Get the Scoop on Protein Powder

protein powder benefits

Throughout American Spa’s 20th year, we’ve been highlighting a range of anniversaries and milestones across the industry as well (check out Two Bunch Palms, Le Guanahani, and Gharieni). Next up is sports nutrition company Optimum Nutrition, which is celebrating 30 years with a commemorative edition of its best-selling protein powder in Birthday Cake, proving you can have your cake and drink it too! It manufactures nutritional bars, protein powders, ready-to-drink shakes, energy products, multi-vitamins, and more to support a healthy lifestyle, so we chatted with Stuart Heflin, director of North America marketing, to get the inside scoop on nutrition and how it can fit into your spa’s programming.

What can spas/resorts with fitness centers do to educate clients about proper nutrition and protein needs?

Spas are a great venue for sharing important information about proper nutrition. In some cases, you’ll see clients who have weight management or general fitness goals. In those instances, it’s important to note that good nutrition goes a long way in helping to reach goals. Getting the proper amount of protein can help them maximize the benefits of their workout and support recovery, and it can help curb hunger and promote satiety.


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Many spas also cater to travelers, and sports nutrition supplements are a good way to keep on track with nutrition while traveling. Ready-to-drink protein products like Protein Water, which don’t require shaker cups or mixing, are great on-the-go options


What are some of the biggest misconceptions about protein?

I think that many people associate protein supplementation with bodybuilders or pro athletes, not realizing that meeting daily protein goals can be beneficial to anyone.  Protein supports muscle size, strength and recovery; it also provides energy and helps you feel full. It’s most important to get protein from a regular diet of whole foods first, but sometimes it’s helpful to supplement with convenient shakes, drinks or bars in between meals and when you’re on-the-go. 

Another common misperception is that protein supplements never taste good, or are always chalky and difficult to mix. Optimum Nutrition offers really great tasting, easily mixable powders in a huge variety of flavors as well as new options like ready-to-drink Protein Water that delivers lots of high quality protein in a light, refreshing, fruit-flavored water formulation similar to a sports drink.


What makes Optimum Nutrition products unique and effective?

Two things, in particular, really make Optimum Nutrition stand out. The first is our commitment to quality. We produce our products under strict quality control standards known as current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs), which are required by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). We are very discerning about our ingredients – using only the highest quality whey protein, for example.  And people who use our products can be sure they contain what is on the label. That trust is very important to us.

Secondly, Optimum Nutrition is constantly innovating. Whether it’s new formulations or groundbreaking new flavors, we evolve to support our sports nutrition consumers.


How have the brand and the products evolved in the last 30 years?

The company has grown tremendously over three decades.  From humble beginnings to our first 23,000 square foot office/warehouse space, Optimum Nutrition now owns four state-of-the-art production facilities occupying more than 1.5 million square feet of operating space.  We sponsored our first athlete in 2005, and now support a team of nearly 200 US and international athletes. 

We’ve broken new ground with many of our product introductions over the years, and have been a pioneer in areas like “slow protein” (casein), convenient BCAA’s, and anytime energy.


What protein/nutrition breakthroughs and research has come to light in that time?

ON has developed many industry “firsts” including the first powdered casein protein, a slow-digesting protein.  We led the development of the “anytime energy” category, with supplements like ESSENTIAL AMI.N.O. ENERGY which provide energy for any time of day, without the high levels of caffeine commonly found in pre-workouts. ON also made significant breakthroughs to enhance the delivery for some of today’s most popular supplements, including BCAA’s. ON was one of the first to introduce an instantized powder version of BCAA’s to the industry.


What is a good rule of thumb when it comes to selecting the right protein for different workouts and fitness levels?

Whey, casein, and soy protein are considered a high quality, complete proteins – meaning they contain all essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are the amino acids the body cannot make on its own so they must come from food or outside sources such as supplements. Both whey and casein come from milk, whereas soy is a plant protein.

Whey protein is quickly digested; therefore, it is recommended to consume whey protein after exercise to help rapidly deliver amino acids to the muscle and help support muscle growth and recovery. Whey protein is the most commonly used protein, and Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard 100% Whey is a very popular option.

Soy is a good choice for vegetarians, vegans, or consumers who are not able to consume dairy products.  On the other hand, casein is slowly digested, which leads to a sustained release of amino acids. For this reason, it may be advantageous to consume casein between meals or before bed for muscle support.

When looking at protein powders consumers should look at the ingredient statement and make sure that proteins are listed first, which means they make up most of the product.


What do you think the future holds for fitness fuel and protein?

A couple of factors are really influencing the sports nutrition space right now. One is the combination of protein and energy – we expect you’ll see more products like ON’s Protein Energy, that combine caffeine and protein both in powder and ready-to-drink formats.  The other is convenience and portability, which drives innovation in products like bars and ready-to-drink beverages.