Q&A: Protein Types and When to Take Them for Optimal Results

Eric September 23, 2010

Q: “Can you compare the seemingly endless variations […] of protein shakes and powders, and tell us which is best, and the usage secrets for ultimate success/gains?”

Jim Ryan, submitted online

A: Jim, you couldn’t have asked a more complicated question. Different proteins are good for different things, and better when taken at different times… I could dedicate an entire blog just to explaining the differences. But let’s start with today’s post. 🙂

First, what is protein? Proteins are different combinations of amino acids that make up the building blocks inside your body. Anyone who wants to build muscle should be supplementing some sort of an additional protein into their diet. This also goes for those who wish to lean down. There are different proteins for weight loss and weight gain. It just depends on your goals, which you should take. Read more about types of protein, when to take them, and which you should take after the jump.

So what different types of protein are there?

Whey is by far the highest selling protein on the market because it’s the cheapest and easiest to make. It’s one of two milk-derived proteins and can be found as either a protein concentrate (about 80% protein) or a protein isolate (about 90% protein.) So 20 grams of whey concentrate will give you about 16 grams of actual protein while whey isolate will give you about 18.

Casein is the other milk-derived protein and is slower acting than other proteins. When producing cheese from milk, casein is the “other product.” It’s higher in milk sugar lactose than whey and if someone is lactose intolerant they should avoid high levels of casein. Basically, casein is just cottage cheese with a higher amount of the milk sugar lactose and the mineral calcium.

Soy is an ingredient that comes from the soybean. First, soy is extremely rich in the five amino acid cluster (3-branch chain aminos, glutamine, and arganine) that will help to develop lean tissue. In fact, nearly 35% of soy protein is made of of these amonis as compared to 18% in whey or 16% in beef. Soy also has other ingredients that can be a key to increasing your health like isoflavones and phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens promote the production of estrogen and are critical to women’s health. As a result, I discourage any male from eating any soy-based products more than a couple of times a week. However, soy is an incredible protein and is highly digestible. I would recommend it to ALL female readers!

Egg Abumin is the type of protein that comes from egg whites. Egg has for a long time been judged to be the single most superior source of protein. But when used as a protein powder eggs taste terrible, are ridiculously expensive when compared to other proteins, and don’t offer the body the ‘all-around’ value that other protein products offer, even though it is the most concentrated protein there is. Go figure…

There are many other proteins that come from many other food sources such as fish, chicken, red meat, nuts, etc. But they do not come in powder form and it’d take weeks to get into the specifics of them. We have more protein posts around and we’ll definitely add more in the future.

Which protein should I take?

This depends on your fitness goals. If you’re trying to gain muscle, you should take a protein powder that is a little higher in calories. If you’re trying to lose weight and lose fat, you should take a protein that is higher in actual protein and lower in calories. You’ll remember that soy is a good leaning protein, for example. Note: the better a protein tastes, the higher it is in fat content. There are however, proteins that are low in fat and sugar AND taste good. ALWAYS read the label before buying protein. NEVER take what the label tells you as fact. See “What ’99-Percent Fat Free’ on that label Really Means” for examples. Compare the protein and the calories. Look at each of the macronutrients and compare their levels. (ie: protein, carbohydrates, and fat.) I try to go with a more natural protein, so I ALWAYS look at the ingredient list. The more ingredients you see, the higher in “shit content” your protein is. The fewer ingredients, the higher the chance that you’re putting something into your body that’s actually good!

When to take what protein to see optimal results.

It’s a simple answer. Soy, Egg Protein, and Whey can all be taken at the same times. Take them when waking up, as a meal replacement, or post-workout (within 30-60 minutes). Protein is a necessity after a workout to replace your glycose and in order to give the muscles the nourishment they need in order to promote growth. If you don’t get a fast enough protein, your muscles are likely to get those nutrients by eating other muscle within your body. Only take Casein when you want the protein to be released more slowly, (i.e., as a meal replacement with a faster-acting protein or shortly before bed to give your muscles nourishment longer throughout the night- NEVER post-workout.) Also be aware that food protein takes longer to digest than protein powders. So if you want a slower-acting casein, for example, eat cottage cheese before bed instead of a casein shake.

Believe it or not, proper nutrition is about 80% of attaining your fitness goals, whether your goals are to lose weight or to bulk up. Hopefully this gives you a good base point of understanding different types of protein.

If you have any questions you’d like answered by the Hot Bod Squad, please email them to thehotbodsquad@gmail.com.

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