Should you put protein into your smoothie?

There are a few smoothie camps in our modern times: the vegan/ vegetarian purists, the gym going protein lovers and the “not too sure about this but it looks like a good idea” group of inbetweeners.
Irrespective of your position, putting protein into your morning smoothie could be a beneficial way of starting your day.
Here is why:

Protein is an essential building block
Protein is used for so much more than just the obvious muscle building.
It is needed for repair, to construct essential parts of the immune system, detoxification (YES PROTEIN IS NEEDED FOR DETOXIFICATION), to make certain hormones, for carriers (these are used for transport in the body i.e. to carry oxygen in blood) and for enzymes that allow us to break down our food.
As you can see, almost every essential process in our body involves protein.

Protein will keep you fuller for longer
The average smoothie of fruits and vegetables is pretty easily broken down by the digestive system. In fact, carbohydrates are digested the quickest out of any food group, followed by protein then fats.
Here is the clever part: when you add protein to your smoothie, the whole thing is broken down at a slower rate. So instead of the smoothie powering you for a matter of half an hour, it may keep you full for several hours.

BUT - not all protein sources are created equal
Protein is broken down into smaller molecules before we can use them, known as amino acids. There are 20 amino acids, 9 of which are essential (meaning they can only be obtained from food), the other 11 are conditionally non-essential or non-essential (meaning we can generally manufacture them in the body dependant on the state of your health).
Protein derived from plants rarely contain all of the essential amino acids. One exception to this is sprouted rice protein which contains all essential amino acids, albeit some in only small quantities.
To get the full amino acid range at the correct level, animal sources are the most optimum i.e. whey protein.

Word of warning
Whilst there is a benefit to adding protein to your morning smoothie, do pay attention to what else is in your protein product.
A good natural organic whey or rice protein may be great but if it is mixed with a bunch of chemicals you cannot pronounce then you may as well avoid it. Sugar is also commonly mixed into protein powders and we all know that's not such a healthy ingredient.
The moral of the story is: don't buy cheap protein, go with an organic source and check the list of ingredients.

My favourite proteins*:
I'm a longstanding fan of The Organic Protein Co's Organic Whey. It is affordable, pure and contains no added ingredients.
For a flavoured whey protein, Nutristrength's Vanilla Whey has been a recent discovery. This option is more costly but you are paying for quality. As an added bonus it turns your morning smoothie into what tastes like dessert and who wouldn't want to start their day with pudding.

*please note I am not affiliated with either of these companies. Having tried a few proteins in my time, I am listing these as genuine options and have not been bribed by these guys.

Check out the next post for a delicious raspberry protein smoothie recipe.