It only takes a quick scroll of Instagram to prove that protein supplements are no longer just the obsession of body-building musclemen – a slew of gym-bunny/yogi/runner selfies show that protein shakes are now the post-workout drink for everyone, right?
But if you’re yet to jump on the supplement shake bandwagon (where have you been, though?) you might be wondering whether they’re *really* for you. To get the lowdown on protein powders we chatted to cool new brand Free Soul, and learnt about their range developed specifically for women.
Why do we need protein when working out?
In order to stay healthy, we need to take in a daily required amount of macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein and fat, and micronutrients – vitamins and minerals. Luckily, we can mostly get what we need from a healthy balanced diet, but when working out, the correct protein intake is crucial as you’re effectively breaking down muscles and depleting the body.
Protein’s job is to support muscle growth and aid the immune system and a host of other body functions. In a nutshell, protein powders are a convenient way to increase and reach your protein quota in order to build muscle and repair the body following a workout.
“It’s important to remember that protein supplements have their place within the framework of proper nutrition,” says Free Soul. “And you can’t outtrain a bad diet either, your nutrition is the foundation of the fitness pyramid so taking care of all your macronutrients is important. Recovery time is crucial too – progress doesn’t come when you’re working hard in the gym, it comes when you’re resting, recovering and looking after your nutrition.”
When and how should I take a protein shake?
Replacing protein within 30-45 minutes after a workout is beneficial because the body can absorb the protein quicker, says Free Soul. If glugging down a shake isn’t your thing though, you can also include the powder in pancakes, porridge or muffins for example – blending it into your meals. “However, it shouldn’t be thought of a meal replacement or diet aid, in lieu of a balanced diet, because that’s neither healthy nor sustainable. It’s more about how you’re feeling long term on the inside, so you can perform on the outside. Women should be celebrated, not encouraged to lose weight. We’re big believers in that,” Free Soul adds.
What to look for?
Educating yourself about protein absorption, looking at ingredients and learning about the ethos of the companies behind the powders is the way to go when picking a protein supplement. What to avoid? Protein powders that contain skim milk powders – they’re often used in low quality powders as a bulking agent and can give you bloating and, y’know, tummy trouble. Some powders are also laden with artificial sweeteners such as sucralose – look instead for products that contain natural sweeteners such as stevia.
You might have noticed too that protein powders are available as either whey or vegan – so what’s the difference? Well, whey is a dairy product so it has a lactose content and vegan protein powder is free from dairy. “Our vegan powder is a plant-based blend of pea protein isolate and white hemp protein and we’ve worked hard to ensure it tastes just as good as the whey protein powders,” says Free Soul.
So, what’s the way forward with protein powders?
It’s all about nutritional innovation apparently. Free Soul’s range of protein powders has been formulated for women by a clinical nutritionist and independent testing is paramount in their production process.
But beyond that, “we also wanted to ensure that our products are genuinely for women. We target hormonal balance, bone density, energy, mood through the inclusion of additional high quality ingredients such as maca, iron – 42% of your iron intake is in one shake, magnesium, flaxseed, Vitamin B, ginseng and guarana. We’ve developed a range that is specifically targeted towards female health by including ingredients in a genuine and thorough way – not just by having images of women in bikinis as branding,” says Free Soul.
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