Cut out high-fat meats. Increase your daily intake of plant-based foods. Exercise more. Eat less. All of these sound like good advice on the road to athletic and overall health success - especially as we start the New Year - but without careful attention and monitoring, it's also the same road that leads many to a protein deficiency. Training sessions result in fatigued muscles in need of repair, and protein is a necessity for this reparation process, thus increasing the need for protein supplementation to reach full recovery and maintain overall health.
Fortunately, Hammer Nutrition's Whey and Organic Vegan protein powders make this easy and convenient. The first step is to determine your daily protein intake requirements and recognize any possible signs of protein deficiency. The second step is to select the protein that best meets your needs and dietary preferences.
Daily protein requirements for athletes
See the chart below to determine if you are consuming enough protein daily (total from all sources). Create a daily protein intake journal and monitor your eating habits over the course of a normal training week. If you aren't getting enough protein, the time to start is now!
Warning signs of protein deficiency
It is highly recommended that you speak with a physician in diagnosing a protein deficiency, but the following list will provide some indicators to watch for.
- Long-term weight loss. This is not a subtle change from day to day, but a recognizable decrease in body weight long-term not associated with changes in diet or workout volume
- Hair loss and brittle or ridged nails. If you notice hair loss or brittle nails, this is a potential indicator. Ridges running from the top to the bottom of the nails can be a signal that the body is suffering an ongoing protein deficiency.
- Extreme fatigue and sleepiness. If you're tired when you shouldn't be, inadequate protein intake could be to blame.
- Mood swings. Specific amino acids in protein are the building blocks for neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin which control mood. If your dietary protein intake is inadequate, mood swings are a potential by-product.
- Decrease in muscle mass not due to decrease in workouts. Despite regular workouts, if your muscles decrease in size, your body is most likely cannibalizing itself for necessary protein.
- Overall weakness during workouts. Without enough protein for repair, your muscles may not have fully recovered from the previous day's workout.
Choosing the protein supplement that is right for you
Like so many alleged sports nutrition products that are garbage-filled and lack actual performance benefits to the consumer, there are a plethora of protein powders on the market that have plenty of unnecessary fillers and a fairly low percentage of actual protein. Before you can select the right protein, learn to recognize ingredients to avoid:
- Casein - Based solely on its bioavailability rating, casein is a poor protein source for recovery. In addition, casein can be responsible for allergy onset and increased cholesterol. Casein also contains gluten, and may exacerbate the symptoms of autism.
- Acesulfame K, sucralose, and other artificial sweeteners - These ingredients offer no health benefits and may even impact long-term health negatively. The debate still rages on as to whether or not Acesulfame K is safe to consume, and sucralose is a synthetic disaccharide that is so chemically processed, the end result is a molecule that does not occur in nature.
- High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) - With numerous studies conducted over the past few decades indicating that consumption of HFCS is connected with a wide range of health concerns - hypertension, elevated triglyceride levels, and increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, to name just a few - this is possibly the worst substance that you can put in your body. Avoid it at all costs!
Which protein is right for me?
We recommend a combination of healthy protein powders, used at separate times, to provide the most comprehensive support for an endurance athlete's diet. Just as you wouldn't consume only one kind of vegetable to meet your daily requirements, protein needs are best met by consuming a balance of healthy sources also.
However, to meet specific dietary needs or restrictions, each of the Hammer Nutrition protein powders provides specific benefits:
Organic Vegan Protein - A unique and potent dairy-free, soy-free blend of five outstanding, 100% organic, plant-based proteins.
- Packed with 20 grams of 100% organic protein per scoop
- Low carb and healthy sweeteners only. No added sugars or artificial sweeteners
- Trace amounts of naturally occurring sodium
- Completely devoid of saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol
USES: As part of a pre-race meal, mixed with HEED to create long-distance soy-free fuel, as an additive to a protein smoothie, or as a vegan, dairy-free recovery drink.
Whey Protein - Whey protein is the ideal way to boost immunity and enhance the recovery process.
- Each scoop contains 17 grams of 100% undenatured (non-heated) whey protein isolate from 100% grass-fed cows
- No added fillers, sugar, or artificial sweeteners or flavoring
- Virtually lactose-free and completely fat-free
- Contains 6 grams of the amino acid glutamine for muscle recovery and immune system support
USES: Perfect for protein smoothies, recovery drinks, and boosting protein anytime, with the exception of prior to exercise. Hammer Whey Protein should not be consumed prior to exercise due to the added glutamine, which creates excess ammonia and can result in premature muscle fatigue.
Many endurance athletes tend to focus on carbohydrate intake and pay little, if any, attention to protein. As a result, protein deficiency appears often among endurance athletes with its inevitable negative effects on performance and health. The fact is that endurance athletes need considerable amounts of protein all year long, far above the normal recommended daily allotment.
Although it's not given the same kind of status as carbohydrates, there can be no doubt that obtaining adequate amounts of protein in the diet is crucial for endurance athletes. As you start 2019, use the information in this article to help you determine what kind of protein to use and how much, and start reaping the athletic performance and overall health benefits!