Written by Imane Dodo
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Protein plays a critical role in building, maintaining muscle and supporting bone strength. These functions are critical when you have big goals at the gym, particularly as it comes to building muscle. However, it can be confusing to know when to take protein supplements, or which one to choose among the many options available on the market, so let’s get into it.
First of all, what are protein powders?
Protein powders are concentrated forms of protein, often derived from plants, eggs or milk. These powders can be consumed as a shake, added to yogurts or other food items. Protein powders are measured in scoops, ranging from 10 – 30 grams per scoop (for comparison, there is 31g of protein per 100g of chicken breast).
Do I need protein powders to reach my goals?
The short answer is no. Despite common belief, protein powders are only essential in particular cases, when your goals are bigger than you, which means extremely rarely. On a more serious note, protein powders are often seen as a healthy alternative or “must do” when you are a fitness newbie but they are in no way a determinant of your ability to reach your goals: you can reach your dream body without protein powders. If your diet is already high in protein, you are unlikely to see any significant benefits from consuming protein supplements. As a rule of thumb, try to maximize your protein intake from regular food before exploring protein supplements. That being said, there are three major groups of protein powders you can choose from to support your big goals.
What are the types of protein and how do I choose the best option for me?
1) Whey protein
Whey protein powders, a derivative of cow’s milk, are the most common form of protein. This option is generally considered high quality because it contains all the essential amino acids (molecules that help the body break down food, repair muscle tissue, produce hormones, etc.) the body needs to function properly. Whey protein options also tend to be easier to digest than other counterparts. However, milk-based powders can cause allergies for lactose intolerant girlies, because whey is a lactose derivative and can be hard to digest even for the non lactose intolerant crew.
Other whey proteins include whey isolate and whey concentrates. Whey isolate is more refined than whey protein, and is considered higher quality than whey protein as a result. Whey isolates are generally the most expensive type of whey protein products. As the most common protein supplement used by bodybuilders and athletes, this option is suitable if you want to build a significant body mass, are lactose tolerant, have extra coins to spend and are looking for different options to choose from. On the flipside, whey concentrates are on the lower end of quality, lowest costs and tend to be richer in carbohydrates and fats.
2) Plant based protein
Plant based proteins are derived from plants such as peas, hemp, soybeans, rice and potatoes. They are great options for the vegan and/or lactose intolerant crew, but are often considered less complete than whey options in terms of amino acid composition. Purition is a great plant based protein option.
If you opt for plant based proteins, select options that contain a mix of several proteins in the same formula (e.g. peas & hemp) or a pure soy protein, which is one of the only complete plant sources of protein.
3) Egg protein
Egg protein powders tend to be more rare and expensive than whey and plant based options. Like plant based options, they are a great option if you are lactose intolerant.
Regardless of your goals, minimize intake of proteins with high levels of sugars, artificial flavoring, thickeners, and any other processed items that you cannot pronounce easily. Some (not all) powders are loaded with sugar and additives, which can hinder your goals due to potential weight gain and spikes in blood pressure. Overall, protein powders that support muscle gain contain more protein than those for weight loss. Choose according to your goals, diet and body characteristics, and most importantly listen to your body and explore options until you find the right fit for you.
Plant Protein Powders
Gold Standard 100% Whey Powder