A Beginner’s Guide to Protein: Protein Supplements [Part Two]
With a variety of protein powders available, it can be overwhelming when you make that decision to add a protein supplement to your diet and/or workout. The right type of protein powder for you is an individual choice that depends on a number of factors.
Are you looking to muscle gain? Do you want to curb your hunger? Are you lactose intolerant, looking for a plant based supplement? Already feeling overwhelmed? Don’t stress! I have everything you need know outlined below.
Before we begin, I always recommend a protein rich diet of real food first, and a powder supplement second or in conjunction with a workout. Before beginning any diet or workout program always consult a dietitian or medical professional first.
Below is a breakdown of the most common types of protein powders. Let’s get started!
Whey protein is the most popular and readily available protein supplement. It is an animal based dairy byproduct that is easy to digest. Containing all 9 amino acids, it is considered a complete protein and is lower in lactose than other proteins.
Whey protein is considered affordable, but you will find a price range depending on the concentration (Whey Protein Concentration – WPC). Lower end concentrations have approximately 30% protein, while upper concentrations have 80-90% (typically considered a protein isolate, which we will talk about in #2). Whey protein is commonly used by people on the go, who are looking to quickly supplement their regular diet.
Whey protein typically has more flavors to choose from. You have the standard chocolate or vanilla flavors, but if you’re looking to entice your palate you can find banana cream, mocha, and even rocky road!
Whey protein also helps burn fat and boosts your immune system. It can help improve muscle recovery in an active person, and paired with the right components, it can stimulate muscle growth. So, after a good workout when your muscles are tired and looking to feed and replenish, try mixing a quick protein shake within a couple hours, and see if you notice the difference.
Whey Protein Isolates (WPI)
Simply put, isolates are just an additional step in the process of whey protein. Fats and lactose that are in regular whey protein are removed leaving you with a higher end concentration of protein per unit.
Whey Isolates digest even faster than whey protein, so your muscles are going to feed faster on a higher concentration of protein. Isolates are also a better choice for those who are lactose sensitive because of the processing that takes place. Isolates are easy to mix, but come at a higher price tag than standard whey protein.
Whey Isolates digest even faster than whey protein, so your muscles are going to feed faster on a higher concentration of protein.
Lastly, pay attention to the labeling you are looking for a high concentration of protein here.
Caseins make up 80% of the proteins in milk (whey proteins make up the other 20%). Also considered a complete protein, casein is a slow burning protein unlike whey protein that digests more readily. Due to the time it takes to digest, casein is not recommended for consumption immediately after a workout.
Many studies show that casein protein is more effective than just whey protein. Accordingly, studies have shown that casein blended with whey have higher results building muscle mass than those subjects who just consume whey products.
Like other proteins, casein improves muscle recovery time and helps build muscle mass. Since protein helps the body repairs itself, and muscle growth is known to happen while we sleep, some people ingest a casein prior to sleeping to obtain maximum results. Casein provides a thicker type shake with some brands mixing better than others. You can always adjust thickness by adding more liquid. Unfortunately, flavor options for caseins are more limited compared to whey.
It is important not to overuse this protein because over consumption can lead to excess fat accumulations. It’s recommended that casein be used as a supplement to another type of protein when you need absorption over a longer period of time. Be aware, since casein is a slow burning protein, your appetite may be suppressed. You also want to make sure you drink a lot of water to help process and digest this protein.
Simply put, weight gainers will help you gain healthy weight and/or muscle mass when used correctly. Serious muscle gains require a serious caloric surplus and reaching a 4000+ calorie surplus requires a little help at times.
Weight gainers are formulated to help you stay lean while reaching your caloric goal. Weight gainers have a typical 500-1000 calorie count so drinking in those calories can help you achieve your caloric requirement. Weight gainers can be used for both pre and post workouts, but look for ones that are low in fat and high in carbs.
After an extreme workout, your body will be craving to refuel so your body will best utilize this kind of shake after a workout. A good calculation pre/post workout would be 100g carbs, 25g protein, 2 grams fat. Low to no fat is your key here because you want to stay lean and make positive gains, so make sure you’re reading your labels. Weight gainers are primarily found in a powder form and can be easily made with water or milk.
Plant Based Protein
These proteins have come a long way in a short amount of time and are growing in popularity as we become more health and environmentally conscious in general. Being plant based, these family of proteins tend to have more natural flavors and most do contain essential amino acids. This type of protein is easily digested because they contain ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, grains and seeds. If you are having trouble digesting whey protein, are lactose intolerant or on a vegan diet, a plant-based protein may be the best choice for you.
Plant-based proteins tend to have fewer flavor choices and don’t always blend as well as whey. You can find a variety of plant proteins: pea protein, alfalfa, rice and pumpkin to name a few. Each shake can contain from 15-25g+ of protein and when blended up in the morning is a great way to start your day, or used as a pre/post workout drink.
As an added benefit, most plant based proteins are organic, non-GMO, contain no fillers, and usually come from sustainable sources, but read the labels to verify. You can expect to pay more per serving for plant-based protein.
Summing up, protein plays an important part in our daily diet. We need protein to sustain ourselves, and a protein rich diet allows just that. However, personal choices and goals may lead you towards taking an additional protein supplement. Let’s recap.
- Whey protein is the most affordable and easily found. Look for higher grades of protein per unit to maximize on your individual goals. Lots of flavor choices here.
- Isolates: Digest faster than standard whey and have a higher concentration of protein
- Caseins digest slowly and can feed your body over an extended period of time, typically consumed prior to sleep or blended with another protein powdered.
- Weight gainers can help you meet that extreme caloric surplus towards building serious muscle mass.
- Plant based proteins are typically organic and easier to digest for those with digestive sensitivities but expect to pay more per serving.
- Be sure to drink plenty of water to help with digestion, especially with caseins, and always consult a physician, or dietitian before starting a program if you have questions, or suffer with medical ailments.
Tim McComsey is the founding owner of TRYM Fitness: Dallas’s Premier Personal Training and Nutrition Company, NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Registered Dietitian. He started TRYM Fitness in 2011 and has been growing successfully ever since! This is his 15th year in the fitness industry and his scope of work has broadened from being ambassador to Sunwarrior, a partner to Vitamin World, and a sponsored athlete to 361usa shoes and apparel. He also contributes to Men’s Fitness Magazine and Human Fit Project with video and content production. Through his years in the industry he has placed 1st in several fitness competitions including the 2013 Dallas Europa Men’s Physique. His passion is to empower both men and women to be the healthiest and most fit they can be using various platforms.