Protein, the muscle builder’s best friend. Almost nothing is more essential to packing on lean muscle than protein. With nine essential amino acids, a complete protein carries all the building blocks necessary for repairing and building muscle tissue. While some nutrients can be hard to get enough of through food sources alone, protein is one essential you can meet without any supplementation and still make big gains from your gym time. However, to meet your macros to efficiently gain muscle mass, the average guy has to consume roughly 200g of protein per day! Depending on your personal dieting habits and preferences, this can either be a walk in the park or a daunting challenge. This is why protein powders are one of the most popular and widely available muscle building supplements. While you don’t need to use supplementary protein to meet your nutritional goals, it can certainly help if you’re running short on time, need to fill those last 20 grams near the end of the day, or follow a restrictive diet. Here, we’ll explain a little more about some of the common types of protein powders, their differences, and the best ways to use them.
Whey protein is probably the most recognizable and popular protein type. It is a milk protein that comes from the cheese making process, made from the liquid that gets separated from the curd. Whey protein is a post workout favorite because it is quickly and easily digested, and easily absorbed by the body. It also tends to be lower in fat and calories than other varieties, making it a great option as a snack post workout or in between meals that fills your protein goals without tacking on too much else. Whey isolate is especially good for those following a low-carb diet, as many varieties have little to no carbs or sugars. Whey proteins are also high in leucine, one of the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) that helps with muscle repair and growth hormone production.
Being made from milk, whey protein is also high in lactose, the milk sugar responsible for lactose intolerance. Whey protein can be a good option for vegetarians looking to supplement their protein intake, but anyone who is sensitive to dairy may have trouble with it.
Casein is another milk protein, but fulfills a different purpose in the muscle builder’s arsenal. Unlike whey protein, casein is slow to digest, steadily releasing its muscle building amino acids over a 5-7 hour process. Casein is another complete protein, like whey, but its powerhouse amino acid is glutamine, which speeds muscle recovery and repair. Its slow release time makes casein an excellent addition to a meal or meal replacement, rather than in-between snack. The slow release and recovery benefits also make it a perfect option for a bedtime snack. The constant release of amino acids over the night stops the breakdown of muscle tissue, feeding them rather than letting them degrade before you fuel up again in the morning.
Like whey, this is a good vegetarian option if you still consume dairy products. For vegan options, read on to learn more about plant based protein powder sources.
Soy has long been a staple animal protein alternative in the vegetarian and vegan world, and in the realm of protein powders, it’s no different. Soy is an excellent alternative to the traditional milk protein powders, and offers a complete protein amino acid profile. Like casein, soy protein is rich in glutamine, so helps to speed recovery. It’s also high in fiber, making it slow to digest. The biggest deterrent for bodybuilders in using soy protein is its supposed effect of lowering testosterone and raising estrogen. However, the detrimental effect of soy on testosterone is still in debate. Some studies have seen a strong correlation between soy consumption and decreasing testo, while others have seen no such relationship. If soy protein is your preferred option but testosterone levels have you worried, try adding a testo support supplement to your routine, like HexoFire Delta Prime, which includes ingredients like zinc and vitamin D to help support the body’s natural testosterone production.
Pea protein is another good source of protein for vegetarians, vegans, and those with allergies or sensitivities to animal proteins. In fact, preliminary studies have shown similar results in muscle gain between subjects that used pea protein and subjects that used whey. Unfortunately, pea protein is not considered a complete protein, as it high in all the essential amino acids but one – methionine. If you’re considering adding pea protein to your diet to help you hit your protein goals, consider mixing it with another amino acid supplement so you’re getting all the nutrition you need.
Growing in popularity as a vegan protein source is hemp. Derived from the marijuana plant, hemp is perfectly safe to consume as the THC content in commercially produced hemp is extremely low. Like pea protein, hemp protein is not a complete protein and is lacking in two amino acids; lysine, and leucine, which is an important BCAA. However, by adding a BCAA or other amino acid supplement, hemp protein can still be a viable option as a vegan protein replacement. Hemp protein is packed with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and is also high in fiber, more than making up for its lack of amino acids. With just a little help from other sources, hemp is a great animal protein alternative.
- Mixed Plant Protein
There are still other kinds of plant protein powder sources available, including brown rice protein, but they mostly adhere to the common theme of being incomplete proteins, and require additional supplementation to get everything you need from them. To get around this problem you can look for mixed plant protein powders, which combine several different sources to create a complete protein profile. In this way, you get everything you need for muscle building, as well as the other benefits the different plant sources bring to the table. Like most vegetable sources, mixed plant sources are going to be high in fiber and take longer to digest, making them a great option to add to meals.
Protein powder is a popular and useful supplement, and there’s really something for everyone. While you can get all your protein from food intake alone, these supplements can help make life a little easier for those with food restrictions, hefty protein goals, or a busy lifestyle. Explore all your options to find the protein powder that works best for you.