- Protein is made up of amino acids that help build muscle and prevent it from breaking down, making it ideal for bulking and cutting.
- Protein powder can be mixed into shakes, smoothies, and oatmeal or baked into lean doughs and batters to increase nutritional value.
- Consuming protein supplements after working out, before working out, and throughout the day can help you achieve your fitness goals.
If you’re concerned about your fitness and nutrition, you know that protein supplementation is probably necessary to help you reach your ultimate goal, whether it is to bulk up or slim down. But, with so many brands and kinds on the market, it can be nearly impossible to know which protein powder to buy and when to consume it for the best possible results. Today, we’re going over everything there is to know about integrating protein powder into your routine so you get started on the right foot.
What Is Protein Powder?
Protein powder is a dietary supplement that helps you feed your body more protein—as well as many additional vitamins, minerals, and amino acids—without having to consume the sugar, fat, and calories that you’d get when eating the same amount of protein in food. Proteins are the building blocks for building hair, collagen, and muscle, and experts say you need plenty of it if you want to increase muscle mass or lose weight.
How Do You Make Protein Powder?
While the most common way to use protein powder is to mix it with milk, water, yogurt, or another base to create a protein shake, some people get their extra boost of protein by baking the powder into pancakes and baked goods. You can also integrate your favorite flavored or plain protein powder into oatmeal, edible cookie dough, dips, and even pizza to help increase the food’s nutritional value and boost your daily protein intake.
How Much Protein Do I Need?
Studies continue to show that athletes, young people, and adults need more protein than once thought. The current recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein in adults is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight (0.35 grams per pound). That translates to about 10 percent of your daily calories from protein. However, the experts agree that many people should consume closer to 35 percent protein in a day, especially those looking to lose weight or gain muscle. In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that athletes eat up to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (up to 0.8 grams per pound).
To calculate how much protein your body needs, take your weight in pounds and divide by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms. Multiply your weight by the number of grams you need per day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds and want to shoot for 1.7 grams of protein per day, take 150 divided by 2.2 and you get 68 kilograms. Multiply that by 1.7 and you get 115.6. That’s how many grams of protein you should be aiming to consume each day. Remember, not everyone needs that much protein, and many people need more, so make sure you’re taking your personal goals into account.
Why Drink Protein Powder?
As you already know, protein is vital for building muscle and keeping you full when you’re eating clean, which means that it can help people achieve a wide variety of health and wellness goals. Some of the most common reasons to drink protein shakes include:
- Bulking Up – You need protein to build muscle since it’s literally what muscle is made of. The more protein your body can use, the faster you’ll bulk up. Protein powders are among the best supplements for muscle growth because they arm the body with the building blocks it needs to produce strong muscles. Additionally, drinking protein provides you with the nutrition you need for lean bulking without extra fat or sugar.
- Cutting Down – Looking to slim down? Protein comes at the cost of calories, of course, so it seems counterintuitive to add more when we’re trying to lose weight. The problem is that resistance training and endurance workouts have a tendency to break down muscle protein, which means you need to replace it with supplementation. At the same time, protein can help you feel full and boost your metabolism so you don’t consume as many less nutritionally dense calories.
- Recovering from a Workout – Protein is also vital to muscle recovery after a particularly hard-hitting weight-lifting or aerobic session. That’s because it helps build and repair muscles that may have been affected during a workout and because it helps deliver oxygen to the places that need it the most during muscle recovery. That’s why trainers and fitness pros tend to recommend the post-workout protein shake.
- Meal Replacement – Protein shakes and high-protein foods can do amazing things for helping you feel full when you’re trying to lose weight. Those looking to shed a few pounds will want to consider protein shakes as a meal replacement option rather than a supplement. Just make sure you’re still getting the ideal amounts of vitamins, minerals, fat, and carbs (yes, your body needs these, too) that it requires to effectively regulate your most important physiological functions.
Types of Protein Powder
When researching protein products, you’ll come across a seemingly endless number of types lining the shelves. Words like whey, casein, and isolate can feel intimidating if you’re not already schooled on what these kinds of proteins can do. Though their benefits and uses are hotly debated, each of them has some benefit for a specific fitness goal.
- Whey: High-Quality, Quick-Digesting Dairy Protein – Whey is the complete protein that makes up 20 percent of cow’s milk. This is the most popular kind of protein supplement because it’s easily available, affordable, and nutritionally dense. Whey protein contains all the essential amino acids that you can’t get from food, and it tends to be fast-absorbed and easily digested. It has more branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) than casein and other types of proteins, which makes it ideal for building muscle.
- Whey Isolate – This is the most refined and processed form of whey protein. It has fewer calories and a lower lactose content per protein than whey protein concentrate, and it is absorbed by the body faster, making it great for lean bulking and cutting.
- Whey Concentrate – Because it’s less refined, whey protein concentrate has more lactose, calories, and protein per gram. It tends to be cheaper and less tasty than whey isolate powders.
- Casein: High-Quality, Slow(er)-Digesting Dairy Protein – Casein is the protein that makes up the other 80 percent of cow’s milk. Casein differs from whey protein in that it tends to be thicker, which can make it more of a challenge to integrate into certain foods and drinks. However, many athletes prefer it because it digests slower and releases a steady stream of amino acids over a longer period of time. This makes it great for consuming after you work out or before bed.
- Soy: Plant-Based Protein – Whey and casein are high-quality proteins, but given that both are derived from milk, they aren’t ideal for vegans or those with lactose sensitivities. On the other hand, soy protein is derived from the soybean plant, so it’s great for people with a wide variety of dietary preferences and restrictions. The tradeoff is that soy has a lower concentration of certain essential amino acids and is slower to digest than whey. It does provide other important nutrients that may help you reach your health and wellness goals faster than dairy protein.
- Other Plant-Based Proteins – Besides soy, there are many other plants that can be processed to create protein supplementation. Some of the more popular options are pea protein, rice protein, and hemp protein. Many plant-based protein powders contain a mix of non-dairy sources to create a more complete or diverse option. All of these types have different nutritional makeups but are generally safe for those with soy and dairy sensitivities (always read the ingredients to be sure, though).
- Egg: High-Quality Protein from Eggs – Take a wild guess what egg protein is made of! This high-quality complete protein is usually derived from egg whites and provides all the essential amino acids your body needs to thrive. It’s only second to whey in BCAA content, so it’s great for bulking up and building muscle. Although it can help with appetite suppression, egg protein powders are generally not made with the yolks of the eggs, which can provide fat that makes you feel fuller.
When Should You Drink Protein Powder?
Now for one of the most hotly debated questions in nutrition: When is the best time to drink a protein shake? The real answer is that it sort of depends on how your body handles the whole digestion process and what you’re looking to get out of your shake.
- After a Workout – Should you drink a protein shake after a workout or before a workout? Many protein proponents say to chug a protein shake 15 minutes to an hour after working out, during what’s called the “anabolic window.” But that’s not necessarily because the body is putting it to use better. Instead, it’s because drinking it beforehand could cause you to feel slow or sluggish, which could negatively impact your workout. With that being said, drinking a shake up to two hours after your workout can help aid in muscle recovery without stressing out your body pre-pump.
- Before a Workout – If you don’t feel slow or sleepy after chugging, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with drinking a protein shake before a workout, either. You may want to consider drinking a leaner protein option—such as a powder with whey protein isolate—to make it easier on your body to digest while you’re getting active. Opt for a powder that is filled with energizing ingredients that help improve performance.
- Throughout the Day – One of the best strategies for getting your RDA and then some is to consume protein throughout the day. A steady stream of protein supplementation with a boost of protein every three to four hours has its own set of benefits—namely, keeping you full so that you don’t feel tempted to binge on less nutritionally valuable foods. This will also help ensure that your body is well-fueled, as you’re going about your regular daily activities, especially if you’re active during the day.
- Before Bed – You’ll find that there are many proponents of the pre-bedtime protein shake, and the logic is sound. The idea is that if you chug your protein before you rest, it will be used to its maximum benefit because there will be no risk of muscle loss as it’s digesting. There have been several studies indicating that there are some positive effects to taking this approach, primarily among older men who exercise at night.
Using Protein Powder to Your Advantage
As you can see, there are many different ways and times to consume protein powder. The key to a good protein supplementation strategy is to determine what works for you, your body, and your exercise goals. While some trial and error is necessary to find the perfect solution over time, you can certainly develop a great nutrition plan by evaluating your personal needs and goals before you select a product or schedule. At Hi-Tech Supplements, we’re more than happy to help you with this every step of the way.