For most people embarking on a quest to get in to better shape either by adding more muscle or losing fat, increasing the amount of protein in your diet is a good way to go. You can do this through whole food sources such as meat, fish, dairy, and some grains but when it comes to convenience, speed of digestion, and portability nothing can beat a protein powder supplement.
The problem most people are faced with is what protein powder should I choose? So in this article I will give you my thoughts and preferences on a couple of common protein powder varieties that should make your decision easier.
Probably the most common of all the protein powders rich in the branched chain amino acids (BCAA's) and rapidly absorbed by the body, whey protein reaches peak levels in the blood in around 90 minutes making it perfect post workout when looking to rapidly shuttle amino acids to your muscles. There are two types of whey protein, concentrate and isolate which have subtle differences. Concentrate has a slightly lower overall protein content due to it being less refined and takes a little longer to digest that its more expensive cousin isolate which can be up around 90% protein and richer in amino acids. Isolate being slightly quicker digesting is the choice of many bodybuilders looking to the highest possible protein content from their post workout shakes.
Uses: Post workout or in the morning.
Milk or Casein protein powders are rich in slowly digesting casein protein molecules which have been shown to provide a 'slow release' or 'tapered' delivery of amino acids up to a seven hour period. This makes casein rich protein powders ideal for times where you are going to spend a long period of time without eating any protein such as at night or times when you are too busy to have time to eat a meal. I like to use this protein type before bed as it will prevent me falling in to a catabolic state as I essentially fast for 8 hours every night as I sleep, and seeing as this is when my muscles repair I still want a supply of amino acids available.
Uses: Pre bed protein supplement or for large gaps between meals.
In recent years there has been a lot of research on a blend of whey and casein proteins which will remove some of the specialist benefits that using one of these types alone may provide but gives you a more all round protein supplement that can be used at any time of the day. There has also now been research to show that using a protein blend may be more beneficial even in the post workout window as the constant supply of aminos supplied by the casein is just what the body needs after an intense training session. This synergistic effect of the rapidly absorbing whey and slowly absorbed casein covers all bases and saves you spending on different types of proteins.
Uses: Anytime, great all rounder.
Top tip: For all the advanced trainers who might only ever consider using whey post workout, give a good isolate/casein blend a go as there is some strong science to suggest this may be even more beneficial than just using whey!
It can be confusing when knowing what type of protein powder to buy and sticking to these three main types you can't really go wrong. For specialists or advanced trainers, having seperate types i.e whey isolate for post workout and casein for bed time may make a small difference but for 90% of the training population this is simply an unnecessary and expensive way to do things. Go for a good whey and casiein protein blend and you will have a protein supplement good for any time of the day .