Should Kids Drink Protein Shakes?
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The most well-known benefit of protein among fitness-minded adults is its muscle-building and repairing function. Whey protein is one of the most commonly marketed form of protein supplement sold in fitness stores due to its impressive amino acid profile and affordability.
But, what about kids? Should they be as focused on consuming protein shakes and other protein sources as adults?
Protein for Healthy Children
Because protein is involved in the maintenance and repair of organs, tissues, bones and the immune system –not to mention its integral part in body weight regulation- it is important to anyone’s diet regardless of age.
While weight lifting and gym exercise may not be appropriate activities for younger children, their need for protein isn’t any less important. Proteins are considered macronutrients; they are required in “relatively large amounts.”
Protein shakes are an excellent way to make sure children are getting sufficient amino acids in their diet. Whey protein and casein, along with all other proteins derived from animal foods, are considered complete proteins, meaning they contain the 9 essential amino acids the body can’t produce by itself:
Along with providing these essential acids, protein supplements are highly bioavailable, which means protein is digested and absorbed rapidly.
Some protein powders are formulated with additional branched-chain amino acid doses to optimize muscle recovery. Additionally, protein supplements like whey isolate and hydrolysate are great protein alternatives to those who are lactose intolerant.
When time is of the essence, whey and casein’s impressive amino acid content makes them especially convenient and effective.
Are Protein Shakes Good for Weight Loss
Which Protein Forms Should They Consume?
That being said, not all protein sources are created equal. Dietary proteins are the best protein sources due to both their protein and micronutrient content. However, as previously mentioned, protein powders are great supplemental forms to ensure children are getting necessary amino acids.
There are several forms of protein supplements on the market. Here is a closer look at the most popular and perhaps the most fitting for children, depending on personal tolerance.
Whey concentrate is the most concentrated form of whey. Its low price and amino acid content make it quite popular. However, for those who are lactose intolerant, this may not be the best form because whey concentrate contains trace amounts of lactose. Whey concentrate is roughly 30-90% protein.
Whey isolate is filtered to remove the base water component. This means it is practically lactose and cholesterol free, making it a viable option for most people. Whey isolate has the highest protein concentration of the whey proteins: around 90% protein content.
Whey Protein Hydrolysate is virtually lactose and cholesterol-free. The protein isolate molecules have been hydrolyzed and the protein peptides are so small they are often considered predigested, which means your stomach doesn’t have to work as hard to absorb the protein. Casein protein makes up about 80% of the protein in milk. This protein form is slowly digested. Consequently, feelings of satiety may be a result of consuming casein. Casein is usually consumed by athletes before bed, resulting in slow protein digestion throughout the night. It is probably not the best protein supplement for children because of its slower absorption process and increase in satiety.
Overall, the best forms of protein supplements for children are most likely whey isolate and whey hydrolysate. Both of these forms are lower in lactose and fat content and are higher in protein. Kids who are lactose intolerant shouldn’t have a problem consuming these forms due to their filtering processes.
How Much Protein Should Kids Consume?
Recommended protein amounts are based on weight. As a rule of thumb, the recommended daily protein amount for healthy children is roughly .5 g of protein per pound of body weight. However, these daily protein requirements will increase as children enter teenage years and early adulthood.
So, next time you’re blending up a protein shake, go ahead and throw in a little extra for your child. Protein supplements are an affordable and effective way to supplement children’s daily protein requirements.
Depending on the brand and quality, kids may find protein powder flavors exceptionally tasty. Also, if you want to be creative, you can take protein snacking to a whole new level by using the powders in waffles, yogurts, puddings, and other meals.
However, make sure to place more of an emphasis on dietary proteins, as those protein sources are ultimately the best forms of protein, packed with important micronutrients necessary for healthy children and their development.
eSupplements Article Recap
- Protein consumption is important for children even if they aren’t old enough to hit the weights.
- Whey isolate & hydrolysate are great supplemental forms for kids because they are low in lactose & fat content.
- Protein shakes are creative & tasty alternatives to ensuring kids get sufficient amino acids.
2014's 10 Best Protein Powders
-  “The Benefits of Protein: Beef up your knowledge of protein and good dietary sources.” WebMD.
-  “What is whey protein? What are the benefits of whey protein?” 15 July 2013. MNT Knowledge Center.