Pick Your Perfect Protein Powder
Sick of trying to figure out proteins? We hardly blame you. Fortunately, we've dug into the scientific data for you, to help get the most out of this potent muscle builder.
All that's left for you to do is mix your protein shake.
Whey protein (derived from milk) breaks down fast upon ingestion, driving amino acids through the bloodstream straight to your muscles. But whey is prized for more than just pure speed.
Whey pits all the vital muscle-mending (and building) amino acids in its gruelling mad dash to your muscles, making it a complete protein.
And it's revved up with more branched chain amino acids (BCAAs)-particularly leucine, the amino acid that turns on the muscle-growing process, protein synthesis. So the more leucine, the better your muscles are primed for growth.
According to research conducted at McMaster University (Hamilton, Canada) consuming whey protein after your workouts has a greater impact on muscle growth than casein or soy proteins.
In fact, results from the study revealed that whey was 122 percent and 31 percent more effective at boosting muscle protein synthesis immediately following exercise than casein and soy proteins, respectively.
Before and immediately following workouts you need about 20-40 grams. Also, consider taking 20-40 grams first thing in the morning to shift into anabolic mode after fasted sleep.
Stick with whey protein isolates or hydrolysates (whey protein broken down into smaller fragments).
Casein is the other popular-and highly effective-milk protein, perfect as a pre-bedtime shake. Casein doesn't boast lightening-fast absorption, like whey, but due to its slower digestion and steady release of amino acids, it's also the perfect addition to your shake following an intense workout.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that men who guzzled a blend of whey and casein protein after workouts for 10 weeks gained significantly more muscle than those who consumed whey alone.
Plus, casein is chock-full of more glutamine, an amino that packs a multitasking punch when it comes to supporting muscle growth.
Glutamine yields immune support, helps preserve muscle tissue, wards off fatigue and boosts growth hormone (GH) levels.
Your best bet is to choose a casein powder that contains micellar casein (the slowest-digesting form of casein) and immediately after workouts, add 10-20 grams to your whey shake.
Before bed, take 20-40 grams of casein.
GOAT MILK PROTEIN
To milk muscles with the benefits of both whey and casein sans the cow, go goat. Goat milk protein packs about 65% protein, but contains less of the crampy little offender alpha s1-casein protein, an allergenic found in cow milk. And while not as beefy in protein as its cow predecessors, this milk protein offers a gut-friendlier alternative.
Research shows goat milk protein forms a finer curd (clumps formed by the action of stomach acid on the protein), making it more easily and rapidly digested and absorbed. Its rich oligosaccharide (a short-chain sugar molecule) content aids in digestion, too.
A study conducted at the University of Granada (Spain) found that oligosaccharides serve as powerful prebiotic agents in the gut, especially in those with compromised intestinal function. (Prebiotics fuel the "good" bacteria already in your stomach to help them flourish, and thus help boost absorption.)
What's more, goat milk protein is high in calcium, potassium and magnesium-all of which support proper muscle function and help ward off muscle cramps.
Aim for about 20-40 grams before and after workouts.
Unlike most other plant-based proteins, soy yields the same vital muscle-building amino acids as whey. In fact, one study found that soy protein notched up comparable gains in muscle when combined with a resistance-training program to whey.
What's more, due to its processing, this heart-healthy option has a clear advantage over whey and other proteins: it contains more glutamine and arginine. Not only are these aminos known to enhance recovery and aid in immune system function, but also they help keep you anabolic.
In addition to arginine and glutamine, soy is rich in isoflavones. Because these act as powerful phytoestrogens (plant estrogens), they mimic, to some extent, the natural estrogens in the body.
The majority of research on isoflavones, however, has shown no detrimental effect on muscle growth. A study published in Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine found that when male subjects consumed a soy protein shake twice a day for 12 weeks, they gained the same amount of muscle mass as those who consumed whey protein. And, they showed no change in hormone levels.
Take 20-40 grams first thing in the morning, and before and after workouts. And, like whey, you'll want to stick with soy protein isolates or hydrolysates.
Of all the proteins, hemp has arguably the most potential for bewilderment. Hemp is often confused with its psychoactive cousin.
This protein contains two major protein components-edestin (about 65% of hemp protein) and albumin (about 35% of hemp protein).
It's also rich heart-healthy essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which help safeguard hormone levels. Because of these fats, and its fiber content, hemp serves up less muscle-building protein per serving (about 50% protein in every scoop).
The protein you do get, however, is rich in two brawny aminos: arginine and BCAAs. Research has found that both arginine and BCAAs have positive effects on strength, size, and even fat loss.
Before bedtime and between meals, take 20-40 grams.
If dipping into milk proteins rattles your stomach, crack open a tub of egg protein. Egg yields a nutrient-rich source of high-quality protein, and it is virtually devoid of carbs and fat.
Egg protein also boasts high concentrations of the aminos leucine and arginine. Leucine kick starts protein synthesis, making it the most important amino acid for building muscle.
Arginine, on the other hand, converts into nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels, allowing more muscle-building nutrients and oxygen to get to your muscles in a hurry.
Because egg protein falls somewhere between fast-digesting whey and slow-digesting casein, it not only boosts protein synthesis, but also blunts muscle protein breakdown. A research review of more than 25 studies on egg protein confirms that egg protein amps up muscle gains, provides a source of sustained energy and promotes satiety. This makes egg an ideal protein virtually any time of the day.
Shoot for 20-40 grams, and take first thing in the morning, and before and after workouts.
- Tang J.E., et al. Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: Effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men. J Appl Physiol. 2009;107:987-992.
- Kerksick, C.M., et al. The effects of protein and amino acid supplementation on performance and training adaptations during ten weeks of resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2006 Aug;20(3):643-53.
- Park, Y.W. Rheological characteristics of goat and sheep milk. Small Rumin Res. 2007;68(1):73-87.
- Daddaoua, A., et al. Goat milk oligosaccharides are anti-inflammatory in rats with hapten-induced colitis. J Nutr. 2006 Mar;136(3):672-6.
- Cadow, D.G. et al. Effect of Whey and Soy Protein Supplementation Combined with Resistance Training in Young Adults. Int J Sport Nutri Exerc Metab. 2006;16(3):233-44).
- Kalman, D. et al. Effect of Protein Source and Resistance Training on Body Composition and Sex Hormones. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. July 2007;4:4.
- House, J.D., et al. Evaluating the quality of protein from hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) products through the use of the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score method. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Nov 24;58(22):11801-7.
- Layman D.K. and Rodriguez, N.R. Egg protein as a source of power, strength and energy. Nutr Today. 2009;44(1):43-48.