Protein powders have easily become the cornerstone to any fitness, sports or lifestyle individual’s nutritional “set-up”, but in a supplement industry that is continuously growing and expanding, it can be very overwhelming when you are trying to identify which protein supplement is best catered towards your needs and training goals. No longer are sports supplements (specifically protein powders), just for bodybuilders or considered to be “taboo”.
It’s important to be equipped with the education and knowledge of what protein is, how one can benefit from it and which protein supplement is best suitable for your training and lifestyle needs.
Protein is made up of various amino acids, seen as the ‘building blocks’ of protein, which are necessary for various vital functions needed to be carried out throughout the body. The most important benefits of protein can be listed as follows:
• Enzymes and hormones
• Skin, hair and nails.
From a sport supplement perspective, the most important reasons for protein supplementation is to:
• Speed up recovery (post training)
• Improve lean muscle development
• Preserve muscle tissue (prevent muscle wasting)
It is important to realize that protein supplements can be purchased in more than one version. The most distinctive differences across the variety of proteins available are:
A. Type of protein
B. Time release
D. Additional active ingredients
Protein can be purchased in different forms, often it will be dependent on your dietary preferences. The most popular option is whey protein, a derivative from milk. Whey protein is a fast absorbing, low calorie protein powder which can be mixed with either water or milk as a great additional protein source to the diet. It is important to remember that protein supplements are not designed to substitute protein in your diet, but to rather assist and reinforce your dietary requirements.
Another popular option is plant/rice protein. With the growing interest in following a vegan diet (as well as vegetarian consumers), a spike in the demand for rice/plant-based proteins has been experienced. Not only does this protein source cater towards dietary preferences, it also deliver many health benefits. These benefits may include zero lactose, high in fibre, high iron content and easier digestion.
Another factor to consider when choosing a protein supplement is the rate at which the protein is broken down and absorbed by the body. The importance of this factor is due to the urgency of protein required by the body at respective times of the day e.g. your body has a “anabolic window period” lasting approximately 30min post-workout in which the body is able to absorb and take up the essential nutrients which is vital for recovery, reducing inflammation and repairing/rebuilding damaged muscle tissue. This 30min period is due to the increased heart rate, improved blood flow to active muscles as well as vasodilation experienced whilst training (this physiological process can be enhanced via the use of one our XTS pre-workouts). Therefore, it would be ideal to consume a fast absorbing protein supplement such as whey protein, more specifically whey protein isolate, to maximize the absorption and effects of the supplement. Whey protein comprises of three types: Hydrolysate, Isolate and Concentrate (ranked fastest absorption left to right).
Casein protein is also a derivative from milk, however it has an extended breakdown period of approximately 6 hours. This makes this protein supplement great for night-time feeding whilst sleeping – feeding and repairing your muscles whilst you sleep!
Protein contains very little calories and will therefore only assist with lean muscle development and maintenance. For individuals wanting to bulk and add weight, there are protein supplements available with additional carbohydrates for the necessary calories required for weight gain. These high calorie protein supplements are designed to assist you in obtaining a calorie surplus which is required for weight gain, and not to replace meals. These supplements are best used directly after training for recovery purposes, as well as a second serving in between meals. On the other end of the spectrum, protein powders have been designed to assist with weight loss. These protein supplements have added low GI carbs and various minerals, vitamins, fibre etc to enable this supplement to be sustainable in replacing a full meal. In addition, natural fat burning ingredients have been added to assist with metabolism support and weight loss.
Lastly, for those fitness enthusiasts looking for an extra edge when it comes to protein supplements, additional ingredients such as creatine, testo boosters etc. can be utilized. For those looking to build muscle mass faster, ingredients such as the following can be very beneficial and are often found in protein blends:
• Tribulus Terrestris
These ingredients, combined with protein, can assist muscle synthesis, recovery, strength and sleep quality. It would always be advisable to use a single source contained product of these added active ingredients as well, to gain maximum benefits.
For those individuals wanting additional assistance when it comes to weight loss, some ingredients to look out in protein blends:
• Green Tea Extract
• Garcinia Cambogia
These ingredients will definitely assist in speeding up metabolism, stabilize cravings, target fat loss, toning – all whilst developing and maintaining lean muscle
USN Diet Whey Isolean
USN Diet Fuel Ultralean
In summary, it is very important to choose the right protein supplement suited towards your fitness/lifestyle requirements. In addition, we at USN never advise you to replace your whole food macros with supplement alternatives – unless circumstances require it. Choosing the right protein can definitely spark your efforts in wanting to achieve those desired fitness and lifestyle goals.