Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What you need to know about protein... (and, a Skinnygirl protein shake review)

Disclaimer: The following post is sponsored by Skinnygirl. As a Skinnygirl Savvy Snacker, I was given product and compensated for my opinions which are, of course, my own.

"What are good sources of protein?"
"How much protein should I eat?"
"Why do I need protein?"
"What IS protein?

These are great questions about protein. I get asked them pretty frequently at the gym and via Daily Dose. I'm not a registered dietitian or certified nutritionist, but I am a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise. As such, I can talk about nutrition very generally without crossing any lines. And that's what I intend to do today regarding protein—because protein is a hot topic in the fitness world.

What you need to know about protein...plus, a Skinnygirl protein shake review.
Protein is not just a hot topic, though. It's actually very important, and you need to make sure you're getting enough of it in your diet. Most people do without even realizing it, but their sources are not always the best. Sometimes intake is too high, or it doesn't occur at the right time. Before we get ahead of ourselves, let's answer this basic question:

What is protein?

Protein is a very important chain of amino acids. I won't bore you with a bunch of fancy science terms, but it's important to understand that amino acids combine to keep the cells in our body functioning as they should. According to ACE, protein "is needed to build and repair tissues. It provides the building blocks for important hormones and digestive enzymes. Your body uses protein to carry oxygen in the blood and is needed for a healthy immune system. Protein is also important for blood sugar control and keeping you feeling fuller for longer periods of time." #proteinisarockstar

Why do you need protein?

Because despite the fact that our bodies can make some of these amino acids, others...known as "essential amino acids"...must come from outside sources. Protein sources, to be specific, like from meat, soy, quinoa, and peanut butter (to name a few). I'm sure you're familiar with other popular sources, too. Like powders, drinks and bars.

When it comes to food, I'm very open to natural protein sources. I am, however, quite picky when it comes to processed sources (like the aforementioned powders, drinks and bars). The fitness and food industries are overflowing with protein options—and a lot of them aren't super healthy.

I've been really happy with Skinnygirl Snack bars in the past, so when they offered to send me the new Skinnygirl protein shakes, I got pretty excited to give them a try.

What you need to know about protein, plus...a Skinnygirl protein shake review.
I definitely prefer to get my protein from whole foods, but as an on-the-go active lady, I need to have backups that will travel from house to gym to wherever I might be going. I don't always get to hit the kitchen after a workout, and for me, "hangry" is a real thing.So I always pack a snack. At just 80 calories and with 12 grams of protein, the Rich Chocolate Brownie protein shake kept me going after one of my Barre Fit classes:

What you need to know about protein, plus...a Skinnygirl protein shake review.
I literally get ten minutes between Barre Fit and a training client. Just enough time to put some shoes on while eating a snack! And when it comes to protein-based snacks, I tend to keep mine in the 10-15 gram range. If something has more than that, it's borderline a meal.

In addition to the new Skinnygirl protein shakes, the brand recently relaunched their snack bars with more protein. Every flavor has ten grams of protein.

What you need to know about protein, plus...a Skinnygirl protein shake review.
And yes, they're all delicious.
But, you can't just eat 10 grams of protein.

How much protein should you eat?

This brings me to a fine line. I don't know how much protein YOU should eat, but ACE states that the general recommendation is "0.8-1.0g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day (.4-.5g/lb)." I'll let you do the math if you wish. And remember, the body doesn't store protein, so excess protein is used quite inefficiently. So pay attention to your plate, friends.

Speaking of your plate...

What are good sources of protein?

As I said before, natural protein sources rock. Like the aforementioned meat, soy, quinoa, peanut butter...there are oh, so many options. Some are better than others. This is why eating a balanced diet is good and necessary. Protein powders, drinks and bars supplement those natural sources. You just have to make sure that what you're choosing is actually good for you.

Do you recognize the ingredients? How long is the list? Ask yourself these things when you're shopping. You might be surprised to discover that a protein shake is not always a protein shake.

Skinnygirl protein shakes and snack bars are, comparatively, a fairly decent choice.

Bottom line, protein is necessary. Do what you can to take in an amount that works for you from sources that make sense on your menu. Be sure every meal features a serving, and choose post-workout snacks that offer up a decent amount. Your body will thank you for it.

What you need to know about protein, plus...a Skinnygirl protein shake review.
To keep track of Skinnygirl protein shakes and snack bars, connect on Facebook.

To hear more about my experience with the snack bars, read these posts:
I'm making healthy snack swaps with @SkinnygirlDaily
New @SkinnygirlDaily tasty nutrition bar flavors!
Lemon Frozen Yogurt #sgsnsackswap

Question: Do you stick to natural protein sources or do you supplement with shakes and/r bars? What are your favorite sources of protein?

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