Open any fitness magazine and a HUGE proportion of the advertising will be for protein shakes. Some are promoted as meal replacement shakes for weight loss, some are promoted as an "essential" part of a training routine. But what are protein supplements, and do you really need them?
Let's look at protein powders from a protein 101 view.
The TL/DR version is:
- Protein powders are a convenient way to refuel your muscles after a taxing workout.
- You can get protein from food
- Protein is best consumed in a 1:4 ratio of protein to carbohydrates
- Chocolate Milk is a cheap, effective, and simple solution.
Before, during and post workout your body needs carbohydrates and protein, in approximately a 4:1 ratio, that is 4 parts carbohydrates to one part protein.
Most of us DON'T need a powder or shake to get enough protein in our diets, even after a moderate workout.
Protein powders come in various forms. The three common ones are whey, soy, and casein protein
Whey Protein is a complete protein - it contains all 9 of the amino acids required for human growth and development.Whey is the portion left over from milk during cheese production. It is also quick to digest, so it is popular with athletes who are building muscle - after a workout, because it reportedly assists in muscle repair and growth.
The most common types of whey protein products are Whey Protein Concentrate and Whey Protein Isolate
Concentrates have the fat and cholesterol left intact and, in general, compared to the other forms of whey protein, have higher levels lactose. Whey Protein Concentrates are approximately 29-89% protein by weight.
Isolates are processed to remove the fat, and lactose, but are usually lower lactose. Whey Protein Isolate is approximately 90% protein by weight.
In laymens terms - the only difference between the two is the extra fat - both concentrates and isolates will provide your body with protein. Isolates tend to be significantly more expensive.
Casein Protein is also found in dairy. It has a larger molecular structure, and is more slowly digested by the body. Athletes commonly take casein protein supplements before bed, to continue "feeding" their muscles after a heavy workout.
Soy/Pea Protein soy protein is derived from processing soybeans. It's particularly common for vegan athletes
To process the soybean, the beans are dried and rolled into flakes, then the oils are removed, the flakes are dried again, and then the left over product is processed into either Soy Protein Concentrate, Soy Protein Isolate, and Textured Soy Protein (TSP)
So Why Protein shakes?
Protein shakes are a quick and convenient way to "re-fuel" your muscles after a workout.
Most people, even athletes, can also get everything they offer by eating sources of lean protein like meat, fish, chicken, and dairy products.
Also, many athletes SWEAR by chocolate milk as being the easiest, tastiest and cheapest pre/mid/post workout shake, with a good mix of carbs and protein 🙂
Photo credit: East Midtown