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Choosing The Best Protein Powder

Posted on Wednesday, 9 November, 2011 by anthony

Anyone looking to gain muscle or to enhance muscle recovery should consider taking a good quality protein supplement. Protein powders are available as either a pure protein powder (typically around 70% protein), or, if you are looking to bulk up then you may choose a meal replacement or weight gainer protein powder which contains additional calories from both fats and carbohydrate. Whether you choose a pure protein powder or a weight gainer protein powder it should provide you with 20+ grams of protein per serving to get the best gains from the protein.

The Best Type of Protein Powder

There are four main types of protein powder available: whey protein, casein protein, soya protein and egg protein. Of these whey protein is by far the most popular type of protein currently available on the market and has been shown to have the highest Biological Value of any natural protein. A number of studies have demonstrated that whey protein has a greater ability to increase lean muscle gains and improve recovery than any other type of protein. With this in mind it is clear that whey protein should be the first choice of protein for anyone looking to enhance muscle gains and recovery.

Best Type of Protein after exercise

Whey protein works particularly well when taken immediately after exercise - ideally as soon after completion of exercise as possible – because it is rapidly absorbed by the body whereas some of the other proteins are much slower absorbing proteins. In fact whey protein ingestion causes the concentration of amino acids in blood plasma to peak at a significantly higher level than casein protein, and more significantly has been shown to be a much greater stimulus to protein synthesis than other protein.

Different types of whey protein

There are two main types of whey protein – whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate. Whey protein concentrate is the basic form of whey protein, it provides high levels of both essential amino acids (EAAs) and branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). It typically contains more biologically active components and proteins than whey isolate, partly due to the manufacturing process of whey isolate which can cause some of the whey isolate proteins to become denatured (damaged), this can reduce the effectiveness of the protein. Despite this there are also a number of positives to whey isolate protein: Firstly, it contains higher protein concentrations and lower levels of both fat and carbohydrate; Secondly, it contains higher levels of EAAs and BCAAs ; Thirdly, it has a more rapid absorbency than whey concentrate enabling the amino acids to reach the muscles more quickly than whey concentrate, and; Fourthly; they contain much lower levels of lactose meaning they can often be taken by those who are lactose intolerant.

The Best type of whey protein

In reality, when you way up the pros and cons of whey concentrate and isolate there isnt a huge difference between the two types. It is generally considered that the best approach would be to have a combination of both whey concentrate and isolate, and as such a number of manufacturers now make products that provide a combination of both whey concentrate and isolate proteins.

What to look for in the best protein powders

The quality of protein and the amino acid concentration of proteins can vary greatly between manufacturers, partly due to different manufacturing and processing techniques. One way to get an idea of the quality of protein in a protein powder is to look at the amino acid profile, which should be displayed on the product packaging. If you look at the amino acid profile of different protein powders there are a number of key amino acids that you can check the levels of to give you an idea of the quality of the protein. The main ones are the Branched Chain Amino Acids L-Isoleucine, L-Leucine, and L-Valine as well as the amino acid L-Glutamine/Glutamic Acid. A good whey protein powder should provide you with around 1.25-1.5g of L-Isoleucine, 2-2.5g of L-Leucine, 1.25-1.5g of L-Valine and 4g of L-Glutamine/Glutamic Acid.

Best Protein Powder to take at night

Many athletes and bodybuilders take a protein powder before sleeping in order to maintain a positive state of protein synthesis and muscle growth whilst sleeping. Because Whey protein is rapidly absorbed by the body it not considered to be the best protein powder to take before sleeping. Research has shown that whey protein can significantly increase protein synthesis for around 2hours, but if you sleep for 8hours that leaves six hours in which protein synthesis has not been elevated. Unlike whey protein, Casein protein can elevate protein synthesis for much longer durations (but at a lower level). Researchers have shown that Casein protein can elevate the levels of amino acids for up to 7 hours.

Best Protein Powder for Vegetarians

The most popular protein powder for vegetarians is Soy protein which like whey protein is available as either soy concentrate or soy isolate protein. Both Soy concentrate and soy isolate are significantly less effective at increasing protein synthesis than whey protein. One factor with Soy protein is that it has lower amounts of L-Leucine which has been shown to be an important stimulus to protein synthesis. Therefore vegetarians may find a benefit in taking an additional gram of L-leucine along with the soy protein powder.

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