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The Beginner’s Guide to Protein Supplements

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We get a lot of questions from Free Athletes about supplementation. One of the most common is, “What protein supplement do I need?”

Everyone’s nutritional needs are different and more context is needed to give a clear, personalized answer.

That being said, there are some lines of best fit that can help you determine whether you need to take protein supplements. Let’s look at a couple of scenarios in which supplementation can help you towards your goals.

Do you eat well most of the time?

Supplementation can be an important piece of your nutritional puzzle, but it shouldn’t be a substitute for eating well. 

First, make sure you are meeting most of your macronutrient needs by getting adequate amounts of carbs, fat, and protein.

If you need help with determining these, a nutritionist or registered dietician may be able to help, as can an experienced coach in your sport.

From there, you can help ensure that you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals by eating plenty of fruit and vegetables. Certain other foods can also help with specific nutrients, such as grass-fed beef providing iron and B vitamins, nuts and seeds packing a magnesium punch, and dairy likely giving you all the calcium you’ll need. Try to choose organic, non-GMO, and locally-sourced options when possible, and reduce the amount of processed foods, added sugar, and hydrogenated oils you consume.

If you’ve said yes to the areas above by covering your bases with food first, then it’s time to look at supplements with pure, high-quality ingredients that are proven to be free of contaminants and banned substances by a third party like NSF. Adding Freeletics Proteins are a great place to start to improve your overall protein intake, support your immune system, and build and repair muscle.

Have you set an aggressive physical goal for yourself?

Do you want to run a 5K or marathon under a certain time? Are you targeting a new Deadlift or Back Squat PB? In either case, your body is likely channeling most of its resources to helping you hit the performance milestones you need to make it to this big goal, and on the back end, recovering in between training sessions. In which case, you’ll want to make sure that you’re checking all of the big boxes that will help you achieve your aim, including smart programming, adequate sleep, and restorative nutrition. With regard to the latter, it might be difficult for you to get everything you need from your diet alone, so you should cover your bases with supplementation.

One of the biggest mistakes that athletes make in this area is not getting sufficient protein. This not only prevents hypertrophy (aka muscle growth) but can also blunt training adaptations, slow recovery, and adversely affect performance in your next training session or race.

A study published in the journal Nutrients found that among athletes who were already getting a lot of protein from food, consuming 25 grams of whey protein after morning exercise increased whole-body net protein balance, and an evening protein shake after training later increased this level overnight. As a result, participants recovered more fully and performed better in their next session.

Summary

No matter if you’re just starting a fitness routine or you’re a highly trained athlete, you should always seek to get your basic nutrition by sticking to a healthy diet. Only then should you consider supplementation to increase your protein intake by choosing a high-quality product that can be easily digested with no hidden ingredients.

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