Smashed a solid workout, muscles are hurting, must time to grab that protein shake because what’s the point of a workout without that protein shake, right?? Seems that way these days, not to mention the obligatory gym selfie or facey check in 😉 So the question stands, do you need protein, and what sort of protein is best for YOU?
Before we get into the specifics of protein powders lets see if you actually need one first.
Proteins, or its amino acid building blocks, are essential for muscle synthesis and recovery as well as many hormone and enzyme functions. However, the typical diet already has plenty of protein, well enough for these bodily functions, so why might you need a shake in addition?
- Convenience – If your goal is to gain lean muscle mass it is important to have some protein (approx 20-25g) after a strength based workout. As long as this protein is complete (in that it contains all the essential amino acids) then the type of protein doesn’t matter too much. You could just as effectively have eggs, meat, dairy, tofu or fish for your post workout protein. Where the shakes can come in handy is if a post workout meal is not easily available.
- Poor appetite – Again if your goal is to gain lean muscle mass and we need to get in that post workout protein sometimes a shake can be the most palatable method. If you’re anything like me the thought of a meal after a big session can sometimes be off putting.
While I STRONGLY recommend you get as much of your dietary protein from WHOLEFOODS, sometimes a shake can make for a more convenient or palatable option to help you meet your goals. Regardless of your reason for choosing a protein powder you need to be careful with your choice. The ingredients list of protein powders rarely are short, most with added thickeners, emulsifiers, stimulants and god knows what else?! Seriously, it is actually a concern. If protein powders (or any supplement for that matter) are brought into Australia via New Zealand, they can sneak around a lot of food legislation so you need to be careful. Always buy Australian made and NEVER buy products shipped internationally. There can be long term consequences on your liver if you’re getting more than you think you are in your powder (I’ve seen it happen!!).
What about for weight loss?
I don’t recommend protein powders for weight loss as a general rule, yes in certain circumstances I have but in general I don’t. Whilst a higher protein diet can be effective for weight loss I always recommend whole foods when trying to lose weight. Why? Because a shake provides you with extra calories if you are adding it on top of what you already eat. And two if you are using it in replacement of a snack or meal it generally won’t give you the fullness a protein rich meal or snack will. A protein shake being a liquid will slide through your stomach quicker than for example 2 eggs would, meaning you could be hungry much sooner, thus end up eating more.
Which type of protein?
Well this depends on your specific dietary needs, I’ve listed below some of the most common protein powders and a little about each.
Whey Protein Concentrate – Made from cows milk and concentrated to be approximately 70-80% protein with the remainder of energy from the natural milk carbohydrate lactose. Obviously if you are vegan or lactose intolerant this protein would not be suitable.
Whey Protein Isolate – Again made from cows milk but has undergone a purification process to get the purest form of whey protein, meaning little to no carbohydrate (unless added in the form of sugar) or lactose. Great all rounder protein with good evidence for assistance with gain of lean muscle mass however not suitable for vegans.
Casein Protein – Dairy based protein however much slower to digest than whey protein due to the interactions with stomach acids. Not an ideal post workout supplement due to the slow release but can make a good supplement to take prior to bed to assist with muscle synthesis overnight. Alternatively, a dairy product would have the same, if not better effects as a pre-bed supplement due to the natural combination of whey (quick release) and casein protein.
Pea Protein – 100% plant based making it a good choice for vegans or those with cows milk allergies. Unless specifically added, can be missing some of the essential amino acids for muscle synthesis.
Brown Rice Protein – Again 100% plant based, however like pea protein can be missing some essential amino acids so not great as a sole source of protein in the diet (not that I would ever suggest protein powder being the sole source of protein regardless!!)
Soy Protein – 100% plant based but unlike brown rice or pea protein soy protein DOES contain all the essential amino acids for muscle synthesis.
What protein do I use?
For me, it is always a whey protein isolate, the most pure form of protein and the one with the most evidence to support its use in the gain of lean muscle mass. I will only have protein shakes after strength based workouts, not after runs or mostly cardiovascular style circuits. The hardest thing about protein powder for me is the taste – seriously can’t stand the stuff most the time, I find most brands taste too chemically or artificial. The one brand I have come to love recently is Four Protein (only 4 ingredients which is awesome), it is a whey protein isolate and actually tastes good, seriously tastes like milo to me!!! Check them out on insta – I think they ship internationally but don’t quote me on it. The other brands I have tried and am quite happy with are Bare Blends or Bulk Nutrients (super cheap for those on a budget).
Hope this helps.