Protein supplements have become a multi million pound industry and its hard to be into any type of sport or any health plan and not come across it. In-fact we see it everywhere we turn, its plastered across all fitness and health magazines and sold in most gyms. Out of any supplement protein is the most widely used by us, but why do we have such a fascination with it?
But what does protein do and do we actually need it? In this blog I am going discus what protein is and what it does for us. I am then going to discuss the types available and lastly how to spot good vs bad protein.
Protein – What is it how does the body use it?
Protein is one of the 3 nutrients that are body requires, these are proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
Protein can be found in many different foods, however higher amounts are found in meats and dairy products. Within our bodies protein is the second most abundant substance to water. Protein is used by the body to repair and build muscle and as such key to muscle growth. When we work out doing activities such as weight lifting we cause what are known as micro tears to our muscle. The body needs to repair these micros tears and uses the amino acids that make up protein to achieve this. The body is also very reactive and it will rebuild the muscle stronger to cope with continued stress put upon. Hence why we see muscle growth, this is where protein products come in.
The many shakes etc.. Out there have been produced so that your body can absorb the protein in them as quickly as possible to aid the repair of muscle. We are also told that we must consume protein during or as soon as possible after our work out for optimal effect. The reason for this is that when you workout your body enters what is known as an anabolic window. Studies over the years have concluded that during this window protein synthesis the process of repairing muscle tissue is at its peak. There fore consuming a protein that can be quickly absorbed by the body will result in increased muscle growth and this is where our supplement industry come in. They provide protein products that are quickly and easily absorbed.
So what types of protein are there?
Whey Protein – This is the most common type of protein out there. It derived from milk and was a by product of making cheese that was originally thrown away. After it was realized that the product had such potential it was made into the protein supplement we know today. Whey has the highest content of branch chain amino acids which trigger the repair of muscles and is quick to be digested and absorbed by the body.
As I said this it is the most common protein out there, but it can cause issues if you have any lactose or dairy intolerances. I used to use this type of protein all the time but recently have started to feel bloated after taking it so I have switched to a non dairy protein.
Casein Protein – This protein is also derived from milk yet it is digested a lot slower then whey. This leads to a drip feeding effect on the body slowly releasing the amino acids into the your system. Because it’s a slow releasing protein it’s a very popular protein in between sessions or just before sleeping at night.
Egg Protein – This protein is also very good and is made from egg whites and is also low in fat. The taste of this puts most people off its use.
These are the three dairy proteins you will typically find available but as I have mentioned before if you have issues or intolerances to dairy products you need to look elsewhere. Non dairy proteins are;
Soy Protein – Soy protein is exactly as it says it is a protein made from soy and although is not digested as quickly as whey it’s non dairy and vegan friendly. Some people choose to stay away from soy as the believe the estrogen found in soy can have a harmful or negative effect on them.
Hemp Protein – This is another dairy free protein a good choice if you are worried about taking soy protein. As with Soy it is not absorbed by the body as well as whey protein.
Pea Protein – This another non dairy protein to the market and some studies have show it has similar absorbtion results as that of whey protein. So if you are looking for a non dairy or meat based protein this would be an ideal choice.
Beef Protein – You guessed it this is a meat based protein that has a good absorbtion rate by the body. This protein breaks down in the stomach and not in the gut. So stops you from getting that bloated feeling that whey protein can give you. I have recently switched to a beef protein as I was experiencing bloating from whey and it seems so far to have worked. You need to be aware though what this is it isn’t a prime steak broken down, this is all the offal, cartilage and unwanted parts of the animal.
Good protein vs bad protein
So how do we spot the difference between good and bad proteins well these simple steps will help you.
- First and foremost buy from a reputable supplier as there are lots of cowboys out there who will add all sorts to bulk out protein powders.
- Secondly if something is so cheap it feels to good to be true it probably is and will result in you buying low grade protein.
- My third tip is to look at how may grams of protein are in each serving. For example if a serving equates to 30 grams and 28grams of it are protein that’s good. However if the serving is 30 grams and only 20grams is protein what’s the rest made from.
- All in one protein powders , these tend to offer extra BCAA, creatine, Beta Alanine, L Leucine just to name a few. I tend to stay away from these as for starters they cost more and you need to use more. You are not also sure exactly how many grams per serving you are getting of your protein. As all this is mixed it’s a estimate as to the % in each serving. You also find some of the quantities of other supplements in this cocktail don’t add up to your required daily intake. So stick to just protein products with the highest % of protein per serving if you want to take creatine (I will write another blog on this) go and buy creatine.
So in conclusion there are many different proteins out there for us to choose from depending on our dietary needs. We should also ensure we buy a decent grade protein from a reputable source. Although I would like to add, protein supplements are exactly that supplements. We can find all the protein and their containing amino acids in our every day food. I only use a protein supplements just before or directly after a workout other than that I get all the other protein I need from my diet.
I also want to add something else as we always focus on protein when it comes to building muscle. However and our bodies also requires healthy fats and carbohydrates to achieve this goal. If we switched to just a protein based diet and cut out carbs we would ultimately lose strength and start to see muscle wastage.
Out of the proteins above I have only ever used Whey and Beef so it would be good if you have any experiences of other you could comment with your view on them.