Why You Might Use Protein Powder
The media bombards us with advertisements of protein powder products that claim to optimize performance, increase muscle building, and give the best results. Professional athletes post about their favorite brands that they claim make them the best in their sport. On top of that, you see all of your friends in the gym with colorful blender bottles, mixing water and powder after their workouts. All of these outside pressures always force my clients to ask me: “Which protein powder should I be drinking after a workout?” This is a reasonable question to which you and many others want the answer!
What To Consider Before You Supplement With Powders
One of the things that most dietitians and nutritionists agree on is that you should do everything in your power to optimize your diet first, before you consider adding supplements. I like to think of this rule of thumb as “Food first, then supplementation.” For example, the majority of the protein in a diet should come from whole protein sources (i.e. chicken breast, egg whites, fish). If your individualized protein goal cannot be realistically met this way, a protein powder can then be considered.
Types And Timing
Studies show that when timed correctly, protein powders can build muscle mass and help muscle function, and therefore performance. The following types of protein powder I will discuss have been shown to be the most effective for different reasons. These three types are: whey, casein, and pea protein.
Whey (drink post workout or during the day)
Whey protein has been studied extensively by researchers as far as its benefits to athletes. Whey is the watery portion of milk that is taken apart from the curd in the process of cheese making. This portion is then dried and used to make the protein powder that is most commonly sold in supplement stores. It is known to be easy to digest with a high metabolic efficiency. This means that it is most useful immediately after a workout when the body has just broken down muscle fibers and needs a speedy influx of protein to repair them. Whey is also a good quick alternative for smoothies, or if whole food protein is not an option during the day. Recommended Brand: Ascent Protein
Casein (before bed or long periods without food)
Casein is the other protein found in cow’s milk, a very slow digesting counterpart to whey protein. This protein powder acts much slower, and is ideal for times where protein is not going to be replenished for long periods, like right before bed. While you sleep, protein consumed during the day is going to be digested and used in the muscle. At some point, you will run out of protein and your body will start to break down its own protein–your muscles. Casein is a great way to counteract this from happening and offer a source of protein to your body in long periods of fasting (6+ hours). Recommended Brand: Ascent Protein
Pea (any time)
Pea protein is the top suggested alternative to dairy products like whey and casein. It is a plant protein, made from yellow peas, which are rich in iron. Like whey, it is easily digested. It is also great for anyone who suffers from food allergies such as dairy, wheat, soy, and egg, and has been suggested as a much more sustainable protein option. Pea protein is vegan and vegetarian friendly (be sure to confirm using the nutrition label). Recommended Brand: Orgain
How To Determine If Supplementation Is Right For You
If you have ever walked into a supplement shop, you know that there are so many brands, advertisements, and an overload of information that says you need to spend more money to perfect your diet and performance. It can be overwhelming and daunting. The first step to this journey into protein supplementation is to determine whether or not you are getting enough protein from your diet, and then start to consider whether or not you should be supplementing from additional sources to aid in muscle growth and recovery.
This blog post only scratches the surface, but together we can find the right way to fuel your body and get you living a healthy, well-fueled life! Click here to schedule your free intro and learn more.
Sabrina, Rhino Nutritionist