Protein supplements can help you get more from your workouts. Here’s how to use them
Are you doing everything right in the gym but still not quite seeing the results you want in the mirror? One way to get greater rewards from your efforts and perhaps increase your overall well-being is to add protein supplements to your diet. If you’re new to this sometimes-confusing world, this guide will help you understand everything you need to know about protein supplements.
Protein: the facts
Eating plenty of protein helps provide your body with all the nutrients and calories it needs to grow and repair muscle tissue. Of the four types of macronutrients that provide calories – protein, carbohydrates, fats and alcohol – only protein helps rebuild and repair muscle. Carbohydrates are used primarily to fuel activity, so the level of carbs you take in should be in line with your activity needs. Fats help regulate hormones and provide a number of other health benefits, while alcohol has very little physical benefit and should be avoided as much as possible.
Where can I find protein?
Protein is found primarily in meat and fish, although soy, eggs, nuts and legumes are good sources for vegetarians. These foods also contain varying quantities of carbohydrates and fats, so in your quest to increase your protein consumption it’s worth checking that you don’t over-eat fats or carbs. Almonds are a great source of protein, for example, but a handful contains roughly twice as many grams of fat as protein. They’re still a great food source because the fats in them are mostly essential fatty acids, but they should be eaten sparingly. This is why many active trainers turn to protein powders or products.
What are the benefits of protein powder?
Whey, casein and milk-based protein powders are made from the best parts of the milk, with the carbohydrates and fats removed. They allow people to consume more protein without greatly increasing their intake of other macronutrients, giving them more control over their diet.
If you’re looking to increase your protein intake, protein powder is an excellent place to start. It can help boost athletic performance, improve muscle tone and increase overall health. Many people don’t consume enough protein in their daily diet, and protein powder is an easy and convenient way to add more.
What are the different types of protein and what should you be taking?
Protein powders usually contain whey protein, micellar casein, soy protein, egg protein or various blends of the above.
Whey Protein is the most commonly used type in protein powders. The body absorbs it very quickly and easily, and it’s an ideal post-workout source.
Casein Protein contains the most glutamine, an amino acid that aids recovery. It also takes longest to digest, making it ideal for taking just before you go to sleep so that it delivers essential nutrients throughout the night, which is crucial for muscle growth.
Soy Protein contains all the essential amino acids and is a great alternative source for vegetarians and vegans.
Egg Protein is a lactose- and dairy-free protein powder that has a medium-speed digestion rate and offers high levels of the essential amino acid lysine.
Want to know more about creatine? Click here
When should I take protein supplements?
Taking your protein at the correct time can improve the benefits it has on you and your body.
Immediately after a workout. When you’re training, the most important time to take protein is straight after your workout. Your muscles will then soak up the nutrition for muscle recovery and growth.
Before a work out. It’s good to have a protein shake 30 minutes before you perform the first rep of your workout to create an ‘anabolic window’, which lowers the damage to your muscles as you train. Drinking a shake with carbs in it will give you extra energy and reduce the chance of muscle damage.
First thing in the morning. Taking a protein shake in the morning with your breakfast is a good way to get essential nutrients after eight hours of sleep. Alternatives to shakes are also available, such as protein pancakes, or you can swap your usual latte for a protein coffee or hot chocolate.