Protein supplements are, by far, the most popular category of supplements on the market. Conveniently providing high-quality protein, these products can easily be worked into your regular dietary routine in any number of ways.
But, along with that convenience, comes a pretty important question. How many times a day should you take protein supplements?
Not Just About Protein
The first thing to remember when discussing how to properly use protein supplements is that they are just supplements. As such, these products are not intended to replace your meals.
Although we tend to place a lot of emphasis on the three macronutrients – protein, fat and carbohydrates – the reality is that food is much more complex than that.
Wrapped up in your meals are tons of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, peptides and other highly beneficial substances that your body needs. And while protein supplements do contain some of these compounds, they aren't the focus and are sometimes removed altogether during processing.
But, if you're eating a healthy, balanced diet, then what's the point of taking protein supplements at all? Sometimes it's a challenge to get all of the protein you need throughout the day. Protein supplements can be used to add protein to a meal that is otherwise a little low or – as we'll discuss in detail a little later on – as a snack during the day.
Compared to both fat and carbohydrates, protein has a powerful influence over hunger signals in the body, keeping you feeling fuller for longer periods of time. In large part, this has to do with the complex chemical structure, which takes time for your body to properly digest.
By using protein supplements to spread your protein intake throughout the day, you can ward off cravings for less-then-desirable snack foods. Of course, this can be a powerful step toward weight-loss and body composition goals.
But protein snacks can help in another way, as well. The added challenge of breaking down and digesting proteins also means that your metabolism will extreme a little boost from those high-protein snacks.
Of course, one of the most common uses from protein supplements has do with workout recovery. Each time you exercise, your muscles deal with small amounts of damage. Repairing this damage is what causes your muscles to become bigger and stronger.
But, just like any other building project, raw materials are needed to get this work done. Proteins provide your body with amino acids, which can then be repurposed and used to repair your muscle fibers.
So, protein is extremely important soon after your workouts so that your muscles can fully recover. Protein supplements give you a way to very easily get a surge of these amino acids.
So... how many times a day should you take protein supplements? There really is no clear answer. The frequency with which you use these supplements will depend on your goals, your overall diet and your personal preferences.