Proteins, the building blocks of life, are an important fuel source. They help the body repair existing cells and make new ones. They’re even more important if you’re looking to bulk up, lose weight or just improve your overall appearance, and fitness levels. How? When digested, protein is broken down into various amino acids that help build and repair muscle. Adequate protein intake can also help you lose weight by ensuring the body burns fat and not muscle.
Research has shown that about 1.5 to 2 gram of protein is needed for each pound of body weight. Since it’s tough to get the requisite amount through natural sources, protein powder can provide that extra boost that allows people to meet their fitness goals. Quick and convenient, all you have to do is pour it in some type of liquid, and drink.
But the simplest way to get your daily intake of protein can get complicated when you consider the number of choices available. How do you pick the best protein powder for you? For starters, always check the calories per serving, fat content and carbohydrate count. Also consider your fitness goals, as every protein powder works in a different way.
Here’s how to weigh your options:
This water-soluble milk protein is an all-time favourite. An inexpensive, complete protein, whey contains all the nine amino acids the body needs. It’s digested and absorbed faster than other proteins, and the rapid delivery of amino acids to muscle cells helps feed and push muscle growth. By boosting muscle protein synthesis, whey facilitates post workout recovery. It also enhances fat burn and its appetite suppressant qualities boost weight loss.
Why choose it: It’s inexpensive. If you want to build muscle at a steady pace or have just started lifting weights or cardio, whey is a good protein pick. It works best when consumed either immediately before or after a workout.
The main difference between whey protein and its isolate form, is the amount of protein, lactose and fat each contains. While whey protein powder contains anywhere from 11 to 14.5% protein, whey protein isolate is over 90% protein.
Why choose it: Whey Isolate powder contains a high concentration of protein and is amongst the easiest proteins for the body to break down and use. It’s recommended for anyone engaged in intense exercise or muscle build-up. Take it directly after or before workouts to help muscles recover faster. It’s also beneficial for fitness enthusiasts who are lactose sensitive.
Muscle growth is dependent on the balance of protein synthesis and breakdown. While whey floods your body quickly with amino acid and stimulates protein synthesis, Casein is a ‘slow’ protein that takes 3-4 hours to reach peak protein synthesis and 7 hours to be fully absorbed by the body. It also leaves you satiated for longer.
Why choose it: When taken at the right time, Casein can help build muscle quickly and efficiently as it provides the bloodstream with a slow and steady flow of amino acids. Experts recommend taking it before going to bed, as it’s most beneficial for muscle repair and re-growth during sleeping hours.
Isolated from soybean, this vegetarian protein is high in two important amino acids that aid stamina and muscle recovery. Glutamine, which hastens recovery and keeps your energy levels high; and Arganine, which helps dilate the blood vessels and allows faster travel through the body. For long, soy has been derided as a feminising compound, meaning it upsets the hormonal balance and makes muscle gain tougher. However, recent studies disprove that.
Why choose it: Soybeans contain almost no fat or cholesterol, making it a heart-smart protein. Also, it helps boost metabolism and enhances fat burn. Experts recommend taking it at breakfast and using it in tandem with whey protein for maximum benefit.
This ‘pre–digested protein’ is the most expensive form of protein on the market. Amino acids typically found in isolates and concentrates are broken down into single amino acids to create Hydrolysate. Experts claim that because it is pre–digested, Hydrolysate maximizes muscle growth and recovery. It also has significant effects on insulin and satiety, making it a great choice for anyone keen to reduce body fat.
Why choose it: Opinions vary as to whether Hydrolysate is a superhero protein or just hype. It is, however, the purest, fastest and easily digested/absorbed form of whey available in the market. Expect best results when taken after a workout.
Available in powder form, this source of protein is similar to whey in its ability to stimulate muscle growth. The high biological value of egg protein — it contains essential amino acids in a proportion similar to that required by the body — means that the body can efficiently use this protein.
Why choose it: It is digested even slower than casein, which may mean better overall muscle growth. The negligible fat and carbohydrate content makes it a winner!
For best results, fitness experts recommend a blend of protein powders. However, it’s important to remember that protein alone cannot build muscle tissue. It has to be paired with a progressive training regimen that challenges the muscles in your body to grow in strength.