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Protein Powders – Welcome to the Jungle

When looking for protein powder products, lots of people find themselves lost in the jungle – Lost in the jungle of protein powders and since there are hundreds of different protein supplements, most persons don’t find a way out of the jungle. But don’t worry because this “guide” should clear most things up and actually there wouldn’t be such a big confusion if it weren’t for marketing purposes. Protein powders have been around for a long time and are the most well known as well as the most popular supplement for bodybuilders and other athletes. You can buy it in your local fitness store, supermarket and of course on the internet.

Benefits of Protein Powder Supplements

Protein powders have lots of benefits since they are a convenient protein source and of high quality (if you choose the right protein). You just need your protein powder, a shaker cup and water or milk and you’re ready to go. Literally, no whole food is higher in protein and handier than protein powder. It’s also the perfect protein source before and after a workout because it’s digested very quickly so the amino acids can get to muscle tissue immediately. Compared with beef and other high quality animal protein sources you’ll get more protein for less money. Nevertheless this doesn’t mean protein powder should make up the greater part of your daily protein intake.

What’s the Best Protein Powder?

Simply put: There is no such thing as “the best protein powder” because it depends on a lot of factors which one is best FOR YOU. You should know what you need a certain protein powder for and based on this information you should make your choice.

Different Protein Powders

Before I’ll show you different protein powders you should know how to read the label. I know this sounds stupid but lots of people don’t do it. Pretty much all you have to do is, look how much protein, carbs and fat it included. Protein should be around 70-85%, while carbs no more than 5-10% and fat below 5%. A good protein powder meets these criteria except it’s some kind of weight gainer mix which is also rich in (mostly) fast carbs.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is the “fastest” protein which makes it perfect to use before/after a workout and also in the morning. It also contains the highest amount of BCAA’s (branched chain amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine) which play a major role in muscle growth and fat loss as well as supporting the immune system.

There are actually three different kinds of whey protein which increases confusion even more for some people. Whey protein concentrate is the least expensive form and will do the job for most people. Although some tend to feel bloated it’s the best choice if you’re looking for a cheap but still high quality protein source. Whey protein isolate is more expensive but it’s also of higher quality, quicker absorbed and contains very few or no carbs. Most whey protein products contain both concentrate and isolate. The most expensive form is hydrolyzed whey protein which is often used in research and doesn’t play a role for us.

If you have to choose only one protein powder, than whey is the way to go.

I recommend Optimum Nutrition Golden Whey because it’s a high quality whey protein at a reasonable price and tastes delicious. I’ve been using it for years now.

Casein Protein

Casein protein is a slow digesting protein which means it provides your body with amino acids for 6-7 hours. It’s primarily used before bed or during the day if you’re busy and don’t have time for a solid meal as it’s more filling then whey. Don’t make this a habit since it’s just a supplement and no whole food. It contains the highest amount of glutamine which increases recovery and immune function.

Egg Albumin

Eggs and especially egg whites are still one of the best whole food protein sources you can get. Egg albumin is a high quality protein source and is often used by competitive bodybuilders in their contest preparation. Its amino acid profile is amazing and most protein blends include a little egg albumin.

Honestly you don’t have to care about egg albumin as long as you don’t have to take it for medical reason or whatsoever. I’ve never used an egg albumin only source because I’ve never needed it . If  you have trouble with dairy foods then egg albumin is pretty much the best option.

Milk Protein Isolate

Milk protein isolate is made of 80% casein and 20% whey. Extracted from cow’s milk and easy to digest. Though I’ve never had a milk protein isolate I know several guys who prefer milk protein isolate over casein.

Soy Protein Isolate

Although I’d never use a soy protein powder because it’s made of vegetable protein, it’s still the best choice if you’re looking for a non-animal-source protein powder. Soy protein isolate has been shown to increase metabolism slightly due to enhanced thyroid hormone output. It’s also loaded with BCAA, glutamine and arginine. Soy protein isolate can’t be compared with whole foods like tofu, soybeans and soymilk because these might be estrogenic which leads to water retention and other estrogenic side effects. Personally I think as long as you’re not reacting hyper-sensible to estrogen from soy products you don’t have to worry about it.

Protein Powder Blends

A protein powder made of several components like whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, casein and egg albumin. Some cheap products contain protein from vegetable sources like soy and wheat which I don’t recommend. Protein powder blends are my favorite when used as an ingredient for meals like protein pancakes. Like casein it also fills up which makes it a fine meal replacement in combination with some good carbs and healthy fats.

Questions You Should Ask Yourself before Purchasing

So now that we’ve covered the most common protein powder products and their qualities it’s time to find out which protein powder is best and most useful for you. Therefore you should ask yourself some questions.

How Much Money Do You Want to Spend?

Depending on your budget you probably don’t want to spend money for more than one product. If money is an issue than just go with whey protein because if you want to call any protein powder important it’s whey. After working out is the only time you really need some fast digesting protein source and whey does the job. Other times and protein powders are purely optional but useful though. Buying larger quantities (5-10 lbs) is favorable because you’ll save money long term as if you’d buy smaller containers more often. Some products also include glutamine, creatine or other additional which increase the price.

When Are You Going to Take It?

Do you only need a protein product which you can use around workout time and after waking up for immediate protein supply? Then whey would be your choice. If you want to use it throughout the day for example when in a hurry with no proper snack, or just to up your protein intake then a protein powder blend or casein protein will be the right choice since they fill up your stomach and are absorbed over several hours. Protein powder blends and casein protein are also fine before going to bed. Although there won’t be a significant difference between using a whey or casein (or whole food) before going to bed, casein and blends are more filling and some people can’t sleep with the feeling of an empty stomach.

What Do You Want to Mix Your Protein Powder With?

Do you want to mix it with milk or water? There are so many different flavors and some taste better with milk and some with water. Though I think there are very few flavors that taste better in water than milk most flavors also taste great mixed with water.

Using your protein powder in recipes for your meals is also a common way to use it but make sure that the protein flavor suits your meal.

Do You Want to Build Muscle or Lose Fat?

Depending on your goal you might want a protein powder with zero carbs and fat where whey isolate would be a good pick. Honestly the whole thing is highly exaggerated and as long as you don’t choose a protein powder mixed with sugar (also called weight gainer) or high in fat you’ll be fine. Except some pretty cheap protein powders most meet the above criteria.

A good protein powder should look something like this: 70-80% protein 5-10% carbs 2-5% fat

Research shows that casein may be better for people losing fat because its anti-catabolic effects are better than whey. In exchange whey has more anabolic effects which make it more appropriate if you’re building muscle mass. Personally, I didn’t recognize any differences using casein or whey protein.

Where’s the Best Place to Buy Protein Powders?

Despite your local fitness store you can get protein powder online where you can choose between thousands of different shops. Nevertheless I highly recommend bodybuilding.com or amazon.com for the simple fact that these shops are pretty much the best online. Favorable prices, great customer service and short delivery time.

Personal Recommendation:

Whey Protein: Optimum 100% Whey Protein

Casein Protein: Optimum 100% Casein

Protein Blend: Dymatize Elite Fusion 7

I didn’t try any other kinds of protein powders so therefore I don’t recommend one.

Conclusion

Now that you know about the most known protein powders and their specific attributes you won’t have a problem choosing the right protein powder for your intention. I think that whey protein is the only one which you should definitely include, at least after working out. Other kinds are just optional for example if you have a problem covering your daily protein needs.

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