It’s safe to say the world is obsessed with protein. Where it comes from, whether we’re getting enough of it, what the best kinds are, when to eat it… the list goes on. Because of all the information circulating around the internet, you probably have your fair share of questions about the diet staple. And trust me—you’re definitely not the only one.
Registered dietitians get asked health and nutrition-related questions on daily, both online and in person with their clients—especially with the rise in plant-based eating, as many people are rethinking the way they look at protein in the first place. But out of all the questions they get (and there are a lot!), these are the top three protein questions that come up more than any others.
The top 3 protein questions RDs get asked all the time
1. Are some sources of protein “better” or more “complete” than others?
You might think certain proteins are “better” or more “complete” than others, but Whitney English Tabaie, MS, RDN, co-founder of Plant-Based Juniors, says at the end of the day, protein is protein and the outdated idea of having to combine plant proteins to make them a “complete” protein has been disproven.
“They’re all made up of amino acids that are broken down into individual units to be digested. Even plants contain all nine amino acids, despite what you may have heard. Some are just lower in one than others. For example, beans are lower in methionine and higher in lysine, while the opposite is true for grains,” she says. “Simply eating a wide variety of protein-rich foods throughout the day will ensure that your body gets all of the amino acids it needs to function optimally. Our bodies are pretty darn smart, they can handle the assembly themselves. They don’t need our help.”
2. Do I need to eat protein after my workout to maximize gains?
If you’re trying to build muscle and maximize your gains, should you be eating protein within an hour of your sweat sesh? Well, according to one registered dietitian, it depends. “My first question is: What did you eat before a workout? If the answer is nothing, you need protein to increase muscle building,” says Tony Castillo, MS, RDN, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition. “But if you had a protein-rich meal before your workout, it’s not as important to have protein right after a workout.”
3. What are the best ways to get plant-based protein?
If you’re thinking about going plant-based, your first question is probably wondering how you’re going to get enough protein with animal products out of the picture. “There’s a misconception that it’s difficult for vegans, vegetarians, and flexitarians to get a solid amount of protein. But with a little planning and a stocked kitchen, it’s actually very easy,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. “The plant proteins that I commonly recommend include beans, legumes, tofu, edamame, nuts, seeds, and nutritional yeast. Include a protein in each meal and snack, and you can additionally use nutritional yeast to add a cheesy flavor to pasta, beans, and more.”
These are the best protein bars, according to a dietitian:
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