Should you use protein powder and which is right for you?
Protein powder is the most basic bodybuilding supplement available. It should be the first port of call for anyone looking to gain weight or put on muscle. If you had the choice of only having one type of sports supplement in your cupboard, protein powder should be it!
So...why is protein powder so important?
Well, to answer this you have to consider what you're eating overall. Calories (energy taken in as food and drink, and used by your body to fuel activity and growth), can be split into 4 types of macronutrient:
Out of these, ONLY protein will help rebuild and repair muscle. Carbohydrates are used primarily to fuel activity (so the level of carbs you take in, should be in line with your activity needs), fats help regulate hormones and provide a number of health benefits (including optimising testosterone), and alcohol... has very little physical benefit, can raise estrogen in men, and should be avoided as much as possible.
Where can I find protein?
Protein is found primarily in meat & fish and if you're a vegetarian, soy, eggs, nuts and legumes can be good sources. Bear in mind all these sources also contain mixes of carbohydrates and fats in them too, so it's worth reading the label to ensure that in your quest to increase protein consumption you don't over-eat fats or carbs. For example, although almonds are great sources of protein, they contain roughly double the fat grams per handful than they do protein. They're still a great food source as the fats in them are mostly EFAs (essential fatty acids), but should be eaten sparingly.
This is why many active trainers turn to protein powders - protein powder IS a real food. Whey, casein and milk based proteins are essentially the best parts of milk, with carbohydrates and fats removed. This allows the athlete to increase their protein intake without vastly increasing their intake of other macronutrients, and have greater control over their diet. It's also relatively good value - since 1 scoop of protein powder will often cost around 30-50p (depending on whether it's something like Bodybuilding Warehouse Performance Protein or BSN Syntha 6), and contain 30g's of protein, and 1 chicken breast around £1, with 35g's of protein.
What sort of protein powders are there?
Protein powders usually contain whey protein, micellar casein, soy protein, egg protein or various blends of the above.
Protein powder is best used:
- immediately post workout (2 scoops or 60g's for men, and 1 scoop or 30g's for women)
- first thing upon waking (guidelines as above)
- at other times of the day when a protein rich meal would be time consuming or inconvenient
A high intake of protein will help provide your body with the nutrients and calories it needs to grow and repair muscle tissue.
Types of Protein:
- Whey Protein - the most commonly used type of protein in protein powders. It is absorbed by the body very quickly and easily and is ideal for post-workout.
- Casein Protein - the richest in glutamine, an amino acid that aids in recovery, and the slowest to digest, making it ideal for pre-bed (in order to avoid overnight muscle catabolism).
- Soy Protein - contains all essential amino acids, and a great alternative vegetarians or vegans.
- Egg Protein - a lactose and dairy-free protein powder that has a medium speed digestion rate, and offers high levels of the essentail amino acid lysine.
Good choices for the various types of protein powder available include (but aren't limited to), the following:
- Blended Protein Powder: Bodybuilding Warehouse Performance Protein
- Whey Based: Pure Whey Protein Concentrate 80
- Casein Based: Pure Casein
- Soy Based: Pure Soy Protein Isolate