What is Protein Powder and Should I Take It?
So maybe you’ve been working out for a while, and you’ve seen people drinking protein shakes after class. You’re curious, but not really sure where to start. Supplement stores can be confusing with their endless rows of shiny labels full of words you might not quite understand. Well, here is your beginner’s guide to protein! What does it do? Why should you drink it? How much should you drink? Read on to find out the answers.
What is Protein and why should I take it?
Protein powder is a supplement used by many athletes to aid their recovery after exercise. It comes in a wide variety of flavours and types and is mixed with water or sometimes milk.
Protein consumed after exercise encourages protein synthesis, essentially pulling the protein into the muscle to help them grow stronger and recover faster. Protein shakes are generally a mixture of protein, additional amino acids, and carbohydrates, which enable the protein to be more readily available to the muscles.
While protein shakes should not be consumed in order to replace a bad diet, they can be a great supplement for individuals who struggle to consume enough protein-rich foods.
Will it make me bulky?
In short, no. Drinking a protein shake will not make you bulky. Unfortunately for some of us, protein shakes are not the magic wand that will make big, strong muscles appear. Protein shakes are designed to supplement a well-balanced diet and regular exercise, aiding your recovery and strength building.
Some protein powders are specifically labelled as ‘gainers’ or ‘mass builders’, while some are described as ‘lean’. These terms usually describe the protein powder’s make up. Gainers or mass builders typically contain a higher amount of carbohydrate and should be used by people who want to gain muscle and mass. Lean protein powders typically include a lower amount of carbohydrate and should be used by people who may want to lose fat or stay relatively lean while still enjoying the benefits of a protein supplement for their muscle recovery.
What types of protein are out there?
As mentioned earlier, there are many types of protein and they are named dependant on their source.
Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)
WPI is a fast absorbing protein derived from milk and is arguably the best and most complete kind to consume following training, as it is the most bioavailable protein source. WPI contains both branched chain and essential amino acids, which are extremely beneficial to maintaining muscle health.
Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC)
WPC is very similar to WPI, however, has slightly less protein per 100g than WPI. This form of protein is less of a ‘pure’ protein, meaning it has a higher (albeit still low) level of fat and carbohydrates. The benefit of this is that it is often cheaper to buy than WPI.
Casein protein is a slow-absorbing form of protein, meaning it is able to provide your body with a steady flow of amino acids. This protein is great for recovery and often consumed at night so the body can utilise it while you sleep. Casein protein is often a bit more ‘gluggy’ and thicker than WPI, meaning some people may find it difficult to consume. This varies from brand to brand, and there are also options such as Casein custard on the market to make this form of protein more palatable.
Vegan Protein e.g. Pea, Soy, Rice
Vegan protein powders come from a variety of different sources, such as pea and rice. Some powders can be a little gritty and are less palatable than a whey based protein. However, they are a great alternative for people who do not consume animal products due to dietary constraints or principle. These protein powders are not as ‘complete’ as whey protein because they do not contain all essential amino acids in required portions, however they still offer similar benefits.
How much should I take?
A typical dosage of protein powder is considered as 0.4g of protein per kilogram of body weight. An example of how you would calculate this is as follows:
An 80kg athlete wishes to start taking some protein powder. This means they should take approximately 32g of protein. If their protein powder contains 16g of protein per serve/scoop, the athlete will need to have 2 scoops of protein mixed with water after their workout.
If you’re still confused, bring in your protein or take a photo of the nutrition label and ask a coach! They will be more than happy to help you out.
Where can I buy some?
All sports nutrition stores (for example Muscle Coach, AAA supplements or Nutrition Warehouse) will stock protein powders, however, their range will vary.
If you are on a bit of a budget, Bulk Nutrients is an online store which offers a wide variety of supplements including protein powders at a relatively cheap price with fast delivery.
I’m still a little confused!
As always, if you have any questions about supplementation come and speak to one of your coaches. We are more than happy to provide some advice and help you out with any questions or areas that may confuse you. Remember that supplements are there to supplement a good diet and regular exercise. They are not a necessary addition to your routine but can be extremely helpful.