When discussing bodybuilding supplements it is important to note that the primary reason a supplement is taken is to correct for a deficiency in a person’s diet.
Supplements like fish oil, magnesium, and vitamin D are all examples of supplements that correct for a deficiency. Protein powder falls more along the lines of a convenience supplement. There is nothing inherently special about drinking a protein shake over consuming a whole-food protein source.
However, due to the fast absorption rate of many protein powders, we can use them during specific times of the day to optimize your results.
There is a lot of confusion over how much protein you should consume in a day. From personal experience, I’ve consumed as much as 2.5g per pound of bodyweight and never noticed any significant difference overeating much more than 1g per pound of body weight… except of course the noxious gas that is produced.
I recommend setting your protein intake at 1.2g per pound of body weight. There is some evidence to show that a protein intake higher than 1g per pound of body weight when cutting can help preserve muscle tissue.
I also believe it is smart to set your protein intake higher than 1g per pound of body weight when bulking since you are trying to build a bigger you.
The next thing to consider is how much protein you should consume in each meal. Each time you consume a sufficient amount of protein you spike muscle-protein synthesis.
The amount of protein you need to consume depends heavily on the leucine content of the protein source. For most protein sources, you need to consume between 30-40g to reach the optimal leucine content to maximize the spike in muscle-protein synthesis.
Another consideration with protein is how frequently you need to consume it. Assuming you maximize protein synthesis by achieving the required protein/leucine threshold you really only need to eat every 4-5 hours to maximize the protein-synthesis response.
However, depending on your calorie and macronutrient intake it may be hard to consume all the food you need to eat in a day eating every 4-5 hours.
This is why as a general rule I recommend 5 meals per day spaced approximately 3-4 hours apart.
Protein powders will be covering some of the main types of available protein powders, the pros and cons associated with each, and a recommended source for each type.
Whey Protein Isolate
Whey protein isolate is derived from whey protein concentrate which is derived from dairy milk. Due to the fast absorption rate, the best time to consume whey protein isolate would be pre-workout, intra-workout, post-workout, or as part of a meal replacement shake.
Whey protein isolate is great for individuals who experience bloating and other problems associated with whey protein concentrate. As well, individuals who want a higher protein percentage per serving.
Whey protein isolate is more expensive than whey protein concentrate and offers no benefit in terms of quality. The only consideration would be if you have a lactose issue or you require a carb/fat-free option. Recommendation: Isopure Whey Protein Isolate
Whey Protein Concentrate
Whey Protein Concentrate is derived from dairy milk and is considered the most economical choice when buying a protein powder. Due to the fast absorption rate, the best time to consume whey protein isolate would be pre-workout, intra-workout, post-workout, or as part of a meal replacement shake.
Lactose content may cause some individuals to experience bloating and excess gas.
Recommendation: Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Casein Protein
Casein protein is derived from dairy milk and is much slower digesting than whey protein.
For this reason, the best times to consume it would be before bed or any instance when you cannot eat for an extended period of time.
Casein type proteins, in general, have a much thicker consistency than whey. This isn’t much of an issue unless do not use a sufficient amount of water in your shake and it turns into sludge.
Casein type proteins are also more expensive than their whey counterparts.
Recommendation: Optimum Nutrition 100% Casein Egg White Protein
Egg white protein is a good option for individuals who have digestive issues associate with whey or casein protein powders. Egg white protein also possesses a high level of sulfur which is essential to various hormonal pathways within the body.
Egg white protein is considerably more expensive than whey or casein protein powders. Considering you can also buy liquid egg whites very cheaply it is not the best choice of protein powder if you can tolerate whey or casein.
Recommendation: NOW Foods Egg White Protein Hydrolyzed Whey/Casein Protein
Hydrolyzed whey or casein protein is processed and enzymatically hydrolyzed (pre-digested) into a rich source of short-chain peptides and amino acids.
Hydrolyzed protein is assimilated by the body very quickly.
Since it is a hydrolysate the proteins are partially digested, up to 80% of the proteins bypass the stomach and are absorbed directly through the small intestine.
Studies have shown that hydrolyzed casein might be the best protein for building muscle and preventing catabolism (muscle breakdown). The best time to consume hydrolyzed protein is intra-workout.
The hydrolyzation process makes the protein powder extremely bitter. If you ever wondered what that taste in your mouth was after you vomited it’s hydrolyzed protein.
Hydrolyzed protein is also quite expensive. Therefore, the only time to really justify it’s used is as part of your intra-workout shake.
Recommendation: Optimum Nutrition Platinum Hydro Whey Beef Protein Isolate
Beef protein isolate is a good option for individuals who have digestive issues associate with whey or casein protein powders.
Many individuals who experience gastrointestinal issues such as IBS have reported that beef protein isolate is very easy on the stomach.
The taste is pretty awful. Imagine adding grease to fruit punch. If you can stomach it though, it’s a quality product in terms of results.
If you have any questions about protein powder recommendations leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to help!