These days there is a protein powder for everyone, whether your goal is to build lean muscle mass, weight and muscle gain, lose weight/fat, substitute meals or simply increase protein intake. Let’s look at your options by goal.
Build Lean Muscle Mass
There are 3 types of proteins that will be beneficial for this goal. These include a whey protein blend (protein concentrates, isolates and maybe casein), whey protein isolate or hydrolysate, and casein.
However most people are on a budget and cannot afford to buy all three types of protein powder. In this case the protein blend would be most suitable because it will provide a sustained release of protein for up to 4 hours. This makes it useful for sustaining high protein levels throughout the day whilst also containing some fast release protein isolates to feed muscles immediately prior to exercise.
If a second protein is purchased is should be a whey protein isolate powder to ensure that pre and post workout nutrition is optimised and your muscle are saturated with nutrients for muscle repair and building. Casein though very useful in reducing muscle breakdown during sleep and to some a “must have” it should be your third consideration for protein powders.
Weight and Muscle Gain
In dealing with supplements for quite some time now, I always find it funny how many skinny people tell me they “want to build muscle but don’t want to get too big”. It’s said as though it might happen by accident, but I can assure you it is not the case. If you do not currently have an undesirable level of excess fat, exercise three or more times a week and wish to build muscle in any capacity, you will likely benefit from taking a mass gainer protein and it won’t soon turn you into a muscle hulk or make you fat, end of story. However if you are consistently eating meals every 3 hours throughout the day you may not need the carbs in a mass gainer protein. Mass gainers usually have a reasonably broad spectrum of proteins with a few different carbs as well as being high calorie. The protein ensures muscle recovery and rebuilding is maximised whilst the carbs and calories ensures a surplus of calories which is paramount to muscle building.
Because mass gainer proteins are usually made from whey protein concentrate and carbohydrates you will also benefit from having a whey protein isolate powder. However if you only want to get a mass gainer and not an isolate as well, make sure that the ratio of carbs to protein is close to 1:1 or you may find the serving sizes too big to get sufficient post workout protein. Of course again, casein could be very useful for night-time recovery.
The best single protein for this goal would be a fat burning protein. This is simply a protein with added ingredients that are commonly found in fat burning products. Usually you will find that these proteins will only contain about 1/3 of the active fat burning ingredients of a specialised fat burning product. Therefore you can expect much better results if you supplemented a regular protein blend with a proper fat burning product. Protein powders are important in the process of burning fat because:
- Speed recovery after training
- Increases muscular endurance
- Minimises muscle breakdown during weight loss
Therefore you will be able to train more regularly because protein powder will minimise the motivation crushing effects of sore muscles. Also for cardio, increased muscular endurance means you can train harder for longer and burn more fat during exercise. Also, typically the end goal of fat burning is a lean defined look. A common error among people trying to achieve this is an over emphasis on cardio whilst neglecting proper weight training and nutrition to maintain muscle mass (for men and women!). The end result is continually dropping weight (muscle and fat) and never actually reaching that “defined look”.
As has been covered in other articles protein shake diets should always include a reasonable amount of carbs and fats. This means find a protein with lean fats and around 30g of carbs. However single meals can be substituted by low carb and fat shakes. When doing this you best use a protein blend that consists mainly of whey protein concentrate and some isolates for a sustained release of protein up to 4 hours.