There are many well-documented benefits to taking whey protein. Firstly there is increased metabolism, this is due to the increased thermogenesis that digesting protein compared to other macros creates. Whey protein can also lead to increases in strength and muscle size when it is combined with resistance exercise. This is because increased protein is required to help muscles to rebuild and repair after the fibers are broken down during exercise.
In 1992 a study by Tarnopolsky et al found that athletes (or people who exercise to a high degree) require twice as much protein as the general population. Getting the protein required for recovery and growth can be quite difficult to do, both financially and in terms of cooking.
Most high protein foods are also high in fat or in carbohydrates, making it easy to overeat. This leads to increased body fat. Whey protein is a great choice for gym goers because the protein content is very high, ranging from 60% to around 90%. This means that you can hit your daily protein target for the day without worrying about over-consuming other macros (carbs and fat).
Other benefits to supplementing your diet with whey protein are that it is easy to prepare (add water and a couple scoops of the powder to a shaker). Easy to transport (to the gym or work), and whey protein is fast digested. Allowing your muscles to be quickly replenished with the necessary protein after a workout.
But not all whey protein powders are alike, as mentioned earlier the percentage of protein contained in a scoop can vary drastically.
How do you take your protein? Concentrated or isolated? Or do you prefer blended? With the growing popularity of whey protein and the awareness of its benefits, it seems that every month we hear about a new version of it… Well, are they really that different from the rest of the Protein Powders? Surprisingly the answer is YES. These ‘versions’ of whey protein will not only have a different price point but will also bring different qualities and effect to your fitness game.
Ok, let’s break these down to give you a better understanding of which one is best for what purpose:
Whey concentrate is one of the most bought proteins. This is a great starter protein that won’t kill your budget. Concentrates are usually low in fat and carbs, but can be considered high compared to the other proteins we will discuss. Whey concentrate is best before or after a workout. Some users have reported feeling gassy and bloated due to trouble digesting the concentrates. This protein does contain significant amounts of lactose, so anybody who is lactose intolerant should avoid using concentrate. If you think concentrate is the one for you, find a protein powder that is at least 80% protein to get the most bang for your buck. Popular whey protein concentrate powders are Universal Nutrition Animal Whey and BSN’s Syntha 6 Edge.
Whey Isolate is more expensive than concentrate, but you get what you pay for. This protein is lower in carbs/fats so it is perfect for anyone trying to limit their carb intake. Isolate is also great before or after a workout because of its quick absorption properties. Popular whey isolate protein powders are Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein and MyProtein’s Impact Whey Isolate.
Hydrolysate whey is protein that is predigested and partially hydrolyzed for easier metabolizing. Hydrolysate is an extremely fast absorbing protein which generates a greater insulin response than whey concentrate. Insulin response is important post workout where your muscles are basically begging for nutrients. A fast response gets those nutrients to the muscle. This protein generally costs more because of its rapid response. Hydrolysate is also know to be helpful for anyone with food allergies. This protein is known to be less allergenic. Popular hydrolysate protein powders are Optimum Nutrition’s Hydro Whey and Myprotein’s Hydrolyzed Whey Protein.
Casein protein is the perfect choice if you are looking for a slow absorbing protein. It breaks down in your body over several hours and has a high glutamine content. Glutamine helps to speed recovery and boost the immune system, which makes casein the go-to protein powder before bed. If you are trying to cut calories, Casein can help keep you full for longer so it is also a great meal replacement in the middle of the day. Popular casein protein powders are Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard 100% Casein and MuscleTech Platinum’s 100% Casein.
Micellar casein is a slow-release protein which is derived from milk. Similar to regular casein, it is slow absorbing and produces a constant supply of nutrients to the muscles over 4-7 hours. Micellar casein is best used before bed or as a meal replacement. Popular Micellar Casein protein powders are Now Sports’ Micellar Casein and Body Tech’s Micellar Casein.
Whey blend proteins are made up of different types of protein. To take a look at a popular whey blend, let’s check out Jim Stopanni’s JYM.