A great starting point for many people looking to build muscle is to consume protein. Protein powders are one of the most popular supplements there are, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a serious bodybuilder without protein in their arsenal.
This guide will break down exactly what you need to know about protein, and all that comes with supplementing your regime with it.
WHAT DOES PROTEIN DO FOR ME?
Whey protein is one of the most versatile supplements because of the amount of benefits it can provide. It obviously helps you gain muscle, but consuming protein shakes also boosts your metabolism, leading to greater fat loss, and improves your muscle recovery rate.
HOW DOES PROTEIN WORK?
Protein is a macronutrient most commonly found in whole foods like meat, dairy, nuts and legumes. It is made of amino acids, both essential and non-essential. Essential amino acids are those that you can only get from external food sources, while non-essential amino acids are produced by your body. You can't build muscles without all the amino acids, making protein shakes one of the easiest ways to get your fix.
When you consume protein, especially after a workout, your muscles go through anabolism, also known as protein synthesis. This is the key process where your body absorbs all these amino acids and converts them into compounds that accelerate lean muscle growth. This process also helps your muscles recover after a workout, as amino acids play a significant role in healing your stressed-out muscles.
WHY TAKE WHEY PROTEIN?
Most of the time, we don't eat enough protein. This is detrimental if you're looking to build muscle, as your body is not getting the building blocks it needs. Whey protein is fast-absorbing, much faster than whole food sources, giving your muscles a quick dose of what it needs after a workout, while helping you meet your daily protein requirements.
HOW MUCH PROTEIN SHOULD I TAKE?
Everyone has different requirements, depending on your age, gender, height, weight and physical activity. A great starting point to gauge how much protein you should take is to calculate your macros, and there are calculators online that can do this easily for you. A protein shake averages about 20 to 25g of protein per serving, making a shake a substantial way to offset your daily protein macros. There's only so much chicken breast and raw almonds one can eat in a day.
WHAT KINDS OF PROTEINS ARE THERE?
There are a wide variety of protein categories available on the market. These are:
Whey protein concentrate - This is the most popular form of whey protein. It contains 80% protein, and is the most cost-effective protein you can find on the market.
Whey protein isolate - This is a purer form of protein, typically coming in at 90% concentration. It has undergone a microfiltration process that extracts protein from the fat, cholesterol and lactose found in whey, resulting in a faster-absorbing powder.
Casein protein - Unlike the fast and potent whey, casein is a slow-absorbing protein. This is useful as when your body lacks nutrition, especially as you sleep, it begins to break down your hard-earned muscles for energy. Casein allows your body to have a sustained dose of amino acids in your blood over a longer stretch of time, anywhere between 3 to 6 hours, which is ideal for staving off muscle breakdown.
Plant-based protein - These are proteins derived from a number of vegetal sources. The most popular ones are brown rice, soy, and peas. Plant-based proteins are ideal for people with special dietary requirements or lactose intolerance. Just because it is plant-based doesn't mean it falls short though, as these usually have just as much protein in them as whey.
WHEN SHOULD I TAKE PROTEIN?
Protein is best consumed post-workout, because that is when your body really needs amino acid supplementation. However, whey protein is so versatile that you can have it as a meal replacement or a snack, whenever you need it.
Casein, however, is best consumed before bed, or in the morning. You don't want to take it after a workout, as it is of little help due to how slow it releases precious amino acids into your system.
WHICH PROTEIN SHOULD I TAKE?
It largely depends on personal factors like your goals, your budget, and your dietary requirements. Starting off with whey protein concentrate is a good way to get a feel of how much the supplement can do for you, before moving on to explore whey protein isolate, casein and the world beyond. The point is, protein is essential to your diet and for you to build muscle. Yes, you can get nutrients from whole foods, but whey protein is a totally different breed that can help you get to where your body needs to be, and faster.
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