So, protein powder.
In some parts of the fitness community protein powder is almost treated as a food group on its own. But navigating the supplement jungle is not easy, and extremely confusing for beginners.
As I recently talked about the importance of eating after a workout, it will only be fitting to follow-up with a post about how to choose the right kind of protein powder.
Just to get the basics clear, protein is a macronutrient consisting of various amino acids, and is an essential part of many structures in every living cell. You can find protein in your hair, skin, most organs, various tissue and your magnificent muscles.
Protein Concentrate vs. Protein Isolate
Protein powder often is categorised is as either isolates or concentrates. When the protein is manufactured, the fat and carbs (in the form of lactose in whey protein) is removed – at least some, depending on the process. Concentrate contains 30%-85% protein, while the way isolate is made is more thorough with an end-product with over 90% protein. This explains why protein isolate usually is more expensive than concentrate .
So which one should you pick?
Isolate is absorbed into the bloodstream faster and as the body really needs some amino acids after a tough workout isolate is a sound choice. Concentrate, on the other hand, could be the best choice when it comes to the rest of the day, because isolate lack many of the health benefits from protein in general, as some of the health- and immune system boosters does not make it through the production (e.g. beta-lactoglubins, lactoferrins and immunoglobulins in whey ). Another reason is that the body doesn’t need a sudden rush of amino acids at the middle of the day, and some of it will just be burned off for energy rather than muscle-building.
Different kinds of protein powder
Let’s start with the by far most popular kind. This kind of protein comes from milk, and is the best choice for most people – unless, of course, you are lactose intolerant, even though most lactose is removed in the making of whey isolates. In studies, whey protein is linked with fat loss, muscle gains, improved metabolism and a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, and to a greater extent than other protein such as casein and that from eggs . Just try to steer clear of products with a lot of artificial sweeteners.
(Sometimes called calcium caseinate on labels)
While whey makes up about 20% of the protein found in milk, casein is the rest. Unlike whey, casein is very slowly absorbed by the digestive system, but otherwise they are almost identical. Casein seems to be ideal to consume just before bed time to improve muscle recovery .
Two kinds are often mentioned when it comes to vegan sources of protein powder: Soy and hemp. Hemp, however, is not available many places because of the association with cannabis. But both kinds contain all the essential amino acids, and soy is connected with multiple health benefits . Yet some people question the benefits of soy for muscle-building due to its effects on hormone levels .
Protein powder is an easy and convenient way to meet your daily protein needs, but it is not magic powder that will make your muscles pop up immediately. For most people a post workout protein shake is enough, and they can get the rest of their protein from whole foods as part of their regular diet.
At the moment I do have a protein shake after my intense workouts, and other times I just have some cocoa or dinner. If you’re looking for more protein-rich foods instead of protein powder, have a look at this list.
Do you use protein powder? Let me know in the comments!
- The effects of whey protein on cardiometabolic risk factors. Pal S, Radavelli-Bagatini S. School of Public Health, Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia, Australia. Obesity reviews : An Official Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 2012 Nov 20.
- Protein Ingestion Prior To Sleep Improves Post-Exercise Overnight Recovery. Res, P.T., Groen, B., Pennings, B., et al. Department of Human Movement Sciences, Brentford, United Kingdom. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2012 Feb 9.
- (See 3.)