Among the most frequently asked questions by newbie iron lifters, are: what protein supplement should I take? How much? And when, in order to build up my muscles? Well, that exactly what we’re going to guide you for in this article.
Who needs protein supplements in the first place?
For individuals participating in general fitness program (i.e. 30-40 min/day, three times per week); they can meet their daily nutritional needs by following a normal balanced diet that provide about 25-35 kcal/kg/day, and 0.8-1 g protein/kg/day .
If you’re one of those individuals; taking protein supplements would be an unnecessary cost and won’t provide you with any additional benefits other than those obtained from focusing on consumption of high quality protein natural foods.
But for athletes and serious bodybuilding seekers; protein supplementation is needed. A main reason is that these people would have to consuming protein foods at all meals and in huge quantities to meet their daily needs; which is inconvenience and impracticality to manage for most.
Now if you engage in more intense training of 2-3 hours/day five to six times a week or trying to gain weight and increase muscle mass; then protein supplementation is what you need.
5 Factors to consider before buying protein supplements
Before you pay for that supplement, here is couple of factors to consider before you do, to get the best results and lowest cost out of it:
1) Your fitness Goal
If you’re aiming toward gaining weight and muscles; then you would benefit from protein powders that has more calories in it, some of these are sold as meal replacement or mass gainers powders.
But on the other hand, if you’re looking for fat loss, then use only 100% straight protein supplements, these are usually with <5 g carbs and < 5 g fat and 20-30 g protein per serving.
2) Type of supplements
Amongst all protein supplements, whey protein (derived from milk) is considered the number-one protein of choice; it has very high biological value, has a great combination of all the necessary amino acids (muscles building blocks), enhances circulatory system, improve immunity and has anti-aging effect.
Since whey protein is readily absorbed; it is convenient to consume around your training session, before, during and immediately after. Whey protein can be categorized into three types as follows:
- Whey concentrate
Whey concentrate is the most common in the market, contains between 50-80% proteins depending on the product. It is usually used for gaining muscle mass and body weight since it contains fat and carbohydrates in the form of lactose in addition to protein.
- Whey Isolate
The isolate version of whey (more processed form of it); separates whey from lactose, ash, fats and carbohydrates, so you would receive 90-97% protein. The isolate is usually more expensive than whey concentrate, get absorbed faster and convenient for persons on very restricted caloric intake.
- Whey hydrolysate
Whey hydro is partially digested whey protein, and so it is the fastest to be absorbed compared to the other types, which makes it most convenient for post workout anabolic supplement. The best type is hydrolysate 520.
Although casein doesn't have the amino-acid profile available in whey protein, casein is considered the ideal anti-catabolic protein supplement, due to its slow digestion rate and release from intestine into the blood stream, so it is used to provide slow and continuous supply for your muscles while sleep.
These contain mixes from whey concentrate, isolate soy-derived protein, casein and other food based proteins; the advantage of protein blends is that they offer you a wide array of proteins and absorption rates, which might be a very good choice to provide constant anabolic environment in your body.
When it comes to buying on budget, you need to think of the gains compared to the cost of the supplement, although whey protein -especially isolate whey- is more expensive, it is money well spent; because you’re getting more protein per gram of powder, plus buying in bulks may be cheaper and save you some money on the long run, but again, it all goes back to your primary objective of consuming the supp.
Some supplement products has additional ingredients such as vitamins and other weird –so called- muscle building ingredients that you might not need, so if you’re on a low budgets avoid these additions since they usually higher the price.
4) Time and way of intended use
If you wanted protein supplements to consume Pre Workout Supplements and after your workouts then you need ready absorbed ones, but if you needed ones that serve as meal replacements and provide you with amino acids for later hours then your need more slowly absorbed supplements or blends.
You might also want to consider how you want to take it; are you going to mix it with water, milk or put it in your recipes? Since that would affect the flavor you’re going to choose.
5) Supplement Brand
You need to be savvy buyer in the market, don’t fall for exaggerated claims of the supplement benefits; most of them don’t deliver all the benefits they claim to anyway.
So regardless of the product’s brand and flashy marketing phrases on it, make sure to read the ingredients list (avoid those that have more than 7-10 ingredients), do some digging and chose a producing company that is known to be in the market for couple of years, because that is an indication that it’s product are delivering results.
Want to know how much protein you should consume daily to meet your body needs for building muscles? How much Protein do you need daily?.
When to take protein powder?
Back to your fitness goal, type of supplement you bought and timing of your workouts, allocate protein intakes around that, and make sure to distribute is all day long (6 meals for example where you ensure constant protein supply to your muscles), and according to your convenience, chose like 2 meals from those to come from protein powder.
Need any further help with your supplements? Ask your questions on fitnessyard’s forums.
L. Mahan, S. Escott: Krause’s food & nutrition therapy: 12th edition.
F. Hatfield: Fitness the complete guide: Edition 8.6.6