Protein drinks with water: do we need them?
This is certainly the mentality behind the latest crop of protein water based drinks appearing on grocery store shelves. This is a trend that has accelerated in recent years and shows no signs of slowing down. One of the first on the market was Protein20 ($ 2), released in 2013. Since then, brands like Trimino ($ 2), Dirty lemon ($ 6), and Vital proteins ($ 4), all came out with protein water based drinks. Most recently, Vita Coco joined the club with the launch of Electric lift ($ 2).
Before swapping out your old regular H2O for these protein-infused versions, it’s worth getting some nutritional information from a registered dietitian. Here, Valérie Agyeman, Dt.t., weighs on the growing trend and whether protein water is something we really need.
What a dietitian thinks about water-based protein shakes
Of all the nutrients, protein is the one Americans most obsess over. (Don’t you agree? Wander the aisles of your local GNC and count the number of protein powders, bars, and supplements.) Despite this, Agyeman says the average person eats a lot of protein. For the record, this amount is around 50 grams if you are not very active, 75 grams if you are moderately active and 100 or more for building muscle. “If you consume more than that, it won’t necessarily hurt you, unless you have a health problem that you need to be aware of, but it also doesn’t have to be,” says Agyeman. To find your body’s specific protein needs, you can calculate them using this intake calculator.
As the Recommended Protein Requirements show, the more active you are, the more protein you need. This is one of the reasons there are many protein shakes on the market that are specifically aimed at athletes. “If you do a workout and take a protein shake afterward, it will help with hydration and protein needs,” Agyeman says, adding that it’s important to fill up with water and of protein as well as carbohydrates after a workout. “However, you can also meet your protein needs by having a post-workout snack,” she says. In fact, getting your protein from food will ensure you are getting other important nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fiber, and unsaturated fat.
Some protein waters, especially those with collagen protein, like Dirty Lemon’s Collagen Water and Vital Protein, aren’t specifically for athletes, but often highlight the beauty benefits of collagen. “Collagen is a type of protein that the body makes,” says Agyeman. “Over time the amount of collagen we have decreases, and there is really interesting research being done on how consuming collagen can benefit the skin,” she says. Still, she points out that while collagen water can be beneficial, it isn’t necessary.
Whether it’s protein water for athletes or water with collagen for beauty benefits, Agyeman comes to the same conclusion about them: “If you want to drink it, it’s not good. make of bad. But it’s also not something that you need to drink, ”she said. She adds that the most important thing is to be mindful of your overall protein needs and to make sure that you meet them somehow, which for most people comes through food. If you think you might be protein deficient (although it’s unlikely), see a doctor or dietitian as soon as possible.
If you want to drink protein water, here’s what you need to consider
Want to try that puffy water? Agyeman says there are a few factors to consider, starting with the type of protein that is used in your drink. Besides collagen, whey is the other main protein used in protein water-based drinks, especially those intended for athletes. Agyeman says what she likes about whey is that it’s a complete protein, which means it contains all nine essential amino acids. But she also points out that for some people it can be difficult to digest, especially people who have lactose sensitivity. (Label reading tip: Whey isolate is lactose-free, but whey protein contains lactose.) So if you’re sensitive to dairy and want to try protein water, she says that choosing one with collagen may be a better bet.
Agyeman also points out that whey and collagen are not vegan options. While there aren’t many vegan protein waters on the market yet, that is starting to change. Last year, Protein20 released one made with pea protein and with a plant-based diet taking the wellness world by storm, you can bet more options will hit the market soon enough.
Besides the type of protein used, Agyeman says it’s also important to pay attention to other ingredients. “Some are full of added sugars and artificial ingredients that are devoid of nutrients,” she says. While sugary drinks can be beneficial after a very intense workout, like running double-digit miles, she says that for an average workout, you don’t need them.
Again, it bears repeating that Agyeman says we don’t “need” protein waters; the vast majority of people meet their protein needs very well with food. But if you want to go, she says it sure won’t hurt (unless you have an underlying medical issue to consider). Hydration is important. Proteins too. It turns out that they just don’t need to be combined in the same bottle to meet both needs.
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