When it comes to sports supplements, it can get pretty confusing, espesh if you’re new to working out. I know for me, it was like trying to understand a new language. I’d enter the shiny and glitzy sport supp store and just stand there not knowing where to start.
That’s who this Guide is for…the newbie, the beginner. If I had to recommend just one sports supplement to my clients, it’s a protein powder. Keep reading to find out why, what the different kinds are, and how to know which one is best for your needs. Keep in mind as you progress with your workouts and healthy eating your needs may change to bookmark this Guide now for easy future reference.
What’s a Protein Powder?
If you workout at a gym or frequent online supplement stores (like Fit Shop in Canada or Bodybuilding.com in the States) you’ve probably seen peeps drinking some kind of shakes, or at the very least heard others talking about their fave protein shake. So what are they talking about? In a nutshell, a protein powder.
Protein Powders come in various kinds; whey, plant protein (like rice or soy), and casein.They’re in powder form which makes them easy to consume; many times all you have to do is add water, shake (mix) and go.
Who’s a Protein Powder for?
Anyone and everyone who works out. If you’re new to exercise then you def need a protein powder (keep reading to find out why). If you don’t eat a healthy diet filled with mostly whole foods or don’t eat enough protein daily, a powder can fill in the gaps nicely. If you’re amping up your intensity in your workouts or starting to train for a contest or race, then protein powder needs to become your new BFF. Unless your doc tells you otherwise, and you exercise regularly, you should be consuming a protein shake.
What’s a Protein Powder do?
A protein powder is a macro-nutrient (a type of food in the human diet. Fats and carbs are the other macro-nutrients). Having a proper amount of protein intake daily is essential for good health, and can come from whole foods (chicken, steak) and powders, like what we’re talking about today. Protein builds, maintains and repairs lean muscle mass. It’s also helpful for strengthening your immune system, repairing damaged cells, and maintaining your hormones. A protein shake is also a great energy source when your body is low on food.
When do you drink a Protein Shake?
For exercise: within the 15-30 minute window that follows your workout. This enables the protein to get into your digestive tract asap and because it’s in liquid form (which is why protein shakes are best mixed with water) in can do so quickly. The quicker you feed those spent muscles, the faster your recovery and repair can begin.
In general: anytime! Anytime you miss a meal, a protein shake can be a quick fix. Just be sure you’e not turning to protein powder first; solid food should always be your first choice. I personally carry 3 protein shake mix samples in my purse along with a piece of fruit so I’m always prepared and have a healthy snack at the ready should hunger strike. 🙂
What Kind of Protein Powder is Best for Me?
So glad you asked! B’low is a breakdown of the different types of protein powders. If you’re still unsure of what protein powder is best for your needs, leave a comment at the end of this post, or you can contact me here.
A great choice if you’re lactose intolerant (like me!). An isolate contains a higher amount of pure protein (up to 90% pure protein) which allows it to be virtually lactose-free, low or no-carb and fat/cholesterol free. It’s a form of protein that can be shuttled to your muscles fast and is the one I recommend to almost all my clients. NOTE* whey protein comes from milk so if you are allergic (not just sensitive) to lactose, stay clear and opt for a plant protein instead.
Not my first recommendation, and that’s because it’s a lower quality whey. Where an isolate is anywhere from 75%-90% pure protein, a concentrate is a blend of whey and usually clock in at around 30%-50% whey. What’s that mean for you? A less expensive whey upfront, but a lower quality whey in general.
Because it has such a low protein factor it’s filled with, you guessed it fillers aka chemicals and junk your body has zero idea on how to process/digest. This type of protein is the kind that causes the most bloating so my advice is to steer clear. Many peeps would suggest it’s just fine, but if you’ve been reading my blog for awhile now, I always try to give your multiple options and advise what’s best for your health.
This type of whey is the king of kings. It’s pre-digested which allows it to get into your bloodstream and muscles the fastest out of all the types of whey out there. Of course, with this comes a higher price tag, so be prepared to shell out some major pesos if you choose the hydrolysate route.
My opinion is, unless you’re training 5-6 days a week and are super serious about your fitness, you’re better off with an Isolate. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a hydrolysate, it’s just not necessary when an isolate will do.
If you prefer a plant protein powder for ethical reasons or because you’re super sensitive to milk products and just can’t do whey protein, then a plant protein is a better option for you. Plant protein powders are made from rice, hemp, pea, and pumpkin just to name a few.
My fave plant protein powder is from Vega. Now keep in mind, the solubility of a plant protein is not the same as for a whey protein. What this means for you is that it may not mix as well and they’ve been known for their grittiness or “un-smooth” texture. In this case I often recommend my clients mix their plant protein with a non-dairy milk (unsweetened vanilla cashew milk is my fave) instead of water for more palatability.
The one plant protein that I suggest you avoid at all costs is soy protein. Even though soy is “all natural” it’s one of the most heavily GMO’d “product” on the market today, right up there with corn and wheat.
Anything soy should be removed from your diet, espesh for women and children. The isoflavones in soy mimic phyto-estrogrens and can really wreak havoc on your hormonal system. I know, many will tell you soy is good for menopause, and even organic soy is ok. It’s not. All organic means for the most part is that certain super harmful pesticides are switched up for safer ones (and in most cases, this is good. But not here, not when it comes to soy). So, as a recap, no soy milk, no soy protein. Just say NO to soy.
This type of protein is a derivative of whey, so if you’re looking for a plant based protein, stick to the suggestions above. The main difference between a whey isolate and whey casein is that an isolate is absorbed super fast and a casein is a verrry slowww digesting type protein.
Casein is not recommended to be consumed right after your workout. The best rime to drink a casein protein shake is before bed. This is because casein lasts in your system longer so it’s feeding your muscles all night long. This in turn, is keeping a nice and steady flow of amino acids to your muscles.
Casein is also known for assisting with bigger, stronger muscles, faster, PLUS it helps with increasing your metabolic rate. This means it’s great for fat loss!
The one down-side I have with casein…is the taste. It’s a thicker powder, which makes for a thicker shake and the taste is quite a common complaint. I don’t think the average gal looking to build a little muscle (aka tone up) and lose fat needs to add a casein shake to her meal plan, it’s more for those who are looking for greater gains.
Alrighty, we’ve covered what a protein powder is, why you need one, what the different types are. Now I’m guessing you want some specific recommendations, right?
No problemo, I got ya covered. 😉
One more thing before we get to brands. Always aim to purchase a protein powder that is NOT artificially sweetened. Yes they’re harder to come by, but it’s your health we’re talking here and y’all know my take on cancer-causing-fake ingredients and sucralose is top on my list to avoid.
Look for sports supps sweetened with stevia, or even xylitol (it may make you gassy, though).
- Vega Sport Performance Protein (also at most supplement stores and Shopper’s Drug Mart too)
- Kaizen Isolate Protein (also at most supplement stores and now Walmart too)
- AllMax ISO Natural Protein (also at most supplement stores and now Walmart too)
- PVL Pure Vita Labs Iso Sport Protein (check Bulk Barn in Canada)
- Sunwarrior (plant protein, also found at most health food stores)
- Bulletproof Upgraded Protein Powder
All in all, a good quality protein powder is definitely a great way to help with workout recovery, aid in muscle soreness, assist with eating healthy meal plan and even assist with weight loss. I highly recommend them for all my clients and for anyone who exercises.
How ’bout you? Do you use protein powders as a sports supp at all? What are your fave brands/flavours? Make sure to leave a comment b’low with your Qs or suggestions too!