For Athletes and Bulking, protein contains the building blocks for lean muscle development and enhanced performance. Protein powder in particular, provides an efficient tool to meet these goals. Protein powders allow you to boost protein intake without additional carbs. Protein powders also allow timing of your protein intake for an optimal supply of essential amino acids right when your body needs it.
The basics for timing protein intake are roughly the same no matter your athletic goal. One serve of protein for each workout. The most popular an ideal source is whey protein isolate and hydrolyzed whey isolate. These can be used directly after a workout as they are digested rapidly to provide essential amino acids. This allows you to exercise on an empty stomach without the risk of cramping or that full feeling.
What about other protein powders?
Slower digesting proteins may require supplementing prior to a workout in order to time that supply of amino acids. Egg and plant-based proteins are good examples of those that take extra planning. For these, we recommend intake up to an hour pre-workout for best results. This allows for the slower digesting nature of these sources.
Some high-quality plant-based products can also include enzymes such as Alpha-galactosidase which can help improve digestion time.
Whey-based protein powder is the superior choice and offers the best value and results when compared with other sources. It's packed with a complete protein that's quickly digested to provide essential amino acids as needed.
We recommend the use of whey isolates that digest quickly and offer the best value. For elite training, you may be willing to pay the extra expense for a hydrolyzed whey isolate that is digested very rapidly.
However, not everyone can use a dairy-based source due to vegan diets, allergies or a food intolerance. Beef and egg protein also offers excellent results.
What about Casein?
During sleep, your body can enter a catabolic state where there are insufficient amino acids to maintain muscle repair and growth. During this period you can lose muscle mass and casein protein has some unique properties that can help. Casein is a very slow digesting protein that releases amino acids into your bloodstream over up to 7 hours. So for those with an extensive workout routine, a serve of casein before sleep can provide what your body needs to maintain and build muscle cells throughout the night.
What about Vegans?
While plant-based proteins cannot be used as easily as a whey-based product, they can still be used effectively to build lean muscle mass with a little planning towards timing.
You may want to supplement with additional fiber to avoid constipation issues that can commonly occur with high protein intake.
What about Mass Gainers?
For an extreme training routine, you may require a Mass Gainer. There is a point you can reach where your body doesn't have enough fuel to support the amount of exercise you perform. At this point, your body may start burning muscle cells for fuel. Some athletes can't absorb enough carbs from whole foods to support the volume of exercise they perform and a mass gainer can help by providing both the protein and a large serving of carbohydrates in one.
In general, you should follow the instructions provided by your product. However, a whey serving of 25-30 grams is optimal after each workout. Don't be fooled, taking more within a 3-hour window will have no additional benefit as your body can only absorb around 25 grams of protein over a 3-hour window. There are some products that will suggest a double serving size which we would recommend against.
For plant-based protein powders, you may wish to supplement before and after your workout with a gap of 3 hours between. Plant-based protein serving size should be between 15-25 grams.
Protein powder can be mixed with milk or water. Blenders will give you the best result, but a protein shaker can be more convenient at the gym.
For an extra energy and flavor boost, you can add fruit like banana or berries with a little ice and blend up your own refreshing frappe!
For Weight Loss, protein is perhaps the most useful nutritional aid. This is because protein has been shown to increase metabolism, reduce appetite, and is less easily converted to fat deposits.
Protein is not a magic pill though. Those seeking weight loss should also consider improving their whole food diet and increasing exercise. Protein supplements make an excellent tool for use alongside a healthy diet/life change.
We recommend using protein powder as a meal replacement. The best meal to start with is breakfast. A high-protein breakfast has been shown to reduce cravings throughout the day by as much as 60%.
Plant-based protein powders are an excellent protein source for weight loss. Plant-based proteins are less easily overused and generally include a blend of slower digesting proteins which can help you feel fuller for longer. We recommend a protein powder that includes pea protein.
If you are using whey protein you should avoid those that are designed for rapid absorption such as whey isolates and hydrolyzed whey isolates. These are generally designed for athletes. Weight loss products normally include simple whey concentrates which are digested over a longer period. Products that include a blend of both whey concentrate and casein protein are often ideal. Casein protein can be especially useful in reducing cravings over a longer period.
Egg white protein can also be a good choice as its digestion is slow.
Low-carb, but not No-carb!
Low-carb protein powders are generally designed for athletes. When selecting a weight loss protein powder for a meal replacement, you want one that includes some carbohydrates but isn't high-carb. This is because carbs can be more easily converted into fat deposits, but some carbohydrates are required to maintain energy levels. It should be obvious, but you should avoid weight loss powders that contain sugar!
Keep fiber content in mind when selecting a protein powder for weight loss. Again, plant-based powders tend to be naturally high in fiber and offer a good option. High protein diets can cause constipation if you don't maintain adequate fiber intake.
Price doesn't matter!
Weight loss diets can be challenging enough without restricting your protein powder to the cheapest available on the market. If you want to meet your goals, select the best tool for the job. This way you have the best chance at maintaining a new healthy routine.
Even the most expensive products tend to be less expensive than the cost of the meal they replace. So grab a quality product that meets your needs, including great flavors you can enjoy.
In general, you should follow the instructions provided by a weight loss protein product. However, for a plant-based powder, you should use a 20-25g serving. For a whey product, a serving of 25-30 grams is all you need.
This represents the optimum amount of protein your body can process and use. using more than this for a meal replacement could result in some of the protein being converted into fat stores.
Weight loss protein powder should be mixed with low or no-fat milk or water. Sugar-free fruit juice is an option if you have additional energy requirements. However, keep in mind that juice contains natural fructose sugar that is better than refined sugar but can still work against your goal.
Don't forget, flavor is king if you want to start a new routine you can maintain!
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