Nowadays, I see a lot of people having their Whey Protein shakes before, during or after their workouts or even as a meal substitutive. The majority of people don’t even know what are their protein how much protein they need. Another important also let’s learn how to differentiate between a good Whey Protein brand and one who tries to sell you milk powder but 30 times more expensive.
How to identify a good Whey Protein?
When I ask a person who buys Whey Protein what they have looked at before buying it, the answer is always the same: “the nutritional information label”. Well, of course, it is something that we have to look at but it’s not the most important thing when we talk about a protein supplement.
The amino acids are the base of the protein. When we consume proteins in a meal, these proteins are split by our digestive system, dividing them into amino acids, which will be used by our body for different purposes: to build muscles, nails, hair, skin, etc… The body does not have a warehouse for storing the amino acids. They are present in the bloodstream and in muscles and other tissues as proteins. So, basically, if your amino acids intake is poor, you will have problems building muscles and will be more predisposed to lead to your body to use those amino acids from your muscles. It means that you will break down muscles, instead of building them.
Let’s talk now about the different types of amino acids.
Types of Amino acids
There are a total of 22 amino acids that we can divide on:
- Essentials (9): the body can not produce them. We can get them only from the diet.
- Conditional (6): they can not be obtained under specific circumstances.
- Non-essentials (7): the body can obtain them from other amino acids.
This is the list with some amino acids and their functions in our body:
|Alanine (Non-Essential)||Energy source for muscle tissue
Strengthens the immune system by producing antibodies
|Arginine (Non-Essential)||Helps detoxify liver
Causes the pituitary gland to release growth hormone
Needed to combine proteins
Increases muscle massReduces body fat
Increase immune system strength
|Aspartic Acid (Non-Essential)||Shuttles toxic ammonia out of body|
Aids Protein Synthesis
|Glutamic Acid (Non-Essential)||Reduces cravings for sugar
|Glutamine||Increases Growth Hormone secreted by pituitary gland|
|Glycine (Non-Essential)||Hormone Manufacturing|
|Hormone Manufacturing||Aids digestion|
|Isoleucine (Essential)||Raises energy levels|
|Leucine (Essential)||Helps heal the muscle tissue|
|Lysine (Essential)||Aids in growth
Needed for tissue repair
Produces antibodies, hormones and enzymes
Helps metabolize fats into energy
Maintains nitrogen balance
|Methionine (Essential)||Helps remove fatty substances from body
|Phenylalanine (Essential)||Suppresses appetite
Produces the chemicals which control impulse transmission between nerve cells
|Proline (Non-Essential)||Needed for proper functioning of joints and tendons
Helps strengthen heart muscle
|Serine (Non-Essential)||Strengthens Immune System
|Threonine (Essential)||Helps maintain protein balance in the body|
|Tryptophan (Essential)||Releases growth hormone|
|Tyrosine (Non-Essential)||Healthy functioning of Thyroid and Adrenal Glands|
|Valine (Essential)||Muscle Coordination|
It leads us to another important point. The quality of the proteins.
Quality of Proteins
All protein sources are not the same. For instance, it is not the same to eat an egg than a beef steak or a plate of lentils. Although all of them contain proteins, there are 2 things that make this difference:
- Aminoacids profile.
- Absorption coefficient.
Dairy products such as milk, eggs or cheese and soja are the best quality protein sources than we can find in real food. Then, we can find animal sources such as beef, chicken, tuna, hake, etc… And, in the last place, we have the vegetable sources such as lentils, chickpeas, black beans, etc…
So, when we are buying a Whey Protein, it is more important to know if it contains the whole bunch of essential amino acids and the quality of the proteins is high.
Also, another very important thing to keep in mind when we want to get a Whey Protein is the distribution of the amino acids. They should come with a specific ratio. For instance, the BCAA (branched chain amino acids) leucine, valine and isoleucine have to come in a 2:1:1 or 4:1:1 ratio because of the overuse of leucine about the other two (1, 2). Also, it is important to check that BCAA ratio is 50-55% of the whole bunch of essential amino acids.
When we exam a protein product it is important to find a combination of casein, whey and egg together. Each protein performs a different function within the body. Here is a chart depicting the function of each type of protein.
High Oxidization Rate
Maintains even amino acid level over time
|Other [Egg, Animal, Soy]||Combination of both characteristics|
When considering buying a protein supplement, then, pay careful attention to the ingredients on the label and look for a combination of Whey, Casein, Egg and Soy. By doing this you will be “covering all of your bases” when it comes to protein!
I’m going to recommend you other 2 very important characteristics to look at when you get a Whey Protein supplement:
- Advertisements and posh envelopes: don’t buy very fancy products, which promise you amazing and quick results. You will spend your money in their advert campaign instead of in a high-quality product.
- The hot water test: a homemade way of testing the quality of your protein supplement is to mix a little bit of hot water with some protein powder. The result, for a high-quality one, should be that the protein will become a mass, that you can’t mix with the water. However, the preservatives, colorants, flavors and other stuff will become part of the hot water. It means that if your protein is well dissolved, it will likely have a poor quality. Have a look on Google about this test and make it at your home to check your protein’s quality: link.
Who should take Whey Protein?
Being said all of that, do you think that you should have a protein supplement? First of all, do you know how many grams of proteins should you be taking? And how many do you currently take? Let’s identify how many grams you should take.
How many grams of proteins should I take?
Depending on your goals and your current type of workout, you must be in one of the following groups:
- Sedentary people: you don’t workout and have a sedentary life in front of a computer. For this group (unfortunately, the biggest one), the RDA of protein for an adult is 0.8 grams per kg. It means that if you weight 70kg, you should ingest: 70 * 0,8 = 56 grams.
- Endurance athletes: endurance athletes increases this RDA due to their energy requirements to between 1.2 and 1.4 gr/kg (4, 6, 8).
- Strength athletes: as well as for endurance people, strength athletes have a higher protein need. It is between 1.4 and 2 gr/kg (4, 5, 6, 8).
The RDA was obtained using sedentary people as participants. Athletes can not be compared due to their physical requirements. Besides, it is well proved that athletes requirements are higher than for sedentary, up to 225% of the RDA (4, 5, 6, 7, 8).
Does it mean that if you are within one of those 2 groups you can have as many proteins as you need? No, it doesn’t. The previous ratios are the best for each group. If you increase the protein intake more than 2 gr/kg, the protein synthesis in your body won’t increase, you won’t get better results but, however, the oxidation of amino acids in your body will do increase (10), producing more urea as wasted product.
Now, have a look at your diet and if you consider that you need more proteins, then get the protein supplement that adapts the best to your needs.
When is the best time to have your Whey Protein shake?
It is believed that having your Whey Protein intake around your workout stimulates some metabolic routes such as mTOR. But the truth is that there is not a perfect time to take your Whey Protein as long as you achieve the total of proteins for your day. Meanwhile some studies recommend to have them right after working out (9, 13), other do not show a difference whether the consumption was pre or post workout (12). What clearly is not a smart option is to have them intra-workout. Besides it would be a very expensive drink, it is demonstrated that carbs are a much better source of energy for your workout (14).
I use to have it depending on my meals and my workout time. When I train in the mornings, I have them 1/1.30 hours before, mixed with some carbs such us oats and banana and some healthy fats like peanut butter. However, when I do it in the afternoon, I use to take them right after my training session and in the same way that I do in the mornings (I don’t like to just drink a Whey Protein shake but rather I prefer a solid meal).
Let’s get the main ideas:
- It is more important to check the amino acids profile rather than the nutritional label.
- Fancy supplements are usually worse in quality/price.
- Take proteins depending on your needs, no less but no more either.
- The timing is not as important as to have a complete daily intake.
*IMPORTANT NOTE: I must say that there isn’t a regulation for sport supplements. What does it mean? It means that whatever you see in the labels might not be true because they (the supplier companies) are not obligated to give us such information. So, if you request the amino acids profile to a specific company and they don’t provide you this information, then, you should question the veracity of this brand.
If you have enjoyed this article, want to know more or just have questions, please feel free to comment below 🙂
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