How to Choose Protein Powder

How to Choose Protein Powder

in Sportsfuel Articles and Blog
Talk to an athlete, a body builder or a fitness enthusiast about what type of sports nutrition products they use, and you're almost guaranteed to hear "protein powder" on the list. Protein powders are truly one of the most popular sports nutrition products on the market today and for good reason - they can provide a multitude of benefits for people who are training, working out and trying to lose weight or build muscle.

Because protein powders are so popular, the manufacturers of dietary supplements offer many different kinds. Their goal is to offer the perfect protein powder for everyone who requires one. That's a good thing because it ensures there is a product out there that is just right for you, but actually finding it? That can be a little challenging with such a vast number of products to choose from.

But don't give up! This guide will introduce you to all of the most commonly used types of protein powder and tell you what they are and what benefits that they provide. You can use the information to make a more informed decision about shopping for protein powders and will find it much easier to choose a supplement after reading.

The Three Main Protein Classifications

Up to 80 percent of muscle mass without water is comprised of protein. Without protein, your muscles can't function properly, so you need to ensure you have enough of the nutrient in your body prior to workouts. Protein has also been shown to support gains in muscle size, to assist with recovery, to increase strength and to improve athletic performance.

Adding a protein powder to your diet can help you to ensure that you're getting the protein needed to support you as you work toward your fitness goals, but you need to know that not every protein powder on the market is the same.

There are three main types of protein supplement classifications that you need to be aware of:

1. Protein Concentrate

A protein concentrate is made by removing other non-protein substances from a food. The amount of actual protein will vary based upon their protein percentage. As an example, an 80% protein concentrate is 80% percent protein and 20% carbs, nutrients, water and fat. Most protein concentrates are 70 to 80 percent pure protein.

2. Protein Isolate

A protein isolate is produced by isolating the protein in a food and will contain more pure protein than concentrates as a result. Most protein isolates contain around 90 percent protein.

3. Hydrolysates

A protein hydrolysate has been hydrolyzed, meaning that it has been partially processed to include peptides, important protein building blocks. These partially digested proteins may be better able to supply the body with amino acids that are needed for muscle development and other functions.

Selecting Protein Types

Knowing what the different classifications of proteins are is the first step to picking the right product. Next, you need to carefully consider which type is right for you. Here are the most common options:

1. Whey Protein

Whey is the best selling protein powder on the market and has been shown in studies to be very beneficial for people hoping to increase muscle mass and lose body fat. Compared to other proteins, whey is broken down and absorbed at a faster pace, so it's the best option for pre and post workout protein supplementation.

Whey accounts for roughly 20 percent of the protein in cow's milk. Rich in branched chain amino acids needed for muscle development, whey provides an optimal balance of leucine, isoleucine and valine with a 2:1:1 ratio. Because it contains a complete amino acid profile and an ideal BCAA ratio, whey protein is considered the Cadillac of proteins by many dietitians.

2. Casein Protein

Casein is the most abundant protein in cow's milk, and it is digested and absorbed by the body very slowly. It can take 6 hours or more for your body to put casein to full use, making the protein a popular one for nighttime supplementation when your body needs a continuous supply of amino acids. While casein does not pack the same muscle-building punch as whey protein, it does contain branched chain amino acids and glutamine.

3. Milk Protein

Pure milk protein supplies you with about 80 percent casein protein and 20 percent whey protein, giving you the benefits of both fast and slow absorbing protein forms at once. These types of protein powders can be good choices for breakfast as well as for mid-day snacks and after workout supplementation. Most of the milk protein products on the market are isolates and concentrates.

4. Egg Protein

If you're lactose intolerant, whey and casein protein aren't the best options for you, as they could cause digestive discomfort. Egg protein made from egg white isolate is an excellent alternative that still provides a complete amino acid profile. A serving will provide all of the amino acids that are needed by the human body, and most people don't have difficulty digesting egg protein.

5. Pea Protein

Vegans and vegetarians who don't eat eggs and people who are allergic to eggs and lactose intolerant need a plant-based source of protein, and pea protein typically comes out on top among the vegan and vegetarian options. Pea protein is hypoallergenic and generally considered the best choice for anyone with dietary sensitivities. It's also more readily digestible than other plant-based proteins with around 98 percent of it being usable by the body.

In terms of protein quality, pea protein is high. It is very rich in branched chain amino acids and because it's readily digestible, your body can benefit from the isoleucine, leucine and valine that it contains fully. Also, pea protein does not contain hormones like soy, which is a concern for some men and women.

Getting the Most Out of Protein Powders

Most medical experts and dietitians agree that protein is essential for people who work out frequently. Generally, it's usually best to get about 20 to 30 per cent of your daily total calories from protein. You can also calculate your protein requirement by taking 1 gram for every pound that you weigh or for each pond based on your ideal body weight. As an example, someone who weighs 185 pounds would need about 185 grams of protein per day.

Getting enough protein is important, but so is eating the right amount at the right time. A simple way to approach timing is to try to eat about 20 to 30 grams of protein once every 3 hours. Doing so will help to keep your body's supply of protein constantly maintained, so that you can be continually building and repairing new muscle cells.

There are three times during the day when protein is most important:

1. Breakfast

While you sleep, the speed of muscle protein breakdown increases, and it's possible to lose as much as 15 grams of muscle mass when you're sleeping. When you wake up in the morning, you need to give your body a massive dose of protein and carbohydrates to help offset this and get your body back into producing muscle instead of breaking it down. To do so, try to consume about 20 to 35 grams of protein during your morning meal.

2. Pre and Post Workout

Exercise can lead to muscle protein breakdown when you work out at high intensities, and you can reduce the risk of muscle loss by ensuring that your body has enough protein. Try to consume about 20 to 35 grams of protein either right before you hit the gym or immediately afterward, or after 10 to 17 or 18 grams of protein before and after.

3. Bedtime

As already explained, a lot of muscle protein breakdown occurs at night, but your body is less likely to burn muscle if it has free amino acids from proteins available for muscle recovery. To give your body a dose of protein before bed, try to take at least 20 grams of casein protein or a casein and whey blend before bed or to combine another protein powder with branched chain amino acids or leucine to provide your body with some fuel for muscle repair while you sleep.

A Word About Spiking

Recently, it has been revealed that some supplement manufacturers are inflating the protein counts of their products by spiking their products with amino acids that don't provide much additional benefits. To spot one of these products, look for words about added taurine or glycine on the product label. You can also check the amount of leucine in a product to gauge its quality. Whey protein should contain at least 2 grams of leucine per serving while casein and other proteins should be about 8 per cent leucine per serving.

If you'd like assistance selecting protein powders for your diet, our team here at Sports Fuel is ready to help. Contact us today for personalised shopping assistance.

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