The Benefits of Protein Powder for Guys
You can’t flick through a fitness magazine or click through a work-out or supplement website these days without being confronted by protein and the endless claims of the benefits of protein powder. Usually it’s a mega-hottie in a bikini or a 280-pound ripped behemoth who’s extolling the virtues of the latest powder or tablet. Protein powder, it would seem, is pretty important to this whole muscle, fitness, working out thing. Not quite sure why, and how much you really need? Read on to get the low down on your body’s protein needs and how to negotiate your way through the myriad powders on offer. Also we go over on how to pick the top protein powder or just a good protein powder for you.
Protein is the Building Blocks of the Body
The human body is constantly renewing itself, discarding old cells and making new ones. To make all of these new cells, the body requires nutrients in the form of food. The key nutrient that we use to rebuild our bodies is protein. Proteins, in fact, have a number of key roles in the body. They act as transporters of nutrients, have hormonal functions and take on the role of enzymes. Primarily though, proteins are the constructors of the human body – the raw material from which everything, from our head to our toe, is made. In fact, protein is second only to water as the most plentiful substance in the human body, making up between 10 and 15 percent of our bodyweight.
When broken down into their smallest particles, proteins become amino acids. The body takes various amino acids, bonding them to form muscle cells. Our bodies require 20 amino acids to function. Of these we are able to produce 11. The other 9, the essential amino acids, must come from the foods we eat.
Proteins are assessed according to their biological value (BV). The BV of a protein assigns a number to that protein, based upon its quality and absorbability. At the top of the BV scale is whey protein isolate, with a BV of well over 100.
How Much Protein to Take?
People who are intent on building lean muscle, should be aiming for about one gram of protein per pound of body fat. So a 200 pound guy, should be taking in 200 grams of protein per day. Spread over 6 meals, that’s about 33 grams per meal. So, that’s what you need to aim for in your protein powder, which will act as one, or at most two, of those six meals. If you are getting a little more than you need for that meal (for instance, you weigh 150 pounds, so only need about 27 grams per meal), the excess will help balance out any shortfall in your whole food meals throughout the remainder of the day.
What’s the Deal with Protein Powders?
Now back to those eye catching protein powder ads that seem to proliferate the market place. Does your body really need these supplements? In short, no. Protein powders are not better than whole foods – and they never will be. So long as you are getting enough quality protein from whole foods, you don’t need to bother will supplements. If you tend to fall short of your daily requirement (which should be 1 gram for every pound of bodyweight), though, protein supplements can provide a really convenient way to get you there. One great advantage of protein supplementation is the convenience. When you’re on the run, grabbing your trusty shaker bottle and throwing in some powder and milk, giving it a quick shake and then downing it takes no time at all. Powders also allow you to get your protein immediately before and after your workout quickly and efficiently. So, use protein supplements as a back up, but rely on whole foods as your main source of protein.
Another benefit of protein powders is that they allow you take in up to 30 or 40 grams of protein at a time without having to also ingest high amounts of fat, which is often the case when consuming animal based protein sources.
The bottom line here is to use protein powders as a back up, but rely on whole foods as your main source of protein.
Choosing the Best Protein Powder for You
All men may be created equal, but all protein powder certainly are not. When it comes to protein efficiency, then whey is way ahead. There is a large portion of the population, however, who cannot digest dairy based proteins without suffering gastric upset. For them, vegan sources may well be the way to go. Let’s check out your protein powder options.
Whey Protein is the Top Protein Powder
Whey protein, which is produced from mammalian milk (primarily sourced from cows), is the fastest digesting of all the proteins. It is also the most nutritious form of protein that we have. All mammals produce about 80% casein and 20% whey protein in their milk. Whey is the white film that you find on the top of cottage cheese or yogurt. For years, the dairy industry simply threw the whey away. When they finally decided to check out the whey, however, they discovered that it was, actually, very good for you.
Whey is a low calorie source of complete proteins, which is high in branch chain amino acids. As already noted, it also has a BV in excess of 100. This makes it very easy to digest.
There are different forms of whey; isolate and concentrate. A person who is lactose intolerant, should stick with a whey protein isolate. As the name suggests, it will isolate the fat and the lactose. A concentrate, on the other hand, will have a little of the lactose left over in it
Whey protein contributes to the regulation of carbohydrates and fats, assisting in fat loss. The reason that whey protein is an effective fat loss booster appears to do with the amino acids from the whey which circulate in the blood and are then converted to blood sugar by the liver. These then have the effect of decreasing appetite.
Of course, whey protein also builds muscle. Unlike casein protein, it will race directly to the muscle cell when taken before or after training. But, whey protein does more than build muscle.
It turns out, though, that the best whey protein does more than build muscle. It also enhances blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity. In fact, scientists out of the University of Cincinnati Medical Centre found that whey protein, when taken as a supplement in drinking water, not only increased lean body mass, it also led to a decrease in body fat percentage in comparison to a control group. The amount of calories taken in by the two groups was the same. Choosing a whey protein powder can be difficult due to so many options on the market, but there are sites that do most of the work for you and rank protein powders.
The Case for Casein Protein
Casein protein is marketed as a super supplement that will prevent your body from catabolizing your gains overnight as you sleep. Casein’s BV rating is 77, making it a lower quality protein source than whey. Casein is a slow digesting protein that is time released to supply a constant flow of protein to your muscle cells over a period of time. When you start to digest casein, it quickly turns into a gluey paste in your stomach, making it very difficult for your body to break down.
The truth about taking casein to prevent overnight muscle wasting is that the body goes through both catabolic and anabolic cycles no matter what you do. The key is to ensure that your anabolic processes outweigh your catabolic processes, putting you into positive nitrogen balance. Pushing casein as the answer to overnight muscle sparing is simply a marketing ploy. If you’ve already reached your protein intake goal for the day with the higher BV whey protein, there is no need to take even the best casein protein before bed.
Soy: The Super Legume Based Protein
Soybeans are rare in the plant kingdom as a source of complete proteins with the right quantities of all the essential amino acids. In fact, food experts rank soy proteins on par with egg whites and casein (milk protein), the two proteins easiest for your body to absorb and use. Some nutritionists think that soy proteins are even better than the proteins in eggs and milk. That’s because the proteins in soy come with no cholesterol and very little of the saturated fat known to clog your arteries and raise your risk of heart attack. Better yet, more than 20 recent studies suggest that adding soy to your diet can actually lower your cholesterol levels.
Half a cup of cooked soybeans has 14 grams of protein – that’s approximately twice the protein you get from one large egg or one 225 ml glass of skim milk – and without the cholesterol.
Soybeans are also jam packed with dietary fibre. If you do choose to use soybeans, go slowly. Soybeans contain high amounts of certain long chain carbs that are a problem for our digestive enzymes. We have great difficulty breaking them down into simple sugars, which can cause abdominal bloating and flatulence. Fermented soy foods, such as tempeh, miso soup and fermented soy milk that contain beneficial bifido micro-organisms are digested much easier in your gut and are less likely to produce these unpleasant side effects.
What is Hemp Protein?
With the massive popularity of such lifestyle choices as Paleo, protein alternatives such as hemp are becoming increasingly sought after. The best hemp protein powder contains about half the protein base of whey protein concentrate (45% compared with 90%). That means that it will provide you with a much lower amount of protein per serve. A 30 gram scop of whey will give you about 22 grams of protein, whereas the same amount of hemp will provide about 12 grams. If you’re after a snack sized amount of protein that will be fine. If, however, you are consuming it as meal replacement, it will fall somewhat short of what you need.
Hemp protein does contain the full range of essential amino acids. This gives it a distinct advantage over most vegetarian based proteins, which are generally lacking in one or more of the essential aminos.
What about Rice Protein Powder?
Rice protein is becoming more and more popular as people search for non-dairy protein sources. With rice being typically thought of as a carbohydrate, it may seem strange to talk of rice protein. However, rice does contain protein. It can be enzymatically separated from the carbohydrate portion and made into a powder. A well as a stand-alone vegetarian option, rice is also becoming increasingly common in the whey / casein protein blends.
Rice is a gluten free protein source that contains all 9 essential amino acids. It is also high in sulphur containing amino acids, such as thiamine and cystine. However, it is low in lysine. That’s the reason that many rice proteins include a pea protein blend, which is lacking in some of the sulphur containing amino acids, but is rich in lysine.
Often the best rice protein is mixed with other vegetarian protein sources, it is best to get a blend which contains two or more protein sources, to allow for compensation in order to provide a full amino acid profile. In contrast, whey or casein protein will have a strong profile in and of itself.
The flavouring of rice protein has improved dramatically in recent years. Previously it had a bitter taste to it, but, by combining it with other protein sources, the taste has become quite pleasant. It is also not as chalky as it used to be.
Don’t forget Pea Protein Power
Pea protein is another complete vegan protein source. This one has gained popularity lately as a result of it being recommended by Dr Oz as an effective way to decrease hunger. It has also been found to be among the most digestible of all protein sources. Studies show that, of all the different bases for protein powder, pea protein produces the lowest allergic reactions. Because pea protein is produced using enzymes, it does not cause stomach discomfort or gas. However, it is lacking in two amino acids; cysteine and methionine. But it is high in lysine. As with rice protein, the taste of good pea protein powders has improved with time.
Should I Take Those RTD (ready to drink) Protein Shakes?
For many guys, getting their daily protein revolves around an endless cycle of mixing protein powder, finding a blender and a cup (not to mention a power source). That can be a major hassle. Which is probably why RTD protein drinks have gained a foothold.
Apart from the convenience of RTD protein drinks, liquid protein (as opposed to the powder variety) is more bioavailable, making for far more efficient absorption.
RTD protein drinks are exactly what they sound like – protein supplements that have been pre-mixed by the manufacturer. You don’t have to do anything except put in the straw and sip them into your system. They are available in the form of cartons, bottles or cans. These are generally promoted as protein supplements, meaning that they will contain a sizeable amount of protein in each serve. The carbohydrate and fat content, however, can vary quite substantially.
RTD protein drinks are a convenient way to get your protein on the run. When you’re rushing from one thing to the next, only just managing to squeeze in your workout, finding the time to mix up a protein shake can be wishful thinking. The convenience of grabbing ready to go protein is a major plus. Just don’t abuse them. At an absolute maximum, you’d want to take them twice per day as snacks between main meals. You’ll probably want to have one of those occasions marry up with your pre-workout meal.
Many RTD protein drinks contain large quantities of fat and / or sugar in order to improve the flavour. These drinks may play havoc with your lean muscle goals. That’s why you need to look out for an RTD protein drink that is primarily flavoured with natural flavourings. It is possible to get a full bodied, creamy protein drink without unwanted fat calories. But you’ll have to start reading the labels to find it! Look out for such ingredients as cane juice, stevia, monk fruit extract, natural vanilla extract and cocoa.
Most RTD protein drinks are derived from dairy powders such as calcium sodium caseinate, milk protein isolate and whey, from whence they are mixed with water and vegetable oil. Many are also loaded with carbohydrates. This may be dangerous to those who are striving for that lean, muscular look. The ideal protein, carb ratio is 3:1.
A lot of RTDs also contain lactose, to which many people are either allergic or intolerant. This is because they are unable to digest lactase, which is a milk sugar found in whey protein. People who are lactose intolerant will end up with stomach upset, gas and bloating after consuming RTD that contain lactose. It is possible, however, to find RTD protein drinks that are lactose free.
Uncovering the Truth About Protein Powder – Debunking Protein Myths
Myth: Protein will fry your kidneys.
Reality: Unless you have some sort of pre-existing kidney condition, you will be fine. Even though it’s true that protein is a large molecule, and it has to pass through the kidneys, it would take enormous amounts of protein for a person who doesn’t have a pre-existing condition to harm your kidneys. Make sure that you are drinking a lot of water, which will help the protein to flush through the kidneys.
Myth: Protein will make you bulky.
Reality: Protein will stimulate muscle growth when coupled with intense resistance training. The more muscle you have, the more fat you will burn. That’s because protein induces the highest thermic effect of the three macronutrients. So, by taking in protein, you’re burning calories. There is a high metabolic cost involved in the process of converting ingested protein into usable protein. The result will be lean rather than bulky muscle.
Myth: The artificial sweeteners in protein powders will damage your body.
Reality: Most sweeteners used in protein powders are pretty harmless to the body. No manufacturers are using aspartame anymore, and many of them are using completely natural sweeteners. Sucralose, if it is used, is generally in small quantities. There has not been any research to indicate that the sweeteners used in protein powders will produce health problems.
Myth: You need to take a mass gainer in order to gain weight.
Reality: Products that are advertised as ‘mass gainers’ have ridiculous amounts of calories in them. Most people simply don’t need that many. That means that the excess will deposit itself on your body as fat. Rather than spending money on a mass gainer, go for a standard protein powder and gain your extra calories from protein dense foods such as peanut butter, nuts, and eggs.
Myth: You can only digest 30 grams of protein in one sitting.
Reality: Studies have shown that it doesn’t matter how much protein you take in at a time, your body has the ability to synthesize all of it. The important thing is how much protein you take in one day. It is recommended that you take in one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Myth: You need to consume ridiculous amounts of protein to get big.
Reality: For the non-professional bodybuilder, who is not taking steroids and is looking to build some muscle, get lean and look good, there is no need to digest crazy amounts of protein. Stick with the one gram per pound of bodyweight guideline, and you’ll be getting all the protein your need.
What to Look for in A Good Protein Powder Supplement
There are many sites out that that review supplements and give you the information you need to make an educated decision. However, I’ll outline a few things to look out for when making your decision.
When choosing a protein powder take into consideration the following:
Taste – It doesn’t matter how bioavailable your protein powder is, if you can’t stand the taste, it’s going to be relegated to the back of your pantry. When it comes to taste, ignore what is promised on the packaging. Rely, instead, on online reviews. You want a powder that is not only flavourful, but that mixes well and doesn’t leave a chalky residue at the bottom of the cup.
Quality – Quality means that the powder will have a yield rate in excess of 70%. It should have both branch chain amino acids (BCAA’s) as well as the nine essential amino acids.
Ease of Use – The powder should be mixer friendly, including in a shaker bottle. The protein drink should also produce no bloating and gaseous effects.
Results – Protein powder isn’t like your everyday milkshake – it’s got a job to do. That job, of course, is to put muscle mass onto your frame. Maintain records over the period that you take the powder and analyse the effect that it has on your unique body.
Key Facts on Protein Powders
- Aim for 1 gram per pound of bodyweight per day
- 30% of total calories per meal should come from protein
- Go for whey first if your body can tolerate it
- If selecting vegetarian, pea and soy proteins are your best options
- Digest a lean, quality complete protein at each meal
- Consume protein before and after your workout
- Try to get in between 25-40 grams of protein at each meal