Have you ever found yourself scoping the internet for the dietary supplement that is going to help you reach your fitness and health goals? With so many different supplements available to consumers at the click of the button, it can be hard to fully understand how each supplement impacts you, if you actually need it, and how to make proper use of it. From vitamins, herbal products, multivitamins, powders, bars and beyond, the internet is full of so much information and tons of opinions, which can leave consumers feeling lost and sometimes frustrated. In order to help alleviate some of this confusion, we are going to start by focusing on protein powders and dive into some of the different products available and how they can benefit you.
Let’s talk options…
First, let’s take a brief look at the different forms of protein powder out there to help you make sense of the products you will come across in your search. The three most prevalent forms of protein on the market are isolate, concentrate, hydrolysates. Protein concentrate contains an average of 60-80% protein, with the remainder of the composition coming mostly from fat and carbohydrates. Protein isolate is protein that has gone through further filtration processes to remove the majority of carbohydrates and fats, making this supplement 90-95% protein.
The above forms of protein may also come from different sources, which can sometimes further add to the confusion. One of the most common forms of protein powders is whey protein, which is what we will focus on here. Whey protein is found in dairy products and carries a high level of the compounds, amino acids, that humans need to repair and develop new muscle fibers. Whey protein can come in the form of both isolate and concentrate powders, but there is not much evidence supporting that one form is better than the other. Whey isolate contains less carbohydrates, fats, and lactose, so some people will lean toward this option to coincide with their dietary needs and goals. Despite their differences in production and composition, the purpose of protein powders remains relatively the same: to help consumers meet their protein needs and improve overall body composition and lean muscle mass.
While nutritionists and health scientists would first recommend meeting your daily protein needs through whole foods, let’s be honest, sometimes this is just not possible. In our usually fast-paced society (I’m talking pre-COVID days), we may not always have the time to cook chicken, fish, eggs, or whatever your preferred source of protein may be. Also, in times that we are running from the gym to work or to pick the kids up from school, sitting down for a protein rich meal is usually out of the question. This is where a whey protein powder can help fill the gaps and ensure you are meeting your body’s daily protein needs. Whey protein powder can quickly be added to water or smoothie after your workout for an easy on-the-go option.
If your training goals include muscle growth and the reduction of fat, then whey protein powders can be of assistance to you, especially when you are engaging in resistance training. Protein is the single-most important ingredient for muscle growth. Now, you may be asking yourself how this works. The body’s process of building and repairing damaged muscle is called muscle protein synthesis, which requires (you guessed it!) protein. Although the timing of protein intake to assist with muscle protein synthesis is up for debate, protein supplementation has been found to stimulate this process, which can lead to muscle growth and better recovery, subsequently improving our training experience. Protein supplementation with resistance training has also been found to assist with increases in strength, which can help us reach our performance related goals at the gym.
Having such a convenient option can help ensure that you are intaking protein at an essential time: post-workout. After we leave the gym or wherever we are training, we have a choice to make, which is determining how we are going to refuel our bodies. The quality of our diets is as important, if not more, than the quality of our training if we are looking to lose weight and increase our lean body mass. Choosing an easy-to-make protein shake can help avoid food choices that may counteract the good work we just did in our training. The appropriate amount of post-workout protein can also help with muscle recovery. It is safe to say that the better our muscles recover, the better our bodies will feel in the hours following a challenging workout. If we wake up the next morning with less pain and soreness, there is a good chance we will feel comfortable returning to the gym and continuing to work towards our fitness goals.
Something to consider
Before figuring out what protein powder you want to try, it is important to think about your nutritional needs. If you are someone who is meeting the recommended protein intake for your weight through your diet, you may not need to supplement with a protein powder. Studies have shown that exceeding the recommended protein intake does not have any further benefits. Also, a diet consisting of excessive amounts of protein over time could lead to negative health impacts, such as kidney stones and stress on the bones and liver. For those who may need extra assistance with protein intake, such as vegetarians or vegans, protein powders can be a convenient way to do so. However, if you fall into either of those categories, stay away from the whey, and look into plant-based proteins.
Protein powders can help you meet your daily protein needs, which in turn can improve your training experience by stimulating muscle growth, improving recovery, and increasing lean body mass. Adding protein powder to your training routine can provide a quick and simple way to meet your protein needs and make smart post-workout nutrition choices. Start the process of picking a protein powder by determining your daily protein needs, your fitness goals, and dietary preferences (animal versus plant-based proteins), and you will be on your way!