Paleo. Keto. Vegan. Vegetarian. Mediterranean. Whole 30. DASH. AIP. SCD. Low-FODMAP. Atkins. South Beach. Weight Watchers. NutriSystem. Jennie Craig … The list of popular diets goes on and on. Each has its own benefits and all have their differences, but one constant remains: Protein is an essential part of any healthy eating lifestyle. Exactly how much protein and where it comes from (animal or plant) varies by approach, but the fact that the human body needs protein to function properly is non-debatable.
As one of the three macronutrients (along with nutritional fats and carbohydrates), protein is required for adequate growth and development. Made of amino acids, protein plays a key role in cell creation and maintenance. Among its many jobs, protein builds muscles, bones, cartilage, skin, hair and nails, repairs tissue, oxygenates red blood cells, produces digestive enzymes, and regulates hormones. In terms of fitness benefits, consuming protein speeds recovery, builds lean muscle, satiates appetite, and curbs hunger. Simply put, protein is essential for fueling and powering our bodies. Collagen, meanwhile, is a source of protein that makes up 30% of all protein in the body and helps to reduce inflammation and joint pain as well as increase muscle growth and skin elasticity, among other things.
Supplementing Whole Foods
If you’re not getting enough protein through whole foods, supplementing with an organic powder is easy, convenient and versatile. There are many great options on the market today. Just be sure to check the ingredients for a clean version. And if you’re dairy-free, steer clear of whey. Instead, try a plant-based, egg white, or bone broth protein powder. NOTE: Collagen is not a complete protein, so best to use it in conjunction with the other.
And if you think protein powder is just for weightlifting bros who slam protein shakes post-gym, think again! Here are some alternative ways to use protein and collagen powder on the regular – no weightlifting required (unless, of course, you want to):
DRINKS: Add a generous scoop of either protein or collagen powder (or both!) to your post-workout shakes and smoothies. Then stir a spoonful of superfine collagen powder to milk, juice, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and other beverages.
BREAKFAST FOODS: Mix a scoop of collagen or protein powder into oatmeal, yogurt, and pancake/waffle mix to create nutrient-dense, high-protein breakfast options.
BAKED GOODS: Blend a serving into the dry ingredients of cookies, brownies, cupcakes, cakes, muffins, quick breads, and dough for biscuits, rolls, pie crusts, and pizza crusts. Both protein powder and collagen powder work well with either homemade or boxed mix recipes.
(UNBAKED) SNACK FOODS: Get creative with homemade protein balls and bars, granola, pudding, mousse, juice pops, and ice cream. Stir collagen peptides into hummus, yogurt, apple sauce, and your favorite nut or seed butter, too.
HOT FOODS: Thicken soup, stew, chili, gravy, and sauce with a scoop of collagen powder, and add protein powder to meatballs, meatloaf, and burgers. You can even replace flour and breadcrumbs with collagen peptides and flaxseed meal when breading foods such as chicken cutlets for a wholesome switch.
The possibilities are vast: From drinks and snacks to baked goods and hot meals, including protein powder and/or collagen peptides to your meal plan is a simple way to increase your food’s nutritional value and receive extra health perks to boot. Go ahead, get creative in the kitchen and start reaping the benefits today.
Author’s disclaimer: I am not a doctor or registered dietitian. The purpose of this article is to educate and motivate readers to make their own health and wellness decisions after consulting with their health care provider. It should not be taken as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your physician to ensure tips given are appropriate for your individual circumstances.