If your goal is to increase muscle strength, size and aid recovery in-between sessions, a protein powder is considered essential. However, not all protein powders are created equal, as you will soon find out. Investing in a superior brand can give you an edge in your quest for a better and more functional body.
To find out how much protein is optimal for building muscle, check out my earlier post: How Much Protein to Build Muscle? Below are a list of the most important elements to look out for when investing in a protein powder, to give you good bang for your buck!
A great all-round protein powder will contain sufficient amounts of BCAAs. Short for branched chain amino acids, BCAAs can help reduce recovery times and increase protein synthesis, resulting in greater muscle/strength gains. Reducing recovery time inbetween workouts is essential for bigger strength and muscle gains. Although muscle repairs and grows bigger outside the gym, the work itself is what creates the stimulus and opportunity for bigger muscles.
The amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine make up the contents of BCAAs. These are just three of a total of nine essential amino acids needed by the body. These amino acids are “essential” as they aren’t produced naturally in the body and thus must be ingested via supplements or/and food.
Studies on BCAAs
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research has provided sufficient evidence to suggest that BCAAs have the ability to slash cortisol levels after exercise. This is important as cortisol, the stress hormone, creates a catabolic (muscle wasting) effect in the body. Cortisol also lowers testosterone levels. High testosterone levels must be strived for to increase/maintain strength and muscle size.
A minimum of 20 grams of BCAAs is recommended to get the full benefits of the essential amino acids. You can get a protein supplement with BCAAs already added, or you can buy a protein supplement and add BCAAs powder yourself.
Types of Protein
There are several different types of protein powders that you can buy today. Be sure to invest in a protein with a high biological value. The biological value of a protein helps us know how much of that protein will be fully absorbed by the body, instead of a large percentage of it merely going to waste. BV scores are out of 100, with the higher number representing a higher absorption rate.
Below are three popular types protein powders with high biological values:
Whey Protein 96
Egg Protein 100
Casein Protein 77
Different Protein Benefits
Whey protein powder is a super-fast acting protein. With this main attribute in mind, whey should be sipped immediately after your workout, to restart the muscle building process as soon as possible. The quicker this process begins, the more of an anabolic (muscle building) response the body will produce.
Casein protein powder is the opposite to whey, in the sense that it is a very slow acting protein. Often referred to as the “bedtime protein”, with several weightlifters often consuming casein before sleep. Casein’s slow absorption helps keep the body in a fed and muscle building state over night, as opposed to the body going without nutrients for 6-8 hours (or more).
Avoid Cancer-Causing Sweeteners
Aspartame, sunset yellow and quinoline yellow are just a few sweeteners that are often included in protein supplements (as a replacement for sugar). These artificial sweeteners are thought to be carcinogenic in nature, meaning they can cause cancer. For more information and studies on aspartame, feel free to read my earlier post “Aspartame: Cancer’s Best Friend“.
If you’re unsure of which sweeteners and flavourings are safe when choosing your protein shake, the safest bet is to buy an unflavoured protein, and add stevia (a natural, healthy sweetener) yourself. Alternatively, you can add natural fruit to sweeten up your shake, such as berries or chopped up bananas.
To save the hassle of buying stevia and adding it yourself, there is a protein supplement called – Muscleology Nitro-Pro. This is the only protein supplement I’ve seen which uses stevia as a sweetener. This is great to see and hopefully more brands follow suit like this in the future.
My 12 Week Transformation…
Click Here to discover how I added 1.5″ to each arm
So, which is the best protein powder?
It is hard to compare and say one protein powder is better than the rest as some have completely different qualities. For example, whey protein is the best for after a workout due to it being a fast-acting protein. And casein is best before going to bed, due to it being slow-releasing. However, I definitely recommend these two protein shakes to maximize muscle gains.
Optimum Nutrition is the leading brand for protein supplements with their whey and casein protein in high demand, and rightly so. ON provides more than 5g of BCAAs per serving. ON also packs 25 grams of high-quality protein per serving, with egg, whey and casein powders available.
ON do not include cancer-causing chemicals such as Aspartame, contrary to other brands. Instead, natural flavourings, such as cocoa, are added to give a sweetened taste.