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Protein supplements are one of the biggest tools you can use to improve your fitness. If you want to lose fat, gain muscle, tone or improve your health, they can make your life easier. They can also make you reach all those goals quicker.

Despite this, a lot of people that could enjoy the benefits of supplements are missing the boat. There are many reasons for this, which we can narrow into two main ones:

  • Lack of information. People don’t know about how supplements can help them, or they’re taking them in the wrong way.
  • Misled perception. Some believe supplements are either harmful to their health, or useless.

Are supplements bad for your health?

The short answer is, it depends on the supplement. Much of this perception comes from how things used to be a couple of decades ago. Back in the day, most supplements contained a lot of chemical substances. There were a handful of reasons for this – extending shelf life, improving taste, cutting costs, etc.

Modern supplements have improved a lot in this sense. Today you can find some great natural, organic options that won’t harm you in any way.

Can’t I just eat real food?

I’m going to state first that real food is where you should be getting most of your protein from. There’s no workaround to this. Lean beef, chicken, tofu, eggs, grains… which one you eat is your choice, but you must eat the real stuff.

This is where doing some math pays off. Let’s say you need to eat approximately 170 g of protein per day to meet your fitness goals. Chicken breast is one of the most protein-dense foods out there. 100 Kg of chicken breast contains more than 30 g of protein. Suppose you want to eat only chicken to get your protein. You would need to eat a bit under 600 g. More than half a kilo per day!

Now, I don’t know about you, but I find really challenging to stomach more than 150 g of chicken in a single meal. Of course, you can add some other protein sources to other meals, like eggs. But, at 6 g of protein per piece, I still need 5 eggs to hit 30 g of protein! It is a lot of food indeed, not easy to eat at all! Protein supplements let you complete your daily protein intake in a much easier way.

So, what do I do, then?

I’m glad you asked! It’s actually pretty easy:

  1. Make sure you are having at least 65 to 75 percent of your required protein intake through real food. Use this calculator to find out how much protein you should be eating already, or talk to your coach or nutrition practitioner.
  2. Buy natural and/or organic protein shake powder. Make sure it has less than 2 g of carbs and sugar combined. Whey and pea protein are the best options. Make sure it gives you at least 25 g of protein per serve.
  3. Aim for between 2 and 3 shakes per day to complete your required daily intake. You can use them as snacks, as most shakes have a sweet flavour and will make you feel full for longer.
  4. Schedule to have one of those protein shakes at least 30 minutes before your exercise session.
  5. Make sure the type of exercise you choose is functional training. Strength and conditioning high-intensity classes are the best for this.
  6. Have another one of those shakes in the 30 minutes right after your training session.
  7. Avoid using milk to mix your shake. Both regular and skim milk have a lot of lactose, one of sugar’s many forms. Use almond milk, cashew milk or water instead. This way you’ll drink fewer calories.

Follow these simple steps and you’ll be on your way to success! After all, this is the reason they’re called supplements. They’re meant to complete and improve your nutrition, not replace it!

Julio Gutierrez is the founder and Head Coach of Hurricane Fitness. His love for the deadlift is almost as big as his love of pop culture.

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