Most people who weight train take whey protein powder, or they’ve been told to take whey protein. It’s really convenient, can taste really good and does the trick of getting lean protein into your system post workout or anytime you need it. Good right? But do you know that it’s not necessary? It’s not a requirement for a lean strong and healthy body? It’s not necessary for building muscle. For some it’s actually not even recommended. Did you also know there are other options? I thought I’d list a few for you. Variety can be a great thing so even if you do love your whey, here are a few other of my favorite options:
- Real Food
Real food is often overlooked when it comes to post workout nutrition. There is absolutely nothing wrong with reaching for a meal instead of a shake post work out. 100g of chicken has about the same amount of protein you will get in your typical scoop of protein powder. So is 150g of shrimp or 120g tuna, eggs will do the trick too. If you don’t eat animal sources look at grain and legume combining or some fermented soy foods like tofu. The biggest difference is that you will need to digest real food instead of absorbing a liquid. Sometimes, especially if your training was intense, your digestive system may not be quite ready for a meal post training. In most cases it’s fine to just wait and eat in an 30min- to an hour or so when the hormones settle and your hunger kicks in. Usually by the time you’ve cooled down post training your body is ready to digest. Go ahead and eat real food.
- Liquid or Powdered Egg Whites
Egg white protein is another great option. This could be considered real food but I’ll list it separately because there are a few products our there that are in powder and liquid form rather than in an eggshell. There are egg protein powders available as well as liquid egg supplements that are flavored. Muscle Egg is an example. You can also drink plain liquid eggs out of the carton or add then to smoothies or other foods like oatmeal and pancakes. The egg whites in the carton are different than when they come from the shell because they have been pasteurized. Basically they’ve been heated to remove the bacteria that can make you sick if you eat it raw. Great option with lots of versatility.
- Plant Based Protein Powder
There are many alternative protein sources to whey. Whey comes from milk. It and casein are the protein components in milk. Some people don’t do well with dairy or they choose not in eat it. Protein can be derived from plants and you can get powder that have been sourced from hemp seeds, pea, rice, and seeds. Some brands combine several sources and some use only one. Plant protein is more grainy and quite a bit thicker than whey plus it usually has a slightly higher carb and fat content so it can take some getting used to but it’s a great alternative. I find it best in a smoothie with a little frozen fruit and some coconut milk. It needs more liquid than you might be used to with whey. It’s also great for using in baking. 3 of my favorites are Genuine Health Fermented in Vanilla (great for digestions), Genuine Health Vegan Proteins+ in Chocolate (so chocolaty and yummy in smoothies!) and Vega All in One in Vanilla Chai.
- Crickets and Cricket Flour
A relatively new and controversial source of protein is insects. I know, crazy right?! Mostly coming from crickets, this source of protein has been relatively popular in the paleo and autoimmune diet communities for a few years now. It’s easy to digest, low in fat and high in protein with apparently a very mild taste and very few people have reported having any sort of reaction or intolerance to it. For those not eating grains, cricket flour is alternative, high protein flour that can be used in baking. I haven’t experimented with it yet but will let you know when I do! You can also find it in serval protein bars. Edith, my fellow SAFElite Pro sister wrote a fun blog post about it here.
Gelatin comes from animal skin, bone and connective tissue (usually beef or pork but also chicken and fish) and is a great source of pure protein and amino acids. It comes in an unflavoured pure powder form and it can have a bit of a strong taste so it’s often best mixed into something where it goes unnoticed. . When you drink bone broth the protein you get is the natural gelatin from boiling the bones. You can also use it in recipes for things like jellies, flan and puddings. I’ve posted a few on Instagram. Kind of fun. When buying it in powder form look for grass fed sources like Vital Proteins or Great Lakes brands.
Collagen is also called gelatin hydrolysate and is almost the exactly the same as gelatin but is been treated in a way that keep it from solidifying. You can mix it into hot or cold liquids ad it doesn’t gel. It doesn’t have much taste and is very easily absorbed and very well tolerated by even the most sensitive stomachs. It’s great for your skin, strong hair and nails and also in repairing stomach issues like leaky gut and IBS. I take this every day as a supplement for healing my gut and helping to repair my hair. I like it mixed into my coconut yogurt or blended in my bulletproof coffee. Have a look at Vital Proteins and Great Lakes brands.Update: It’s been identified that gelatin and collagen are not ideal as a protein supplement because of the lackluster amino acid profile (no tryptophan). That means you wouldn’t want this to be your only protein source. The important of variety right here.
Whey protein powder can be a valuable and relatively cheap source of protein but it’s not the end all be all like marketing campaigns would have us think. Many brands are lactose free but that doesn’t mean that they are safe for you is you can’t have dairy. Sometimes it’s not the lactose that cause the issue. Sometimes it’s they type of whey ( isolate, hydrolyzed, concentrate etc) or the even the additives. Even if you can tolerate dairy, it’s worth rotating your protein choices for best absorption, digestion and to avoid developing intolerances. Plus it keep things interesting!
Enjoy your taste testing and as always, tune into how your body feels and responds to something new!