Pick the best protein for muscle gain to avoid buying crap, wasting money and having it waste away on top of the fridge.
You know protein is very important for your body to gain muscle and lose fat.
No surprise there.
You’re looking to start taking some protein but there are just too damn many to choose from. It seems like every 5 minutes a supplement company is coming out with a new protein that is far superior to everything else ever created. In actuality, it’s usually the same stuff with a different label or a different celebrity endorsement on it.
Brands aside there is quite a few different types of protein like whey, casein, egg and soy that further complex an already confusing topic. How can you possibly know what you need if you don’t have time to look into it? I’m sure the college kid working at the supplement store isn’t thinking about his commission when he’s telling you what you should be buying.
I want to simplify things for you because too many choices equals no choice – and that’s not what I want.
I’m all about that action.
Before we start, most of the protein you see in stores comes from milk. Whey and casein are two forms of milk proteins that are separated and dried out. If you’re lactose intolerant don’t lose hope, the further filtered you go with the proteins the less lactose there is. Good for you and good for the air space around you.
Just about everyone has heard about whey and if you’ve ever worked out you consider it the holy grail to gainz. Whey is fast digesting (1-3 hours) so the protein will get to your muscles quickly and start on the repairing and growing process.
But like any well marketed topic, there is more than one subcategory of whey. We’ll start from the bottom and work our way to the best type.
Whey concentrate is the Natty Ice of whey family with a 70-80% protein per weight. Which means there is more carbs and fat than other types of whey.
It’s also the least filtered of the whey family making it the cheapest. These are the $20 tubs you see at Wal-Mart or Target.
Unlike the popular girl in school, being cheap isn’t a bad thing – whey concentrate contains a large amount of BCAAs which causes a greater increase in protein synthesis which will equal more muscle.
Who should use this: Beginner’s looking to start protein supplementation.
Who shouldn’t: People calorie counting and the lactose intolerant.
When to use it: After the gym or in place of a meal.
I would say this would be the Bud Lite of whey with 90-96% protein per weight. Good enough for the general public, but the enthusiast will still snub their nose. Can’t please everyone.
Whey isolate is more filtered than the concentrate so there is less fat, carbs and lactose. With less fat and carbs blocking digestion, the protein is quickly absorbed into the muscle.
Since there are more steps in the purification process it is slightly more expensive, running you about $50-$60.
Who should use this: Everyone even the lactose intolerant.
Who shouldn’t: People trying to bulk up.
When to use it: Pre and post gym or in place of a meal.
You could say that hydrolyzed whey is the Sam Adams Utopia of whey. Filtered so much that it is pretty much void of all carbs and fat which makes it super easy and the quickest to digest. As you guess, it’s pretty expensive at $80-$90.
Who should use this: High level athletes or a person with money to burn.
Who shouldn’t: The general public.
When to use it: Pre and post gym.
Casein has been gaining popularity with the general public recently because of all the studies coming out about the muscle and strength building benefits. Studies comparing casein to whey showed that the subjects gained more muscle, more strength and lost more fat by consuming casein.
Casein is a slow digesting protein (6-8 hours) that is usually directed to take at night to prevent going to sleep a jacked beast and turning into a little girl in the morning. The slow release of protein throughout the night will help prevent your body from using those hard earned muscles to fuel those vivid sex dreams you always have. Pervert.
Due to the slower release and the higher concentrations of leucine compared to whey; casein is better able to help you pack on the muscle.
Calcium Caseinate (or sodium Caseinate) is the red-headed step child of casein. The only way people take it is if it were on accident. Calcium caseinate is created by a chemical reaction between casein in milk and calcium or sodium. This reaction tends to denature the protein but it’s super cheap so companies like to use it. Caseinate also contains less BCAAs which means you’re less likely to get the muscle building affects you take the protein for. Like the red-heads, calcium caseinate has no soul.
Who should take this: No one.
Who shouldn’t: Everyone.
When to use it: Never.
Quick chemistry lesson, a micelle is a collection of molecules that form usually a round structure. Phew done. So micellar casein is a collection of protein molecules. This structure slows down the digestion of the casein and is like an IV of amino acids for up to 8 hours. This slow drip gives a higher concentration of leucine, the most important amino acid for muscle building, for a longer period of time compared to whey protein.
Micellar casein is tough to separate out from the milk without denaturing the protein which would leave you with calcium caseinate. As you might be able to guess, this process costs dollars which makes micellar casein more expensive than whey at $50-$60.
Who should take this: People looking to add muscle.
Who shouldn’t: If you like being skinny fat.
When to use it: At night or as a meal.
If there was a muscle building sniper, hydrolyzed casein would be it. Unlike the big glob of micellar casein, hydrolyzed is stripped down to the most easily absorbed form of protein. Being easily digestible and almost engineered to build muscle with high concentrations of arginine, phenylalanine and glutamine. These amino acids elevate insulin levels after workouts to help shuttle the protein to the muscles. With the even more delicate process of making hydrolyzed casein compared to other types of protein you can expect it to be expensive on your end at $55 for a pound!
Who should take this: People looking to add serious muscle and blow their nose in hundreds
Who shouldn’t: People that have a budget.
When to use it: After the gym or listening to Money Ain’t a Thang
OTHER FORMS OF PROTEIN
Limiting this post to milk proteins would be more than enough information but I aim to out give the rest of the internet. Here are some lesser popular proteins on the market and some quick pros and cons of each.
If you were to dehydrate egg whites, you would have egg protein. TA-DA!
Pros: No lactose or fat. Lots of amino acids for muscle building. Medium digestion time (3-5 hours). Used back in the day and just about every Rocky movie.
Cons: Not as good as whey when it comes to muscle building and more expensive.
Made from soy flour through filtration and a few chemical reactions.
Pros: Good source of protein for vegetarians. Complete amino acid profile which is uncommon in non-meat foods.
Cons: BCAAs not as easily available compared to whey, casein or egg proteins. Usually higher in carbs than the other proteins. May or may not be linked to an increase in estrogen production in men and women.
Going through this post you probably made a mental note of which protein fits your goals and I’m glad you did.
“Great, I have to buy whey isolate for after the gym and then micellar casein for at night so I can keep my gainz. That’s going to cost me an arm and a leg every month.”
Before you go dropping hundreds of dollars each month, be prepared to have your socks knocked off.
When I discovered these it was like God himself gave me my own ray of sunshine. Actually it was more like “Wow that’s a pretty cool idea.”
Protein blends are exactly what they sound like. Instead of having just a fast digesting whey protein – you also get casein and usually a medium digesting protein. So instead of only feeding your muscles for the 1-2 hours right after the gym with whey – you get 8 hours of muscle building awesomeness in one container. It’s like when the Planeteers would put their rings together to create Captain Planet. Ok that was a really nerdy reference.
Unfortunately, the market hasn’t caught up with this great idea or they just want you to buy a couple containers.
WHO SHOULD USE IT
I was always having a problem taking whey that an hour after my post workout shake I would be starving. The protein blend takes care of that and keeps me content for a few hours.
The blend is great for people looking to lose weight too. With the casein being slow digesting, it sticks around in your stomach longer keeping you from taking a trip to the vending machine.
People that are averse to making gainz, efficiency and saving money. Really there is no downside I can think of.
WHEN TO TAKE IT
Before or after the gym and for meals.
I’ve been dabbling in the blend protein world now for a few months and these are the brands I recommend:
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