100's of Options
Choose the wrong protein when you're trying to get rid of that beer belly might actually make those trousers feel even more tighter.
If you're trying to build lean muscle, the wrong protein might leave you without the energy you need to maximize your muscle development.
This article aims to cut through the marketing hype around different protein powders and give you the knowledge to understand which protein powders work towards which goals so you can make an informed choice when you're in a supermarket or shopping online.
Reasons You Want Protein Powder In Your Diet
Consumed within less than a minute, it's a fantastic way to increase your protein intake without carrying round half a chicken from Nando's in a plastic bag (doing this might make you more likely to be labelled as "that weird nandos guy" at the office).
It also been stated by a professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois that "Most adults would benefit from eating more than the recommended daily intake of 56 grams" .
In reality, for those wanting to increase muscle size, or even to ensure they maintain an adequate level of muscle for strength or athletic performance, the recommended daily intake is far from what is necessary.
Research shows that if you're trying to gain muscle, you'll get the best results from eating somewhere between 1.4 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for anyone exercising (0.64 to 0.91 grams of protein per pound of body weight) .
Some sources also state that up to 1 gram per pound of lean body mass is beneficial. Alan Aragon (a big dog in the world of nutrition research) recommends using your target lean body mass , though this is sometimes difficult to visualize.
Often, goal weight is used, so for a typical guy looking to be approximately 185 lbs and lean (or approximately 84kg with low body fat) this would mean the recommended dose of protein should be about 185 grams per day.
A typical 125g chicken breast may have approximately 26 grams of protein, if this was your only source of protein you would have to consume more than 7 chicken breasts throughout the day to get your full 185 grams of protein per day.
Fortunately there's more protein sources available than just chicken, though if even if you had a varied diet of protein sources, consuming the full 185 grams of protein would take some planning.
This is one where a protein shake really shines, it can offer you a quick 30g (potentially more) of protein and can be taken easily to the office, or in your gym bag for after a workout.
If you're not already sold on the value of protein shakes, here's a list of benefits as to why they are a worthwhile addition to your daily and weekly diet:
Supports Increases in Strength and Muscle Size
The study involved a selection of participants being given 14 grams of whey and casein protein powder with 6 grams of free amino acids, whereas the other participants received a 20-gram placebo.
Unsurprisingly, the protein group experienced greater developments in muscle size and strength from resistance training.
The study concluded by stating that supplementing with protein results in "greater increases in total body mass, fat-free mass, thigh mass and muscle strength" . Looks to me like a good idea to invest in a protein shaker.
Of course, for the best results in muscle size and strength, compound exercises should be a key focus in your training, here's why.
Lose More Fat & Preserve Muscle When Dieting
This puts your body into what's known as a caloric deficit, which is just an articulate way of saying that your spending more energy than your consuming through foods and drinks.
Consider this energy as a bank account, when your spending more energy than your consuming through foods and drinks (a caloric deficit) you essentially put your energy bank balance below 0, the body then seeks to repay this debt (kind of like an "energy overdraft") by breaking down fat, muscle, or both.
Consuming a protein shake ensures that your body has enough protein available in the bloodstream, making it less likely to start breaking down your hard earned muscle for energy. If running a debt in terms of energy, consider your protein shakes as your protection against the debt collectors coming round to take away your muscles.
To keep your muscle losses away as much as possible whilst burning fat, try high intensity interval training (HIIT) and some yoga to preserve your hard earned muscle.
One study analysed the effects of consuming various levels of whey protein before asking participants to eat pizza for 20 minutes until they felt "comfortably full".
Another study researched the effects of protein on satiety (how full you feel) by asking 28 obese men to consume four different drinks of either sugar or protein, or a mixture of the two.
The results demonstrated that the best reduction in hunger for up to 4 hours came from the group that consumed whey protein, with the effects being reduced when sugar was consumed too .
So when you're next peckish between meals, rather than grabbing a snickers from the local convenience store, treat yourself to a protein shake, forgetting about being hungry for a few hours might actually make you more productive, not to mention making those abs more likely to come through in time for summer.
If only there was a way to get somewhere between 30-40g of protein whilst travelling or otherwise busy with specific tasks....
You could cook up a big pot of minced beef on a Sunday evening, package them into the appropriate size portions and put them in Tupperware boxes to take with you to work.
Alternatively, you could put a single scoop of protein powder into a shaker bottle, add water when you want a drink and you're done. Simple, a fraction of the preparation time and no where near as weird as eating cold beef out of a Tupperware box in the staff canteen...
Next time in the gym or on the sports field should be even better than before.
To maximise athletetic development following a hard session, you need to feed your muscles with protein as quickly as possible to send in your internal mechanics to hardwire your muslces to perform better.
Protein powder (specifically whey protein powder) is a very fast acting protein and is both digested and absorbed quickly by the body .
This is great news for people looking to get stronger as research has been conducted which indicates that the fast absorbing effects of protein increases protein synthesis (muscle development) more than a protein source which is digested slowly, such as casein .
The bottom line? Feed your muscles quickly for greater performance gains with whey protein.
Promote Recovery from Exercise and Injury
When it comes to recovery and repairing your muscles, you need a positive nitrogen balance in the body, this can only be achieved through consuming enough protein through the day.
Protein shakes can act as a great go-to source of protein both between meals and pre / post exercise to ensure your body has enough protein in the blood, thereby ensuring sufficient nitrogen balance is maintained so your muscles repair more effectively .
The more effectively your muscles repair, the quicker you recovery, allowing you to jump back into training quicker and therefore achieve better results over time.
Think of a protein shake like putting yourself through an ice bath, you'll recover quicker, but without the unintentional shrieks made from jumping into an icy bath.
Getting enough protein in your diet doesn't have to cost the world, sure eating several ounces of Wagyu steak served with a side order of caviar and saffron sauce might be delicious, but unless you're Bill Gates, eating this consistently will put you on a slipperly slope towards being homeless (even if you do have plenty of muscle like this guy on the right).
There is another way, whereby you can still pay rent and get a sufficient amount of protein in your diet.
Protein powder shakes rank among some of the cheapest sources of protein available, with eggs and canned tuna coming up near the top of the list.
Get the right brand of protein shake (where you're not paying for an expensive marketing department to create a fancy label) and a 5kg tub of protein powder can cost as little as £30 (or approximately $45), which can last in excess of 80 days, even taking 2 servings of 30g per day.
Less than £1 per day to give you more than 40g of protein a day into your diet? That's one way to make your bank manager happy.
High Bio-Availability Rating
Whole egg is rated on the index at 100.
Soy protein is rated as 59 on the index, i.e. although you might eat the same amount of protein from an omelette vs a soy shake or supplement, you're only going to actually absorb roughly 59% of the protein that you would absorb from the same quantity of protein from whole eggs.
It's also worth noting that if you don't absorb it, it doesn't benefit your body!
Ideally when consuming protein, you want to be consuming sources that are high on the "bio-availability index", sadly this unfortunately means that if you're a vegan, you make it far more difficult for yourself to have enough protein in your diet.
Not to mention many of these sources aren't complete protein sources (i.e. don't have the full range of amino acids inside them).
Looking at the top of the table, you can see the 2 champions of the protein bio-availability world (which is fairly tough to say after a long day).
This means that for each 100g of protein consumed from a whey protein shake, you'll have absorbed more protein which can be then be used for bodily functions such as cell repair and muscle growth.
Consider whey protein as the Greek god of the protein world and your godly physique won't be too far behind.
1) Choosing the Perfect Type of Protein Powder for Your Goals
Do you want micellar casein, a pea protein isolate, or maybe some hydrolyzed whey protein?
Bear in mind that choosing the wrong option will put roadblocks down as you progress towards your goals.
With the range of options available and lots of marketing hype about specific benefits of one protein vs another, we'll break down the 5 big categories of protein powder to help you make an informed decision before checking out with the wrong protein powder for your goals.
A) Want To Up Your Daily Protein Intake Easily? - Try a Concentrate
Whey protein concentrate just means that the product is at least 35% to 80% protein by weight  (i.e. 100g of protein powder can be called a concentrate if it has somewhere between 35 and 80% protein inside).
When shopping it's always worth checking the nutrition label to see for yourself the level of protein inside, it goes without saying that you want a protein that is much closer to the 80% mark than the 35% mark!
It's fairly simple to make too, it's just a product that is usually filtered off during whey production (whey comes from milk). It was historically discarded but has exploded in popularity once the fitness world discovered it's benefits.
Due to it's simplicity in production, it's also one of the cheapest sources of protein and is therefore great if you're on a budget.
Additionally, if you don't have any specific goals in mind, save your pocket money and pick a concentrate powder. Buying in bulk should also be cost effective and ensure you have protein at home for weeks if not months.
Nothing flashy here, essentially the "beans on toast" of the protein powder world. Simple, basic and does the job.
B) Want To Get Huge? - Try a Mass Gainer
Mass gainers typically do what they say on the tub. Calorie dense, they are best taken by people who consider themselves "hard gainers" or anyone who finds it really difficult to put weight on.
With some mass gainer protein powders containing in excess of 1,000 calories, they aren't for the casual trainer as they may lead to excessive fat gain if taken alongside an individuals normal diet.
Though if you're eager to see the number on the scales go up, an effective mass gainer coupled with resistance exercise should mean you're buying a new set of clothes before you know it.
Just make sure that you're doing resistance (or strength) based exercise otherwise all the extra weight will be more likely to come in the form of a big belly and man boobs.
With so many carbohydrates and calories in a single shake, these would be more towards the rugby player side of the spectrum rather than the fitness model end.
For an added calorie boost, most mass gainers can be mixed with milk. Feel free to opt for full fat milk here if you really struggle putting on weight.
C) Want To Get Lean? - Try an Isolate
This is where isolates join the party. Whey protein concentrates can typically have anywhere between 4g and 20g carbohydrates per 100g.
With some protein powder manufacturers having up to 30g of carbs per 100g of whey protein.
Isolates on the other hand go through an additional purification process whereby the protein is separated from fat, cholesterol and lactose, leaving you with a purer protein at the end of the process.
Whey protein isolates are at least 90% protein, so if you scoop out 100g or protein powder, you'll be holding at least 90g of protein in the scoop, very useful if you're watching your carbohydrates i.e. if you're on a ketogenic diet or are simply reducing your carbohydrate intake for weight loss or improved health.
Due to the filtration process, whey protein isolates lose some of the bioactive peptides  (immune boosting and health promoting agents) contained in regular whey protein, in addition they are also more expensive.
They do however have a very small particle size, meaning that they are absorbed really quickly, with some hydrolysates being able to be dissolved in water.
People have argued that the faster absorbtion of amino acids from a hydrolysate may lead to greater muscle growth, however, research has shown that as whey protein absorbs so quickly in its original form, predigesting it into a hydrolysate doesn't lead to significantly better results .
Couple this fact with they are generally more expensive and the value of buying a hydrolysate plummets.
Don't get drawn in by the scientific name, stick to the concentrates and isolates and your bank balance (and immune system) will benefit.
D) Want To Increase Strength & Speed Up Recovery? - Try an All-in-one
The really exciting thing about "all-in-one" protein powder supplements is that they eliminate the need to carry around 10 different supplement pills to consume before or after training, or indeed at any point in the day because the beneficial supplements can be found inside the protein powder!
Some of the additional supplements that will support your progress when exercising and completing resistance training are, creatine, HMB and glutamine, which, in addition to a wide range of other great supplements, will most likely be found in most all-in-one protein powder supplements.
Without going into a great deal of detail, creatine is a fantastic supplement for increasing the body's ability to produce energy rapidly, allowing you to train harder and therefore achieve better results in terms of progress.
HMB (or Beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate for those of you who love your technical terms) is an amino acid shown to aid in muscle recovery and reduce the breakdown of muscles.
Glutamine is also an effective supplement to prevent the breakdown of muscle and promote muscle growth.
Buying all of these in addition to buying your normal protein powder could end up being particularly expensive, but with an all-in-one protein powder supplement you get a whole heap of benefits included.
You might want to think of an all-in-one supplement as the smartphone of the protein powder world, not only do you get to call and text people, but you also get a camera included and a bunch of apps to play with!
Personally, if you don't have a string of specific supplements you're looking to take, I'd opt for an all-in-one protein powder for pre and post workout, you get a whole range of benefits already included that are likely to boost your strength, improve recovery and benefit your sporting and athletic performance, it's a win-win.
E) Want To Build Muscle as You Sleep? - Try Casein
Getting your 8 hours of sleep (or slightly more or less depending on the individual) is a fantastic way to ensure you feel recharged and ready for the next day ahead, it's also the time at which your body repairs itself and recovers from the stresses of daily life.
The night after a heavy workout, your body is primed to more effectively build muscle as energy consumption is lowered. Growth hormone (simply put, the body's chemical signal to grow) is also released.
However if you haven't got enough protein in your body ready to be used, i.e. if you've not eaten enough protein through the day or have digested it all already, muscle building and recovery will be reduced.
One option is to wake up during the middle of the night to go and cook a quick steak, this way you'll ensure your body never goes more than maybe 5 hours without an influx of protein and therefore has a steady stream available to ensure you're building muscle from the second you put down the weights and for the next 24-48 hours.
If you're anything like me, this doesn't sound too appealing, realistically people would be safer trying to wake up a mythical dragon than disturb me whilst sleeping.
So what's the alternative? The answer is a slow digesting source of protein that will feed your muscles through the night whilst you sleep, otherwise known as casein.
Casein is found in a variety of dairy sources such as cottage cheese, yogurt and cream.
Casein is the most abundant protein in milk and when milk is processed, the casein molecules become disturbed, forming a gelatinous substance.
The benefit of this however, is that casein is one of the slowest digesting forms of protein available.
This makes it a great choice for pre-bedtime, allowing your muscles to have a steady supply of protein whilst you sleep.
So next time you're preparing for your 40 winks, grab yourself some casein protein and turn your night of rest into a night of athletic progress.
2) Choosing the Best Variety of Protein Powder for You
Whey & Casein
Both of these dairy protein sources are manufactured during the processing of milk and are extremely effective in helping you reach goals A-E (with casein being the preferred choice for Goal E for it's slow digestion).
The majority of studies and research conducted into the world or protein powder focuses on whey and casein for their excellent benefits and ability to boost protein synthesis (i.e. muscle growth).
They are the go-to choice in terms of performance and are commonly available by all major protein powder supplements, when combined they are even more effective.
Research also shows that when taken together, whey and casein are complimentary and provide greater benefits than simply consuming fast and slow-release proteins .
So why don't we all just ditch the whey & casein and switch to soy protein? Not so fast.
There's been lots of research into soy that suggests that the phytoestrogens (i.e. compounds in plants that act like female hormones) can actually reduce the great effects we experience from testosterone in the body and increase feminine characteristics .
This is bad news. A decrease in testosterone can results in a whole heap of undesirable effects in the body including breast development in men, decreased sex drive and increased body fat.
Whilst there has been some research to suggest the contrary, claiming that supplementing with soy protein has no negative effects on testosterone .
With two sides of the coin arguing for and against and with so many protein choices available, for me soy seems like one to avoid, I'd rather not run the risk of using soy after the gym, watching an emotional film and then having to wipe the tears off of my newly developed man breasts.
Beef is also a high scorer on the biological index chart, hitting a great score of 80, passed only by fish and milk .
Not only that, but beef is a complete protein, containing the nine essential amino acids needed to build muscle.
Additionally, with a beef protein isolate, you're likely to have a powder which is pretty much free of fat, cholesterol, lactose and any other carbohydrates .
Because of this, beef lands itself as a worthy alternative to whey for the general public, particularly those with dietary requirements meaning that dairy products are best avoided.
So when making your choice of powder, consider steak-ing your shake and getting all the benefits of beef with none of the cooking.
Egg protein powder is naturally lactose free, making it another viable alternative to those who wish to avoid dairy for whichever reason.
Most egg protein powder is made from pure egg whites, meaning that they typically don't contain small amounts of the fat and cholesterol which you would find in the egg yolk itself.
This will change if you find a whole egg protein powder supplement, so as always, be sure to read the label!
Thinking back to our biological index chart, eggs score a rather impressive 100, couple this with it's complete amino acid profile which is said to be the closest to that needed for human growth and it's worth considering when your shopping for protein powder online.
With egg production, the chickens are sometimes placed in quite undesirable situations. Those kept in a factory will be potentially more likely to have experienced antibiotics, hormones or infections due to their sometimes unhygienic living situations, thereby reducing egg quality .
When sourcing egg products, opt for free range where possible and consider what environment the eggs have come from. Naturally when thinking of purchasing an egg protein powder, you could always simply buy the egg whites instead!
Pea protein is also slowly digested, which makes it a great option for keeping hunger at bay and when consumed before a period of not eating such as sleep (in this way it can be consumed in the same way as casein protein).
Pea protein is also easily digested by the body and is sometimes considered a complete protein source as it contains the set of essential amino acids required by the body.
Although, many state that pea protein is not a complete protein as it is still deficient in certain amino acids such as cystine , which helps to form healthy skin, hair, bones and connective tissue. Therefore, pea protein is not recommended to be a main source of dietary protein .
However, all is not lost for the vegan community, combine your pea protein with rice protein and you'll have a better complete vegan protein source, as such combination of rice and pea protein is sometimes referred to as a vegan form of whey protein.
Likewise with pea protein, it is low in certain amino acids, most notably lysine.
Lysine is a specific amino acid which contributes to human growth and bone health, so naturally it's one that is worth including!
Fortunately though, pea protein is rich in lysine, as such rice and pea protein are able to make up for each other's slight amino acid deficiencies.
Consider we've now got a complete vegetarian and vegan protein source, which is virtually fat and cholesterol free and is suitable for many people with specific allergies i.e. dairy, and you've got a powerful protein source to add to your arsenal in the fight for health.
The only minor caveat is that rice scores slightly lower on the bio-availability index, but still scores a respectable mark of 74. So with the right nutrition, who said you needed to eat meat to become strong?
Why might you consider hemp protein?
Apart from being a great vegan and vegetarian source of protein powder, hemp protein powders are also rich in fiber, which can help you feel fuller, lower your risk of heart disease and constipation among others.
Additionally, hemp protein is easily digested, meaning that your body gets more out of the protein powder you consume.
If you're concerned about environmental sustainability (as you should be), hemp is a great "green" choice.
The large scale production of hemp protein isn't damaging to the Earth, it grows tall and fast, even killing weeds with its dense growth . So with hemp, you've got an opportunity to not only get healthy, but do your bit in saving the world too.
Ways to Get More Protein Powder in Your Diet
Keep it convenient - Use a shaker
Simply load your shaker up by taking a large scoop out of your bag or bucket of protein powder, throw it in your shaker, add water and hey presto, it's done (being topless is optional).
In terms of transportation, it's also easy to throw into your gym bag or even carried into work.
For those wanting a few more calories than their shake provides, simply swap the water for milk, adding both more protein and calories to your shake.
Bear in mind that if adding whole milk, the fat will slow the rate of absorption of protein into your body, though if you're having a protein shake before bed, this is ideal.
Get Fruity - Add it to your smoothies
Though if you load up your blender with a bunch of berries, apples and bananas, you'll end up with a drink high in fructose (sugar), vitamins and not much else.
To power up your smoothie, it's a great idea to add protein powder into the mix, this will not only give you a range of vitamins from the fruit, but also a healthy dose of protein giving you all the benefits mentioned at the top of this article.
Fortunately, there's a whole range of articles on tasty protein smoothie recipes, simply google "protein smoothie" and you'll be spoiled for choice. Also, if you want to boost the calorie content of your smoothies, use whole milk and try adding coconut oil too.
Give it to Grandma - Add it when baking
Due to the texture of protein, it can pretty much be mixed in with flour and used to make any baked food as normal.
Bear in mind that protein powder usually comes in sweet flavors (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry etc), so it may be worth using an unflavored powder for savory cooking!
Try experimenting at home by adding protein powder to your next baking session or even purchasing a bag for Grandma to make her Sunday cookies healthier. If you're using protein powder in your baking, cheat meals don't actually feel so naughty anymore.
Power up your morning - Mix it in with porridge
One study studied this effect by using MRI scans on teens who either skipped breakfast or ate breakfast with sufficient protein.
The breakfast skippers were the hungriest just before lunch with the protein breakfast group demonstrating less activity in the brain in areas which control food motivation and hunger .
The fix? Simply mix in some protein powder into your oats in the morning and you'll experience a reduced desire to snack, and you'll feel fuller for the rest of the day.
Get more protein with dinner - Add it to evening cooking
Some ideas include, mixing it in with pasta sauce, adding it to soup, quiche or maybe dips.
The sky really is the limit, just be sure again to think ahead of different flavors, a tiramisu protein powder mixed into a spaghetti bolognese pasta sauce doesn't sound particularly appetizing...
With the internet being as wide and wonderful as it is, there is actually a website containing lots of protein powder cooking recipes already, check it out here for additional inspiration on how to incorporate different protein powders into your cooking.
Be sure to let us know your favorite recipes in the comments below!
That being said, protein powder is an excellent addition to your daily diet for anyone looking to improve their health, gain muscle, lose fat or even have a convenient snack to stop them getting hungry between meals.
Always think about what you're hoping to achieve and your own personal dietary restrictions when choosing a protein powder.
Maybe you're lactose intolerant and looking to reduce your body fat? A beef protein isolate may be one of your best options.
But what if you're allergic to soy but want to develop size quickly? Sounds like a whey protein mass gainer should do the trick!
Finally, as we all know, the quality of products between companies is not always exactly the same, the same goes for protein powder manufacturers.
Fortunately, there is a site whereby scientists take popular protein powders into a lab for testing, their results are then posted onto their website so you can see how different products rank in terms of both product quality and value.
If you're interested in whether the protein shake you're considering meets the claims made on the label, check out their website here and check out the research.
Hopefully this guide will have eliminated some of the unnecessary marketing and scientific jargon that revolves around protein shakes so that you can make a truly informed decision to pick the perfect protein powder for you and your goals.
Want to build up strength but the gym is too crowded? There's a workout for that.
Or maybe someone who just wants to know their hydrolysate from their isolate?
Then why not share this post on Facebook? :)
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 Soy Vs. Whey - http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/drobson71.htm
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 Build Muscle with Beef Protein Powders - http://www.myprotein.com/thezone/nutrition/nutrition-articles-men/build-muscle-beef-protein-powders/
 Pros and Cons of Egg Protein Powder - http://superhumancoach.com/pros-and-cons-of-egg-protein-powder/
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 Benefits of Hemp Protein - http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/benefits-hemp-protein-6674.html
 What Are The Benefits of Lots of Protein In The Morning? - http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/benefits-lots-protein-morning-3574.html