One of the most popular supplements used by the fitness population is protein powder. So what better place to kick off the mini series than right here!
You’ve probably all heard that protein is the building blocks to muscle and therefore you need protein in your life right…. Well yeah you do but this is easily attainable from your diet from foods such as; meat, eggs, nuts, quinoa, tofu to name a few. In case you wanted to know it is recommended that you have 0.8g of protein per kilogram of body weight for the everyday individual and 1-2g for people doing heavy weight training or extremely strenuous activity. To put this into perspective a 70kg person would require 56g of protein. A 100g piece of steak contains 28g of protein, 50g of almonds have 11g of protein and two eggs contain about 12g. With the three foods I listed you would already be very close to consuming an adequate amount of protein.
So why is there this craze and hype over protein powers?
I think one of the main reasons people consume protein powders is due to a common misconception that our requirements are ridiculously high when training and unattainable through diet alone. For me the real benefits of protein powders are; convenience, I mean you don’t even have to chew your protein, you can just down it in liquid form, easy to carry and consume after training. I mean it would be a bit weird to carry a roast chicken with you to the gym or boot camp and you’d also be risking salmonella poisoning too! There is a window after training where you are able to absorb more nutrients and the idea window is within 20 minutes, so shakes can have a place here if you cannot get a meal in within this time. By having enough protein in the diet and especially after training it can reduce muscle soreness. Protein powders are more readily absorbed than foods as they are so heavily processed so you can get it into your system much quicker. Although some protein powders are intentionally made to be slow release. In fact there are so many different protein powders out there in terms of brands and types it can actually be overwhelming!
How to choose the right protein powder for you
Let’s just go over the more common types of protein powders;
- Whey – derived from cow’s milk and is the most popular type of protein powder on the market. It is the most common type due to it’s taste, availability and price. There are two varieties of whey protein; whey protein isolate (WPI) and whey protein concentrate (WPC). Note that a lot of whey proteins out there will be a blend of the two types.
This type of whey protein has undergone more processing than it’s WPC friend and leaving it virtually fat free and almost lactose free. It has a thinner consistency than WPC. This is the main type of protein powder you will generally find in powders marketed towards weight-loss, some will even have other ingredients or so called ‘fat-burners’ mixed in.
More economical than WPI as it has undergone less processing, it also has more fat, carbohydrates and lactose. You might be thinking well WPC has more fat, carbohydrates and therefore less protein per gram and more calories, why would I take this? Well this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unless you are lactose intolerant and therefore the WPI will be your bets option, it also means it contains good fats with some growth factors and essential fatty acids. There are other great minerals and antioxidants found in WPC that will help support a healthy immune system. The main downsides to WPC are that they contain about 5% lactose, so not good if you are intolerant and that they are higher in calories compared to WPI.
Like whey, casein also comes from milk protein. 80% of milk protein is actually casein protein and the other 20% is whey. Casein is absorbed into the body much slower than whey, taste wise they can be quite similar however the texture is much thicker! The rate of digestion can be a benefit and disadvantage depending on you intentions in taking the protein. If you are looking for a quick hit of protein post-training it would be best to have a whey protein however if you are having it for it’s slow release throughout the day or at night time, then casein is your protein powder, it will also keep you fuller for longer too.
- Plant based – for those that are lactose intolerant, ethically don’t use animal products then this is your protein of choice. They are often rich in vitamin, minerals and thus antioxidants, fibre and more.
- Rice – Benefits; higher in fiber. Con; most taste like dirt.
- Soy – Benefit; contains isoflavones (antioxidants). Co; flavour can be hard to mask and can have a gritty texture.
- Pea – Pro/con; slower release than whey. Con; taste.
The one thing I suggest looking for when picking a protein powder, regardless of the type, is the amount of protein per serve. To do this look at the nutrition label, if a serving size is 32g and it contains 20g of protein, my question is, what is in the other 12g? The most likely answer is fillers, junk they put in to make it easy to shake, so it doesn’t go off, artificial flavouring and sweeteners. Pretty much crap your body doesn’t require to function optimally.
Key points; you don’t really need protein powders to reach you daily protein goals! If you do choose to use one, pick one based on your goal. If it is for convenience after a workout, then you probably want a quicker release or if using whey a blend. For snacks away from workouts then you might need a slower release such as casein. If you are lactose intolerant you might get away with using WPI but if you are very sensitive then go a plant based protein. Which ever one you opt for check the protein per serve however from what I have said you know that your plant based, whey blends and WPC will naturally contain some fats and carbohydrates but still go for one with the highest amount of protein per serve.
4 U Body Fitness
Mobiel Personal Training Specialist