our diet. For some people, the amount of protein in our regular food may be enough. But, for those who play sports, or work out at the gym regularly, using protein supplements can have certain benefits.
Studies have shown that increasing protein intake does lead to stronger muscles, higher endurance, and a better response to resistance training. Further research shows that they can help with weight loss, lean body mass, increased body speed and improved bone density. However, the benefits of these supplements also vary depending on how much of the supplements you consume, as well as how long or intense your workouts are.
In order to make these health supplements, protein is extracted from its source, by removing naturally occurring carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and fibre. Animal-based powders are extracted from meat, fish, eggs, and cow’s milk, while plant-based proteins are derived from grains, beans, and seeds. Vegan options may include pea, hemp, brown rice, or soy. Research shows that proteins derived from different sources have different compositions of amino acids, which are the building blocks of our body. They are essential for the growth and repair of human cells and tissues.
There are concerns that animal-based proteins may contain high levels of saturated fats, making them unhealthy when taken over a long time. There is also increased awareness about the environmental effects of consuming animal products, as veganism becomes more popular. When it comes to protein, people generally believe that “more is better”, which is why they gravitate towards options like plant-based proteins that look safer and more sustainable in the long run. This may explain why recent data shows that 50 percent of consumers have increased their intake of plant-based proteins.
One area, in particular, has been put under the spotlight – heart health and its co-relation with plant-based supplements. Studies show that people who consumed more plant-based proteins had reduced markers of heart disease along with decreased cholesterol levels. Similar research also shows that plant proteins can reduce the incidence of obesity, diabetes and inflammation in the body.
Proteins are broken down in the body to be used for their nutritional benefits. There are waste products left behind, which are then removed through the kidney in our urine. That is why we need to make sure that we don’t overload the kidney by taking in too much protein. There are studies that show that soy protein may interfere with medication given for thyroid disorders, and some people may be allergic to proteins derived from certain plants, nuts, or seeds.
Even though taking plant-based proteins has many benefits, especially when combined with a healthy lifestyle, balance is key. It is always advisable to consult an expert before changing your diet and habits drastically. That’s because it could have long-term health effects, which is quite a compromise for short-term gains!