Before deciding which protein powder is the best or necessary for your goals, here is a short protein primer to help you make sense of the thousands of different protein powders from which to choose:
Whey protein makes up 20% of total milk protein. Whey is recognized for its excellent amino acid profile, high cysteine content, rapid digestion, and interesting variety of peptides.
Casein protein makes up 80% of total milk protein. Casein is recognized for its excellent amino acid profile, slow digestion and interesting variety of peptides. Since casein is slowly digested into your bloodstream, don't use it during workouts or after workouts – you need a fast absorbing protein at these times.
Soy protein is the most controversial of all protein types. While the soy groupies have gone to great lengths to label soy as a super food with magical effects, there is also a good amount of research that suggests soy protein may be contraindicated in many situations. Because of all the confusion, I suggest avoiding soy protein altogether and sticking to the other types listed.
Protein Blends are generally a combination of several types of protein blends such as whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, egg protein, casein protein, and soy protein. Why would you want a blend anyway? You will receive the full spectrum of proteins and you will receive varying rates of absorption from the different types of protein.
Whey hydrolysates (also known as hydrolyzed whey protein, and are also called peptides), are powerful proteins that are more quickly absorbed; more so than any other form, since your body prefers peptides to whole proteins. Hydrolysates are produced through very low heat, low acid and mild enzymatic filtration processes, (those highest in the essential and the branched chain amino acids) and are potentially the most anabolic for short-term protein synthesis such as 15 minutes prior to a workout, during a workout and immediately after a workout.
Whey Protein Versus Whey Isolate:
Most whey protein powders that stock the supplement shelves are made up of whey concentrate and mixed in with a small portion of whey isolate. Comparing the two, whey protein isolate is more expensive than whey protein concentrate because it has a higher quality (more pure) and a higher BV (biological value). Whey protein isolate contains more protein and less fat and lactose per serving. Most whey protein isolates contain 90-98% protein while whey concentrates contain 70-85% protein.
Whey protein isolate is the highest yield of protein currently available that comes from milk. Because of its chemical properties it is the easiest to absorb into your system. Obviously with its high concentration, it appears that an isolate protein would be the obvious choice instead of a concentrate. However, this is an individual decision because the isolate is more expensive, and just because it is purer does not guarantee that it will help build bigger muscles. Its extra concentration may not justify its extra cost.
How can we use these different forms to our advantage?
Whey Protein: Since it is very quickly digested the best time to consume it is within six hours after a workout, prior to a workout or breakfast.
Casein Protein: Since it is slowly digested the best time to consume it is anytime of the day except breakfast and within six hours after a workout when your body requires a more immediate source.
Soy Protein: As mentioned I would avoid this one altogether.
Blend Proteins: Using a blend will create an anabolic environment from the whey and an anti-catabolic environment from the casein – use this kind at periods outside of the six hour post workout window.
Whey Hydrolysates: Use a hydrolysate protein for your pre, during and post workout nutrition because this will enter your blood stream quicker than any other form.
Money aside, which form of protein do you believe is most beneficial? Why?
Dollar for dollar, protein powders and meal replacement drinks tend to be more cost effective than whole food. Don't get me wrong, though. Protein powders are still supplements in my book. Supplement means an addition to the diet. I emphasize this because the focus of any diet should be food. Whole food is often preferable to powders because it can offer a whole spectrum of nutrients that powders cannot.
Most of your dietary protein should come from meat, fish, poultry and eggs. However getting all your protein from whole food is not always practical or convenient, especially if you have to eat 6 or more times a day to get your required intake. I will stress to you, for optimal muscle gains, that you should limit yourself to a maximum of three per day or 40 % of your meals.
The bottom line is that both are necessary to achieve a complete nutritional balance as well as the desired level of protein intake, especially if you're not a big fan of cooking. Do not make the fatal mistake of thinking protein powders can take the place of a solid training and nutrition program.
What is the best protein powder?
For the pre, during and post workout phase, as long as whey hydrolysate is the first or second ingredient on the supplement label then there is probably not enough in the product to influence protein synthesis to reap the optimal benefits. As stated, whey isolates are also a very extremely high quality whey and for maximal anabolism isolates should be combined with whey hydrolysates for only the pre, during and post workout phases of your program. The inclusion of small amounts of whey concentrates will not harm you but this should not be the first ingredient on the tub of protein powder.
If you are looking for the strongest protein powder to exploit your full growth potential during all other times of the day then use a blend. You will receive the full spectrum of proteins and you will receive varying rates of absorption from the different types of protein. Using a blend will create an anabolic environment from the whey and an anti-catabolic environment from the casein