Are you looking to a protein powder in your diet to help support your body before, during and after your workouts? I understand why. Protein serves as fuel for the body’s muscular structure and it is consumed when you exercise. After you are done, the muscles are in what is referred to as a starvation mode. Drinking a shake made with protein powder feeds your muscles, hopefully without adding in too many extra calories. Protein shakes can be a great meal replacement as well.
Not all protein products on the market are equal and some of them are not worth the money at all. There are definitely things to look for when picking out a protein powder. The first thing you need to know is whether you need it to sustain your muscle development and allow them to repair themselves quickly, or if you are looking to gain energy during your workout. These are different goals and different powders could help in different ways. Here are 5 keys to picking the best protein powder.
Key # 1 – Protein, not mass gainer
Protein helps with power and energy. It can also be an important part of a weight reduction plan. A mass gainer is designed for mass (weight gain) and includes a number of things in addition to protein. Make sure that you read the label and ingredients carefully on the product to make sure you are purchasing a protein powder, not a mass gainer or your results will be disappointing.
Key # 2 – Purity
Pay for purity. It is that simple. A lot of manufacturers will add in ingredients to “boost” the effect of the protein, but they may not be the right things for you. Simple protein powders are inexpensive enough that you are better off custom building a combination of supplements and ingredients yourself rather than paying more for a product that is trying to do it all at once. Also, with added ingredients can come with hidden fats and sugars. Another reason you don’t want extra ingredients is depending on the type of protein you are using, how you take it during the day will make additional metabolism or weight gain enhancers/ingredients unnecessary.
Key # 3 – Pick the right type of protein
Not all proteins are the same nor are they intended to be used in the same way. There are three basic types of protein – concentrate, isolate and casein. A concentrate is designed for use in between meals, not during workouts. It is absorbed more slowly by the body so sustains the muscles throughout the day. Isolate proteins, like Whey, are absorbed rapidly. You may find that drinking the protein right after or before your workout will help you recover faster because the muscles can get out of starvation immediately. Casein protein is the slowest of all to absorb. For many serious body builders, casein is their before bed drink. This allows the body to gently absorb the protein while the entire metabolism is slowed for sleep.
Key # 4 – Check the reputation
Pick up any fitness magazine, or do a simple search online for protein powder and you will be inundated with adds, videos and infomercials that the latest “breakthrough” in protein technology. Don’t fall for it. Choose a powder that has an established reputation. Don’t believe the ads when they tell you what that reputation is, go read product reviews and get on the fitness forums to read what real people have thought of the product. You want to pay attention to whether their results were from using the protein powder in combination with other supplements or by itself.
Key # 5 – Watch out for sugars
Protein powder may come with some flavoring to help it go down easier, but make sure you read the nutritional information to see just how much sugar has been added to make it more palatable. In the end, protein is just protein and it has no taste. Trying to turn it into a chocolate shake may make it more enjoyable, but it may also open the door to a lot of additional ingredients that can cause a weight gain wave. The weight gain wave comes from the sugar craving being triggered in the body from the contents of the protein drink that then make you crave sugars during the rest of the day.