You have probably already heard about protein supplements and have seen the shiny protein tubs in supplement stores. We have seen bodybuilding posters with massive bodybuilders, holding those exact protein tubs.
Everyone has had the thought about how much better their sport results and development would be if they bought a protein tub. However, protein is no magic, whether it comes from food or supplements, so, in this article, we will give you insights on protein supplements, what they contain, how to use them and how they affect our bodies.
What Is Protein?
Proteins are the building blocks of every living matter on this planet.
The basic functions of protein are:
- Structural (they are the building blocks of every cell in the body)
- Regulating (they regulate different mechanisms in the body, including hormonal activity)
- Protective (Basic resistance mechanisms of the body are based on the effect of certain proteins)
- Catalytic (In order for certain metabolite processes in the body to occur, certain proteins need to be present in the body- Enzymes)
Proteins are biologically active macro molecules, built of amino acids and linked with peptide chains. They are characterized with 4 levels of structural organization which is strongly specific and defines the wide variety of functional properties of the molecules.
Read our full article on Protein and Nutrition. (You can find answers to questions like daily protein requirements, protein-rich foods, etc.)
Protein As A Supplement
Protein powder is a supplement with a high protein content. The goal of this supplement is to make higher protein intake easier or even support the body with easy, valuable protein during moments of need, or moments when food intake is not possible.
Some protein supplements are made using just one protein source and others combine more than one. The sources for protein supplements can be animal products as well as plant products.
When it comes to sport supplementation, the most common source for protein powders are animal products (milk, eggs, meat). Plant sources used for protein supplements are soy and hemp.
Now let’s take a look at each type of protein supplement.
Whey protein is probably the most commonly used protein supplement on the market. The reason why it is so common is because its absorption is quick, as it is absorbed by the body within a 60-minute time frame.
Critical moments for protein intake are in the morning, after waking up, and after workout, when protein intake is a priority. This type of protein is derived from milk products, however, there’s only 5 grams of it per liter of milk.
Depending on the process through which protein is derived, we can differentiate a couple of options when it comes to whey protein.
- Whey Concentrate– It is derived through filtration, during which the protein fractions are separated while still keeping their properties.
This protein however, contains some fat and lactose, which can be a reason for stomach discomfort for people with lactose intolerance.
The protein content for these products is about 70-80%, meaning that it is one of the better options if you are on a budget.
- Whey Isolate– Contains significantly less fats and lactose, while the protein content is higher than the concentrate, at about 90%
- Hydrolyzed Whey Protein– This is the most expensive option when it comes to protein supplements, as the protein content is highest here. The protein is derived via the process of hydrolysis, which allows the protein macromolecules to break down to oligopeptides, which significantly improves the protein absorption.As a matter of fact, this protein is the fastest one to be absorbed by the body, due to the hydrolysis done beforehand, which eliminates the need for the protein to be broken down into macromolecules in the organism. This supplement is often added to other, different intra-workout supplements to support the musculature with a quick amino acid flow
This is another protein supplement of dairy product origin, that also has a place in our supplement plan. The amino acid profile of this type of protein is valuable, however, the absorption of it is significantly slower (6-8 hours).
Casein has a strong anticatabolic effect, which means that it is perfect for intake when quick protein is not immediately required. During the digestion of casein, the amino acid flow is weaker but longer, which makes casein an inevitable component of our pre-sleep meal, which will cause a strong anticatabolic effect and improve our recovery during sleep.
This type of protein is a quality and valuable amino acid source for the organism. It is superior to other protein supplements by some indicators, as it does not contain lactose and also contains the biggest amount of branch chained amino acids.
The speed of absorption for this protein is moderate (2-3 hours- faster than casein, slower than whey). Egg proteins also have a big amount of alanine, methionine and cysteine.
Calf protein isolate is characterized with the significantly bigger amounts of amino acids, compared to other protein sources like milk, eggs and soy.
The distinctive thing about this protein is the high creatine content, which is a premise to powerful muscle and strength gains.
This supplement has been an object of discussion for a long time, due to the fact that according to some researches, it affects testosterone levels in men. However, this is still an object of research, so we won’t dig into that.
In all cases, soy protein is the plant protein closest to animal-source protein, when the two’s amino acid profiles are compared. Soy protein is quickly absorbed and can be the perfect addition to your nutrition, especially if you are a vegetarian.
Hemp, often referred to as cannabis sativa is the perfect source of protein, as it contains a full set of amino acids, including BCAAs and essential ones, in the perfect ratios. Cannabis does not contain oligosaccharides, which are the most common reason for stomach discomfort, nor saturated and trans fats, lactose and gluten.
Hemp protein can also help reduce bad cholesterol and optimize blood pressure, along with immune system and metabolism support. As hemp is a completely natural product, which is well absorbed, rich in antioxidants and enzymes, it is the perfect addition to your nutrition, if the goal is an increase in protein intake.
- Protein is a basic element of nutrition, which is the best friend of every athlete (no matter what the type of training is)
- Protein is the source for the body that helps maintain high metabolism, supports muscle recovery and therefore grants the strength and endurance needed to go through intense physical activity
- Protein as a supplement is a quick and easy way to optimize protein intake, which does not put us at health risk if dosed rationally.
How To Use Protein Supplements?
Our single best advice would be to use this supplement only when you need it- Take a dose of protein right after waking up and/or shortly after workout, to grant your body a quick flow of amino acids that will support recovery.
How To Choose A Protein Supplement?
- Take a note of the protein source used as a raw material for the supplement and compare it to your diet and its sources of protein- Make sure you give your body appropriate protein during key moments. There is no magic protein as we mentioned. Each type of protein has pros and cons, but the most important thing is finding balance.
- Pay attention to the nutrition facts and avoid protein supplements that contain fat and carbs, especially if your goal is to lose fat.
- Pay attention to the sweeteners used, as aspartame and acesulfame K are the most used ones that can put our health at risk, if the doses are not appropriate. Aim for supplements, sweetened with natural ingredients like stevia. Other options are purchasing raw, unflavored protein powder, to which you can add things like stevia, cacao, vanilla, cinnamon, etc.
Beware of fishy protein advertisements, as most of them are expensive, low quality products- Count on well-known supplement brands.
MeanMuscles Recommendation: BSN SYNTHA-6 Protein Powder
BSN SYNTHA-6 Protein Powder
Micellar Casein, Milk Protein Isolate Powder, Vanilla Ice Cream, 48 Servings