We’re all probably familiar with the ubiquitous smoothie or shake fortified with protein powder. It’s quick. It’s easy. It’s portable. But protein powder’s usefulness extends beyond after-exercise replenishment. For preppers, including protein powder in our food storage preps adds another valuable layer to our protein sources.
Let’s take a moment first, though, to talk about protein in general.
Have you thought about how important protein is to our health in our everyday lives?
Protein exists in every cell in our body. In fact, there are 10,000+ types. Among other things, we need it for our immune system, for cell creation and repair, and for growth and development. In addition, nine of the amino acids we require (those building blocks of protein, if you remember middle school health) are termed essential; we can only get them from food. Our bodies can’t produce them.
Basically, protein plays a huge role in good health. And in an emergency, when our bodies and minds are experiencing unusual amounts of stress, good nutrition is just as critical.
Now back to protein powder and how it can be a part of prepping.
What is protein powder?
Protein powder is—surprise!—a powdered form of protein that can come from sources like plants, eggs, or milk. Various processing methods extract protein components from the source material and dry them into a powdered version.
What kinds are there?
The two main categories are plant-based and animal-based. They have three common forms:
- Concentrates cost less as they’re the least processed. But this also results in a lower percentage of protein per serving and higher quantities of fats and carbs.
- Isolates contain a higher concentration of protein and fewer fats and carbohydrates. Manufacturing isolate takes longer, but it has more protein per serving, hence the higher price tag.
- Hydrolysates are the most processed form. The amino acids are already broken down making it the most absorbable version. This also makes it the most expensive.
Options such as soy, hemp, pea, peanut, and rice are available. However only soy contains all nine essential amino acids. Fortunately, products containing complementary plant proteins provide more options for complete proteins than just soy alone.
Whey, casein, collagen, and egg white protein are all animal-based.
- Whey protein is a complete protein made from milk. It’s readily digested and can result in a greater sense of satiety. It’s also the most popular.
- Casein, also from milk and a complete protein, is digested more slowly than whey.
- Collagen, interestingly, is not a complete protein. It’s short one essential amino acid. It’s still useful, but its amino acid profile fulfills a different function in the body. For preppers who want a complete protein replacement or booster, collagen isn’t it.
- Egg white protein is an easily digestible, complete protein.
Both plant and animal-based come in flavors. Chocolate and strawberry, for example, as you’d probably expect, but there are others. They’re great for baking or jazzing up something like pancakes. Or just use them as a tasty shake or smoothie. Be aware of filler and additives used to achieve different tastes, though. There’s a cost/benefit to consider there. Same with sweeteners.
Should you include it in your preps?
Short answer? Yes.
Long answer? You should seriously consider its usefulness for your family as another protein source.
Why? Because it’s…
- Easy to use. It doesn’t require cooking. Just mix a scoop or two with your liquid of choice or add it to a meal you’re preparing. In shake form, some flavored varieties can be complete meals.
- Easy to store. Plop it on a shelf, in a cupboard, in a tote, basically anywhere that’s cool and dark.
- Lightweight and portable. Compared to frozen and canned, protein powder is easy to travel with, if necessary. (Dehydrated proteins are also lightweight and portable. For where to order these, read about Survival Mom’s recommended food storage companies. Spoiler alert: She loves this one!)
- Picky kid-approved. Is your child a picky eater, or perhaps has sensory processing issues? Protein powder can be a less stressful way to ensure they’re still receiving the necessary nutrition in the foods they will eat.
- Good for the sick or injured. With no chewing required in shake form, protein powder provides important liquid nourishment for healing.
- Another protein source. Preppers know the importance of backups to your backups. It’s one more way to meet an important dietary need.
- Ounce for ounce, it’s cheaper than most meats and poultry.
How to store protein powder
The shelf life varies but tends to average a minimum of 9 months. Its upper range varies depending on the additives. Check the date on your containers and make a plan to rotate accordingly.
Protein powders are a low-moisture product. When stored unopened under favorable conditions, bacterial growth is less of an issue. Once opened, the clock starts ticking as air and moisture are introduced, and quality degradation begins. If your stock smells or tastes bad, it’s best to toss it. (I scoured my husband’s 1.74L container of whey protein isolate, but nowhere on it does it state to use within a certain number of days after opening.)
When part of a regular rotation schedule, the plastic container with a sealed inner lid should be sufficient. Plastic bags are permeable and should be transferred unopened to a container for vacuum-sealing. Treat cardboard packages the same.
What Can You Put It in?
Once you start using protein powder, you begin to see the possibilities. In addition to smoothies and shakes, it beefs up the nutritional content of:
- Pasta dishes (that comfort food of all comfort foods, mac-n-cheese, for instance)
- Baked goods
- Low-protein meals (pancakes, for example)
- Sauces and creamy soups
- Other carb-heavy foods (think mashed potatoes and oatmeal)
- Beverages, such as coffee and cocoa
Of course, you’ll want to think about flavored vs. unflavored. Adding a chocolate version into pancakes might gain you favored parent status, but tossing it into mac-n-cheese might not. (Or would it? You let me know, ok?)
Do your research regarding the influence of protein powder on medical conditions. For example:
- Those with allergies or sensitivities should choose accordingly. Also, be aware of products manufactured in facilities that might also process allergens.
- If you’re vegan or vegetarian, choose plant-based versions, like soy, hemp, and pea.
- Diabetics should consider low-sugar (not in the first three ingredients) and low-carb versions.
- Anyone with lactose intolerance or irritable bowel system should avoid powders containing lactose sugars or other ingredients that aggravate the condition.
- If kidney disease is a consideration, options with lower protein content are available.
- Some products are made with GMOs. Both plant and animal-based proteins could contain them.
- Potential side effects for the average consumer include diarrhea and its uptight cousin, constipation, among others. Balance with nutrient-dense foods containing healthy fats, carbs, and fiber to combat issues like these.
Obviously, in an emergency, a well-balanced meal can take on a bit more loosey-goosey definition. But that’s why we’re prepping, right? Not just reacting.
Also, always consult a doctor or registered dietician if you have questions or concerns.
Adding Protein Powder to Your Food Storage Rotation
So, you’ve done your research and are ready to jump into the protein powder pool. Great!
Begin by purchasing a few small containers to start. Then work on incorporating those into both your daily meal planning as well as your emergency meal planning.
Start with the meals you already like to eat. Could any of them benefit from an extra punch of protein? Now take it one step further. Could the usual protein source be entirely replaced by powder, if necessary? Play around. Experiment. Get familiar with using it and consuming it in various foods.
And remember how you only store food your family will actually eat? The same principle applies to protein powder. Discover what you like and how you like to use it. Rotating your protein powder stock is just as important as rotating your other food storage, so it’s also a good time to estimate how fast you’ll go through it and get it in your rotation schedule.
Once you’ve settled those details, you’ll know what quantities make sense to buy. Maybe larger amounts of one kind are better, or perhaps small containers with a greater variety work best for you.
Handy Hints for Using Protein Powder
- To prevent clumping, add a little at a time while stirring continuously.
- To excavate a buried scoop, shake the container back and forth multiple times; it should work its way back to the top. Spelunking for scoops in a ginormous jug is annoying. Just saying.
- Because of shelf life, don’t store enormous quantities. Just like with your other preps, only store protein powder you actually eat, in the quantities you will actually use.
- Smoothies, pancakes, and mac-n-cheese are easy ways to start.
- A cup with a shaker ball offers a manual method for a quick shake. Personal-sized rechargeable blenders are also available.
What about you? Is protein powder currently part of your food storage plan?