I’m back to start off this weightlifting blog with one of the first supplements you will encounter on your journey to a better and bigger you. Protein! By weight, the human body consists of roughly 61.8 percent water by weight, followed by 14.9 percent protein. It is the second most common molecule found in the human body, and performs many different functions. Proteins are the major structural support for the body and are especially important in muscle growth.
The body uses protein to help build and repair muscle. When you go to the gym and work out, you are essentially tearing muscle fibers apart and using up amino acids. Amino acids combine to form protein in the body. With this loss of amino acids, and without proper nutrition, the body cannot recover. But how much protein do you really need? A good rule of thumb to keep in mind regarding protein intake is to try and reach 1 gram per pound of body weight of protein into your diet. For example, if I weigh 160 lbs, I should be eating 160 grams of protein a day. For most people, consuming that much protein through whole foods from their daily meals can be quite difficult. That’s where protein powders come in.
So you are on your way to becoming the next Arnold Schwarzenegger now! Right? You know the body needs protein, so you go to your nearest vitamin supplier and are completely stumped. There are a vast amount of brands that all have their own special type or blend of protein that they claim is the best. How do you choose? Well first, let’s go over a bit of the basics. There are several different types of protein, and each serve a different function according to what specific need you want to meet.
Two forms that you will come across often are whey protein and casein protein. Both are two proteins that come from milk, but they act differently. Whey protein is created from the by-product of cheese production, and is a fast acting protein. By fast acting I mean that it enters the body very quickly and targets the muscles for immediate repair. Whey protein is best taken 30 minutes after your workout. Now, whey protein is not found in any food, but it is the most pure protein available. There are two types of whey protein, whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate. Whey protein concentrate is roughly 75% pure protein, while whey protein isolate is processed to remove fact and lactose to make it roughly 90% pure protein by weight.
Casein, or micellar casein, is the most abundant protein found in milk and is separated through ultra filtration without the use of harsh chemicals. Casein, unlike whey, is a slow acting, slow digesting protein. What this means is that long after whey protein has left your stomach and fed your muscles, casein will still be feeding your muscles over time. It is often called the “night time” protein because it is best taken right before you go to bed so your body will constantly be repairing your muscles. This is especially important because most of the repairing of the muscle and its growth takes place while you sleep. While whey protein only gets absorbed within 45 minutes, casein can take up to 7 hours to be fully absorbed by the muscles.
The last type of protein-powdered supplement I will discuss will be protein blends. Protein blends tend to consists of fast acting proteins such as whey, slow acting such as casein, as well as egg white protein (albumen) which is a medium digesting protein that has a lot of amino acids. Soy protein can also be found and can help reduce heart disease, but it is in no way better for gaining muscle than the three previous proteins. These protein blends are often marketed as a meal replacement and incorporate several different vitamins as well and should be taken throughout the day in between regular meals.
So there you have it, a quick and dirty lowdown on the basics of protein. If you are still wondering which kind of protein you need for your specific active lifestyle, let’s recap. If you are interested in gaining weight and muscle, I’d go for all of the above. Each protein supplement listed above are excellent ways to include the amount of protein needed for bodybuilders. If you are a runner, protein blends during the day and whey protein post workout are enough. However, if you are still uncertain about protein supplements, a safe way to start is with whey. If you only are able to take a single protein supplement, my advice is to stick with the whey protein. As always though, these are supplements and should not be taken in place of an actual meal, but rather to supplement between them for added nutrient intake.
Now get out there and start meeting your goals!