Protein powder is pretty much a must-use if you’re at all concerned with building muscle or maintaining the muscle you already have. Honestly, I even recommend drinking protein shakes if building muscle isn’t your concern. Assuming you choose a protein powder that’s low in artificial additives, fat, carbs, and sugar (I love Optimum Nutrition’s Chocolate Whey Protein), a protein shake makes a phenomenal low-cal snack. Not only are shakes low-cal, but the high protein content reduces hunger levels and creates a powerful thermogenic effect — protein burns about 30% of its calories simply through digestion.
Drinking a protein shake right before bed is also a great way to elevate your metabolism and prevent muscle catabolism (muscle breakdown) while you’re sleeping. Aka more calories burned. And oh, by the way — shakes with milk taste pretty freaking delicious and you can customize them in realistically any way you want. Try adding a banana, fresh fruit, or some natural peanut butter.
For everyone else whose primary concern is building new slabs of muscle, protein powder offers a ton of awesome benefits.
The Benefits of Protein Powder
Throw one scoop in a shaker bottle, mix it with water and you’ve got all the protein you need to refuel post-workout.
Most standard protein powders offer about 72 scoops @ 24g of protein per scoop, for about $40. Canned tuna and eggs are the next cheapest forms of protein, while chicken and beef are the most expensive. That’s about 2 cents per gram…
Protein powder offers the full spectrum of amino acids, which is critical for muscle growth, muscle recovery, and a variety of other important bodily functions. Other sources of protein, in particularly veggies and nuts, are incomplete protein sources and contain only a few of the amino acids.
I think the coolest thing about whey protein powder is that it’s higher in quality than any other protein source. Compared to every other protein source, whey protein is the best absorbed and digested by your body…perfect for building new tissue, bone, and muscle. If you’re curious about numbers and ratings (the biological value) of specific types of proteins check out http://www.bodybuildingpro.com/proteinrating.html.
Different types of protein for different purposes
The two major types of protein powders you’ll see marketed are whey and casein, or some blend of the two. Put simply: whey is fast digesting/absorbing, casein is slow digesting/absorbing. Whey is the way to go right after a crazy intense workout as a way of shuttling protein to your hungry muscles as fast as possible. Casein is ideal as a snack or before bed–casein clumps up in your stomach and provides a slow release of amino acids over a couple of hours. That slow release of amino acids is ridiculously powerful at suppressing appetite and keeping your muscles nourished for hours at a time.
With all of that said there’s one important thing to remember about protein:
Protein powder is still a supplement — it’s not a substitute for real food. Try to make at least half of the protein you eat every day come from whole food sources.
I use and love Optimum Nutrition’s Whey Protein. It’s high-quality, low on carbs/fat/sugar, inexpensive, has no artificial flavors, and has very few additives…it’s pretty much as natural as you’re gonna get when it comes to protein powder. Happy protein-ing and packing on muscle soooooooooo much more easily than you ever knew you could.