Protein Buyer's Guide Q & A
If you're looking to gain but tend to get lost in the vitamin store, don't fret. We'll help you pick the best protein supplement for your body type, goals, and schedule.
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You need to make protein your starting point, no matter what your fitness goals are. Muscle is composed of protein, so in order to build bigger guns you’ll need to make sure you’re getting enough of this powerful macro-nutrient; research confirms that eating as much as 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight has a significant impact on muscle building. Protein also helps stave off hunger, so if you’re trying to lose weight it’s a great way to keep your calories down throughout the day.
Protein is broken down in the body into various amino acids, which your recovering muscles then utilize to repair themselves and ultimately become bigger and stronger. Protein supplements, like shakes, are a convenient way to get your daily protein. They’re also the most efficient way to build muscle, since you can incorporate specific types of protein that are more effective at certain times of day or night.
1) Do you have time to make only one protein shake a day?
● If that’s the case, then your best bet is to buy a mixed shake that includes at least two different forms of protein, such as whey and casein. In fact, at the very least, choose one that contains both whey and casein. Research shows that combining fast-digesting whey and slow-digesting casein leads to a longer anabolic response and greater muscle growth in resistance-training men.
2) Are you allergic to dairy protein*?
● Forgo the whey and casein protein. Beef protein is a great substitute for whey, as it’s hydrolyzed, which makes it fast digesting. Another good option is egg protein, which bodybuilders swore by before whey protein became the king of protein powders. There is also soy, rice, and even pea protein.
*Note: Being allergic to dairy protein is not the same as being lactose intolerant. If you are lactose intolerant, you can still use whey protein.
3) Do you like to play supplement scientist and mix your protein shakes in the exact amounts you want?
● You’ll be better served picking up separate whey and casein protein powders. Then you can mix them yourself for the benefits of both worlds. And if you’re really a protein mixologist, consider buying a jug of egg or soy protein to mix in. This option may cost more upfront, but tailoring your protein intake to your schedule will save you money in the long run.
4) Are you lactose intolerant?
● Even if you’re lactose intolerant, you can still consume whey protein. Just make sure to choose a whey protein isolate, which undergoes the most filtering to remove lactose, as compared with whey protein concentrates. You can (and always should) also check the nutrition label of the supplement—products that list zero carbs, or less than 2 grams per scoop, have barely any lactose at all. You may want to avoid casein, however, as most casein protein powders are not as rigorously filtered and processed as whey protein isolate.
5) Do you have trouble gaining any form of weight?
● If you are the forever-skinny guy who can eat and eat and not gain any fat—let alone muscle—then you are what we call a “hardgainer.” Your best bet is to avoid standard protein powders and consider using a mass gainer. In addition to providing quality protein like the milk proteins whey and casein, these powders provide ample carbohydrates and healthy fats, which will provide you with the other macronutrients you need to put you in enough of a calorie surplus that you are finally able to build some muscle. Use a mass gainer whenever you would normally drink a protein shake, such as before and after workouts, between meals, before bed, and upon waking.
6) Are you vegan?
● That means you will have to avoid whey, casein, egg, and beef protein. Vegetarians, on the other hand, can choose whey, casein, and egg protein. Vegans still have some decent options: consider soy protein as your first choice. Two studies done on subjects who trained with weights found that those who consumed soy protein powder for several weeks gained as much muscle and strength as those consuming whey protein powder. And the latest research confirms that soy does not lower testosterone levels.