If you’re reading this, then you already know that you need protein shakes to help you reach your fitness goals. Whether that’s building muscle, losing body fat or improving recovery times, protein supplementation is going to get you there faster. But the range of protein powders available is truly bewildering. How do you know you are getting the right protein for you – and your wallet?
Whey Proteins are Fast Releasing for Quick Muscle Growth and Recovery
The most common protein shake is whey. Whey is a by-product from the manufacture of cheese and is often used as pig food. Un-processed, whey is in liquid form and contains over 90% water and just 1% protein. This liquid is filtered and dried to leave the whey powder found in supplement form. To this, flavourings and sweeteners are added which improves the taste and texture of the whey.
Not all whey is created equal. There are three main types to choose from depending on your needs and budget.
Concentrate: This is the most common form of whey and also the most affordable. Whey concentrate is quick digesting and usually has a protein content of 60-75%. It can be taken at anytime including post workout for a quick protein hit.
Isolate: Isolated whey is not lonely. Rather the isolation is in the processing. Lactose – a naturally occurring milk sugar – is removed leaving the whey behind. This makes isolate purer at over 80% protein. Isolate is faster digesting than whey and so is more suitable for post workout. Isolate has the added advantage of being suitable for some people with lactose intolerance. This purity comes with an added price tag. A good brand of isolate will cost more than ordinary concentrate.
Hydrolysate: Whey protein hydrolysate (WPH) or Hydrowhey has been put through the process of hydrolysis which pre-digests the protein. This means that when it hits your stomach, it’s already strides ahead of ordinary whey making it the fastest digesting protein on the market. But hydrowhey will also make the biggest dent in your bank balance and is only really suitable for pre or post workout. Hydrolysed whey can also have a bitter taste.
Casein Protein is Slower Releasing Protein Shake for Prolonged Recovery Periods
Casein is the other milk protein. It’s used to make cheese among other things and forms the ‘curds’ of the milk. Casein is generally broken down slower than whey and so is generally labelled as ‘slow release’. This protein is equally important to your muscle building and recovery as whey. Just as whey gives your muscles a quick hit of nutrients, casein drip feeds your muscles with amino acids. These are the building blocks of protein. This encourages your body to repair and spares your precious existing muscle from being broken down in the process.
Casein can be found readily in cow’s milk, cheeses and yogurts but sometimes casein supplements are tastier and more convenient. When buying a casein supplement, make sure you go for one which contains ‘micellar casein’. This form of casein creates a gel in the gut which feeds your muscles for up to seven hours. A casein shake is a bedtime must if you’re serious about building muscle and quick recovery.
Vegetable Proteins Offer an Alternative to Animal Based Proteins
Let’s face it, animal proteins are not for everyone. Some of us can’t digest them very easily, others have chosen the narrow path of the vegan athlete. But alternatives do exist. There are a number of plant based proteins on the market from soy to hemp supplements and even more unusual offerings such as brown rice protein.
A word of warning however: plant proteins generally have a lower biological value (the usefulness of the protein) than whey and casein. Some studies have also linked soy protein to an increase in the female hormone oestrogen. It is therefore probably best to mix your vegan proteins with other sources if possible.
Multi-stage Release Protein Blends Can Offer the Best of Both Worlds
With all these different proteins with varying benefits, supplement manufacturers have been quick to produce protein blends. These products contain formulas of whey, casein, soy and sometimes egg proteins and are extremely versatile. Because of the way the proteins are released at different times, a blend is good for both post workout and pre- bed or even as a meal replacement. As a result, protein blends are a suitable all-in-one product which could be an advantage if you’re training on a budget.
Now armed with this knowledge, you can go forth and choose the right protein shake for your training needs and financial needs. If you need more advice, our in-house experts are willing to help. Just click on ‘Live Chat’ on the Muscle Finesse web page or check out some of our customer reviews.
By Neil M White