It used to be easy. There were just a couple of brands, and a couple of flavors, chocolate, vanilla, and occasionally strawberry. The conventional wisdom was to drink a protein shake after your workout. It would make your recovery time shorter, your muscles grow faster, and generally was pretty much just good for your body if you worked out hard.
Most people don’t understand why or how this works, the different types of protein in the shakes, or gym nutrition in general. Let’s take a look at what goes into making a protein shake the right choice for you!
Different Types of Protein
Today, people are beginning to realize that different types of protein shakes do different things. There are a number of common ba
se ingredients to protein powders. Conventional gym nutrition says that these shakes need to be the most common, whey, but other types, such as soy and casein proteins are widely available as well.
What Is Whey?
Whey protein is a water-soluble milk protein. It’s a complete protein, which means it contains all of the amino acids which are necessary for our diet (that’s nine aminos, by the way). It is by far the most common protein sold, and is also sold in replacement-meal supplements. The best whey powders on the market contain whey protein isolate and/or whey protein hydrolysates. These are very pure forms of whey. They are fairly easy to digest, and the flavor is considered to be very good. Purer forms of whey also get to your muscles faster, as digestion is much quicker.Casein Protein
Casein is a slow-digesting protein. Many consider it to be the tastiest protein powder base out there as well. Its slow digestion makes this protein shake perfect for the bodybuilder who is getting ready to go to bed, and wants their body to have a steady trickle of aminos while they are sleeping. It can also be mixed with whey in a post-workout shake to combine the fast and slow amino uptake, especially for evening workouts.
Pretty much everyone knows what soy is, but many don’t know that it is available as a type of protein in protein powders. The reason is because it is considered to be the least good-tasting protein of the choices around. That being said, it’s a perfect choice for those who are vegan, for obvious reasons. It also takes a bit more effort to dissolve these types of shakes in water.
Do I Need a Protein Shake?
Yes, and no. There is no active person out there who cannot get exactly the same benefit as what protein shakes provide by eating a proper diet based around their activity level and desired goals. Eating sources of lean protein like chicken, fish, dairy products and meat can give it all to you, and then some. But there are circumstances in which protein shakes can be very useful.
Who Can Benefit?
To begin with, teenagers need, and can use, much more protein than other ages to fuel their workouts, as their bodies are in a huge growth phase and can use more protein in general. People beginning a workout program where their goal is to build more muscle need more protein than normal, as well as people turning up the juice in their normal workout. Those who have been injured can certainly benefit from the extra protein. Also, if someone is going vegan, protein powders are great to help them eliminate meat-based products from their diet and still get those amino acids they need.
How Much Do I Need?
The average person needs between ten to fourteen extra grams of protein a day to build a pound of muscle. With most powders having fifty or more grams per serving, some with more than eighty, that’s just overkill. Your body will break that down for energy, instead of your fat cells. The maximum amount of protein adults can use is just less than one gram per pound of bodyweight, so do the math for yourself appropriately (just FYI, a 4-ounce burger has 30 grams).
When Should I Take It?
Here is the kicker. Not after a workout. During that time period, you need to have carbs, as that is what we use for muscle energy. If you are taking protein after a workout, it should be on a four-parts carbs to one-part protein ratio. What gives you that ratio? The most surprising of all, one of the most perfect post-workout drinks is a tall glass of chocolate milk. It has everything in the right ratio, tastes great, and gives you the protein and carbs your body needs.
As to when to take protein powders: throughout the day as a snack or meal replacement, or in the evening if it’s casein—pretty much any time except the immediate time period around your workout!
It’s a New Protein World
Conventional wisdom aside, protein shakes CAN do great things for you, provided you use them in the right conditions. If you are hitting the gym hard, it can really help you make great gains. Just do your math, use the right protein at the right time, and be smart about when you take it.
If you have learned something you didn’t know, and are going to try to change up your shake routine, or are inspired to try to do it the way science tells us it should be done, let us know! Give us an update on how you are doing, and if those protein shakes are helping out your routine!