Protein powder is by far the most widely consumed supplement within the fitness industry. For good reason, it’s convenient, contains high-quality protein and it’s a lot more cost efficient when compared to other protein sources. Not only that, but it’s also one of the few supplements that’s heavily backed by research in terms of its safety muscle building properties and several other benefits.
However, despite the popularity of protein powder, most people are often left clueless when it comes to how to choose the best type of protein. Even more so when it comes to how to best use it to build muscle and unfortunately asking the sales guy at your local supplement store will likely just leave you even more confused or misinformed than you were to begin with.
But luckily in this article, we’ll clear everything up for you and show you exactly how to maximize the effectiveness of protein powder by looking at the following points.
When it comes to picking a protein powder the sheer amount of options can definitely be overwhelming. To keep it simple, research indicates that when compared to other forms of protein powder, Whey and Casein have the highest essential amino acid content and are the best at stimulating muscle protein synthesis. Which means that they’re going to be your best options.
Whey vs Casein
Now as for the difference between whey and casein and which one is better it mainly has to do with their digestive properties whey is a faster-digesting protein that rapidly spikes protein synthesis for a short period of time. Whereas casein is a slower digesting protein that gradually increases protein synthesis over a longer period of time but generally.
It is generally advised to stick with whey over casein since it has a slightly higher leucine content. Researches also tend to favour whey over casein when it comes to elevating protein synthesis and promoting gains in muscle mass. Whey isolate is the purest form of whey protein and contains the least lactose.
However, if you’re seeking to maximize your results then casein does have a unique potential application and maybe something you still want to consider in addition to whey. As for vegans, who can’t intake whey or casein, research shows that plant protein powders don’t stimulate muscle protein synthesis. So in order to compensate for whey or casein, vegans have to ingest a greater amount of plant protein or simply ensuring that they intake adequate amino acids through various food sources.
When to consume Protein powder?
Most people are firm believers that protein shakes are meant to be taken right after your workout. Research actually doesn’t fully support this idea, for example, as shown in this 2013 literature review on the topic Ingesting Protein Immediately Post-workout doesn’t seem to be very important if you’ve already had a pre-workout meal with sufficient protein.
Multiple other studies support this idea by emphasizing that this one-hour post-workout anabolic window may only apply to fasted training where there’s no pre-ingestion of protein whereas if you’ve ingested protein sometime before your workout, it essentially renders the timing of your post-workout shake as useless which just means that a post-workout shake isn’t as important as we thought it was.
Research even suggests that ingesting your shake before your workout is more beneficial than after. A study from the American Journal of Physiology showed that when subjects in a fasted State ingested protein before their workout they experience significantly higher muscle protein synthesis when compared to subjects who ingested their protein immediately after their workout.
Therefore, when it comes to the timing of your protein shake, you can have it at any time during the day to simply boost your daily protein intake. However, since a post-workout shake is convenient for most people as it’s fast digesting and it helps you spread out your protein intake throughout the day, it may still not be urgent on the other hand if you haven’t eaten any protein prior to your workout. Taking a shake shortly before your workout is likely the best option to maximize protein synthesis.
Lastly, if you’re planning on working out in a fasted state then adjusting your shake within an hour or so after your workout seems to be ideal. In addition to this, as mentioned earlier to maximize your results you might also want to consider ingesting Casein protein powders shortly before bed. This is because multiple recent studies have found that in taking at least 40 grams of a slow digesting protein before bed helps improve overnight muscle protein synthesis which theoretically leads to better muscle recovery and growth over time. Casein might be something you want to incorporate in addition to your whey protein.
How much protein powder to intake?
Multiple studies have arrived at the general consensus at 20 to 25 grams of a high-quality protein like whey is sufficient for maximizing muscle protein synthesis and is, therefore, a good minimum you’d want to aim for when taking it. It’s also worth noting though that having more than this might provide a small additional benefit with one recent 2016 paper concluding that in taking 40 grams of whey protein stimulated muscle protein synthesis to a greater extent than a 20 gram dose regardless of the subjects body weight and lean body mass.
But generally, it seems as sticking to a dose of anywhere between 20 grams to 40 grams is likely your best bet. Now as for how often to take protein, this just ultimately depends on your own total daily protein requirements. You should prioritize and take your protein from food sources since they provide a variety of other amino acids and nutrients and then use protein powders to supplement this if needed.
For example, we know that sticking to a protein intake of roughly 0.732 1 grams per pound of body weight is ideal. If a 107107-pound individual requires 170 grams of protein a day and can comfortably intake 130 grams of protein from real food sources, then they could take 140-gram scoop of protein daily regardless of whether they worked out and off to help them reach their daily goal.
If you needed to take more than this to reach your goal that’s perfectly fine. Whatever helps you hit your daily protein target conveniently and consistently is what will be ideal. Studies have shown that although Co-ingesting protein powder with additional carbs and/or fat does slow down digestion, it does not increase nor decrease muscle protein synthesis.
Simply meaning that you can feel free to take your protein with whatever you prefer whether that be milk, water or something else. However, if you’re focusing on gaining weight then it can be helpful to take your protein with dairy milk for the additional 100 to 200 calories and the extra protein it provides. Whereas, if you’re focusing on losing fat it might be best to take with something like almond milk or water which just helps you conveniently save an extra couple hundred calories or so.
So, keep in mind that protein powder is not anything magical and is by no means necessary to see results. However, if you struggle to hit your daily protein intake through food alone then this is where it becomes useful and something for you to consider.