There have been many studies done on what amount of protein is needed per day. The RDA is about 0.3 grams protein per pound of bodyweight. This is the base amount of protein needed to sustain health and cellular functions. However for athletes that number is certainly higher since they burn more calories. For bodybuilders in intense training programs the number is even higher. You see when you lift heavy weights your body breaks down muscle protein, to repair this damage so your muscles can grow bigger and stronger–you need an adequate amount of protein.
Along with natural source of protein like chicken, beef, milk etc, protein supplementation assist bodybuilders and athletes to achieve their desired daily protein intake requirements.
Which kind of protein powder is best? Is there one protein that is heads and shoulders above the rest? To make a long answer short, as long as the protein is from an animal source, there is no protein that is better than any other protein.
However there are certain types of protein that are better at certain times of the day or in certain situations. Here is a makeup of the different proteins and how they can be used to optimize results.
# Whey Protein
Whey is a milk derived soluble protein that is quickly digested. Whey has been clinically shown to increase protein synthesis by as much as 68% when consumed post workout. This is because whey gives your body a flood of amino acids very quickly, causing a rise in protein synthesis.
So what is it good for: Whey is good when consumed post workout because your muscle’s need protein fast and whey gives it to them fast, since it is digested in about 30 minutes.
Whey protein in protein powders comes in the following forms.
Whey protein concentrate (WPC)
WPC is usually manufactured via ultrafiltration and diafiltration processes. These techniques leave most of the protein fractions in whey intact. Most WPC products contain 70-80% protein and, therefore, they contain a small amount of carbs and fats that is, while whey proteins are generally quickly digested, WPC is the slowest of those available.
Whey protein isolate (WPI)
WPI is purer than WPC because the isolate is processed even further than the concentrate through longer filtering or ion-exchange chromatography. Most WPI products are more than 90% protein. The disadvantage is that some processing techniques used to make WPI remove some of the beneficial protein fractions.
Due to its lower carb and fat content, WPI is a slightly faster-digesting protein than WPC.
Whey protein hydrolysate (WPH)
WPH is produced when WPC or WPI is taken through the extra step of hydrolysis to break the amino acid bonds. This makes it the fastest digesting protein available.
It may not have the best taste because of the bitterness, but that attribute does indicate a higher amount of smaller protein fractions and, therefore, that it is an extremely fast-digesting protein. This is the best type of protein powder to use immediately after workouts.
Casein is the opposite of whey. It is an insoluble, slow-digesting, milk derived protein. Casein has been shown to be anti-catabolic in several studies but has no effect on increasing protein synthesis. So what is it good for: Casein gels in the stomach and is slow to digest.
In fact it takes casein at least 2.5 hours to digest and up to 4 in some cases. For that reason it is good at any meal other than post workout. Casein is an excellent choice especially right before bed since it gives you a slow stream of aminos over about 3-4 hours and prevents muscle breakdown. You need this slow stream of aminos since your body will be going 8 hours without any protein.
These slow-digesting proteins are great for supplementing between meals and before bed whenever you won’t have a chance to eat for many hours.
# Egg Protein
Before whey was all the rage, egg protein was considered the gold standard of protein powders. It is still one of the best protein powders that money can buy, and it offers benefits that whey doesn’t.
Eggs have the best amino acid profile available on a single protein. They also have the highest net nitrogen utilization rating, which means that you use more nitrogen which is what actually builds the muscle. Think about it, you’re eating a complete animal, it’s nature’s gift to bodybuilders.
Egg protein can be had by eating whole eggs, pasteurized egg whites and egg protein powder. In powdered form it provides an excellent source of high biological value protein without the excessive fat and cholesterol, associated with whole eggs.
# Soy: Plant-Derived Protein Powder
Soy protein is derived from soybeans, which have a higher protein content than any other legume. Approximately 38% of the soy bean is protein, however, when the beans are highly refined to reveal the most proteinaceous fraction of the bean, soy protein isolate is the result.
Isolated soy is the most concentrated source of soy protein and yields more than 90% protein. Soy proteins provide all the essential amino acids needed to fulfill human nutritional requirements for growth, maintenance, and physical stress.
It is also rich in glutamine and arginine, and it is digested and absorbed quickly. It also provides antioxidant effects and a multitude of health benefits. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), soy may prevent or treat certain health conditions: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, memory problems, menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis, and even some cancers.
When to Take Your Protein Powder
Protein timing is the science of when and how to take protein powder supplements for the best results. It isn’t as simple as just choosing a great tasting protein flavor, mixing and enjoying. You must consider the thumbs of rules ‘certain types of protein are better at certain times of the day.‘
|Protein Type||When to Take||Benefits|
|Casein||Before bedBetween meals||Slow DigestingMaximize Nitrogen balance while sleepingDecrease protein catabolism|
|Whey||First thing in the morningImmediately before workoutImmediately after Workout||High in BCCAFast DigestingIncrease Protein Synthesis|
|Egg||First thing in the morningImmediately before workoutImmediately after Workout||Fast DigestingHigh biological valueBest amino acid profile and have the highest netnitrogen utilization rating|
|Soy||First thing in the morningImmediately before workoutImmediately after Workout||Rich in glutamine and arginineFast digestingAntioxidant Effect|
As an essential nutrient, protein is a good thing. But too much of a good thing is bad. The body excretes excess protein as a waste product, and too much protein waste can tax the liver and kidneys.
Protein supplementation is safe, as long as people follow the dosage guidelines. It can improve the nutrient content of meals, but it should never replace a normal diet of protein-rich foods.
Expert Guide: Protein Supplements teaches more details on protein supplement.