Making Your Protein Selection
Buying a protein isn't rocket science, but don't underestimate the process either. Choose the wrong type and you'll buy more than you need. Worse yet, spend less than you should and you may not get satisfactory results – or any results at all. The type (or types) of protein you select, the amount of protein per serving, and the absence or presence of carbs, fats, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other ingredients are other areas where you can wander astray. Avoid these and other pitfalls, by following these simple rules.
ASK YOURSELF, “WHAT AM I TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH?”
You can’t start working toward your goals until you know what they are. Are you looking to get fit and build muscle? Add size and strength? Lose weight and stay lean? Whatever the case, the products that you select should be consistent with your objectives.
FIGURE OUT HOW MUCH YOU NEED
For most individuals, 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day is a good target. Those who are looking to add size may need as much as 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. You should also plan on eating some extra protein (1.25-1.5 g/lb/day) if you’re trying to lose weight on higher-protein, lower carbohydrate diets, as some of the amino acids will be burned for fuel. In any case, this amount includes all of the protein that you consume through foods, beverages, and supplements. What’s more, your daily protein allotment should be spread out over 4-6 smaller meals throughout the day for better absorption and utilization. If you’re a big meat, fish, poultry, egg, and dairy food eater, you can probably get by with a smaller “hit” of protein from your powdered mix. Vegetarians and others who eat lots of starchy foods will benefit more from a higher-protein formula
DETERMINE WHAT YOUR BUDGET & SCHEDULE ALLOW
Single-source proteins offer more precise benefits. Ideally, you might use a fast-acting whey protein first thing in the morning and 30 minutes before workouts, a recovery product containing protein plus carbohydrates immediately after workouts, a moderately-digested egg or soy protein in between meals, and an all-casein protein at bedtime for sustained amino-acid delivery throughout the night while you sleep. Now, here’s where you need to be realistic and honest with yourself. Even if you can afford multiple products, are you the type of person who’s disciplined enough to follow such a regimen? If you answered “no,” you might be a candidate for a protein blend. While not quite as fast as the fastest or as slow as the slowest single-source proteins, protein blends offer most of the desirable qualities of a variety of different proteins in one convenient spot.
MAKE YOUR SELECTION AND STICK WITH IT – AT LEAST FOR A WHILE
In order to do something positive for your physique, you need to take your protein(s) continually and consistently at least 60 days. After a couple of months, evaluate and, if necessary, modify your program to add in other proteins, to increase or decrease the amounts used, or to change to a different type of product altogether.
READ YOUR LABELS CAREFULLY
Amount of Protein per Serving
If you're buying a protein powder, the number of grams of protein per serving is probably the most important thing to pay attention to. Seems obvious, but many people overlook this step assuming that either all of them are about the same or that the most expensive powders always contain more protein. Don't make this mistake; check the Nutrition Facts panel to make sure you're paying for protein, not just fancy marketing.
ORDER OF INGREDIENTS
By law, all of the ingredients in a food or supplement product should be listed from most to least abundant, or in technical speak: descending order of predominance. The importance of this little bit of information becomes clear once you start shopping around. If, for example, two products are similarly priced, but one contains a greater amount of a less-expensive protein source (you've determined this because the cheaper protein is listed ahead of the more-expensive protein source in the ingredient listing) you now know that that product is a lesser value than the other. Also, don't get fooled by the hyped-up adjectives that some companies use to describe otherwise common ingredients. Sodium chloride is just salt; proteineous avian nucleus extract is another name for egg yolks; all good quality whey protein concentrates are ultrafiltered and contain microfractions like alpha lactalbumin, beta lactoglobulin, lactoferrin, and glycomacropeptides.
NUMBER OF SERVINGS PER CONTAINER
Be sure to pay attention to this number as well. To cut manufacturing costs, some brands use cheap “filler” ingredients to help take up space. So, while you may be getting 2, 5, or 10 lbs of something, you're getting significantly less total protein in that jug than you would be with a more reputable product. Rather than focus on how much total product you're getting, calculate how much total protein there is in the entire container. Compare products by simply multiplying the grams of protein per serving by the number of servings per container. Example 24 grams of protein/serving x 80 servings/container = 1,920 grams of protein/container. NOTE: This formula works best for protein powders. Weight-gainer, meal replacement, and post-workout recovery powders contain significant amounts of carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients that take up space.
MANUFACTURED BY OR FOR?
Contrary to what you might think, many companies don't develop, manufacture, or even distribute, any of their own products; they either put their labels on common formulas or have unique formulas created by an external factory. This typically adds considerable costs, which are ultimately passed along to their customers. Phrases like “manufactured for,” “distributed by,” or “packed for,” let you know that someone other than the company that you're buying from made the product.
WHICH PROTEIN TO USE AND WHEN
When it comes to protein, it's not just what you take; it's when you take it. Although the human body can and does process protein every time that you consume it, there are certain instances when your system is more receptive to protein. More specifically, there are times when you should consume different kinds of proteins. Don't miss out on these five important occasions.
FIRST THING IN THE MORNING
The period between when you go to bed and wake up in the morning is the longest that your body goes without the food. ""Break the fast"" with protein. In addition to providing much needed amino acids for muscle maintenance and rebuilding, proteins provide more stable, sustained energy than that donut or bagel that you're currently chowing on. Opt for a faster-acting protein like whey first thing in the morning.
By drinking a whey protein shake about an hour before your workout, you'll ""prime"" your bloodstream with BCAAs and other essential amino acids for growth. Once again, whey protein is a good choice, because it's easy to drink and quickly digested.
The 30-60 minute timeframe following exercise is the single most important time of the day to get protein. The enzymes and hormones in your muscles are actively repairing and rebuilding exercise-induced damage as well as replenishing glycogen stores, so they are especially receptive to nutrients. By supplying a post-workout recovery protein containing whey and casein during this ""window"" of opportunity, you'll help ensure that you're recharged and ready for your next training session.
Drinking a protein shake in between meals not only helps keep muscle synthesis maximized, it also helps keep body fat and body weight incheck. Proteins help stimulate the release of gut hormones that trigger a feeling of fullness or satiety. Dairy proteins (whey, casein, and milk) are considered to be better appetite blunters than other protein sources – especially when combined with dietary fiber – so choose a product with one or more of these proteins if weight control is part of your goals.
Prepare your body for the long fast ahead with a casein protein shake a half an hour before bed. Unlike whey which is rapidly broken down in the gut, casein is digested at a much slower rate releasing its amino acid constituents over several hours throughout the night while you sleep. For this reason, casein is commonly referred to as a time-released protein. Casein is also considered anti-catabolic because it's rich in glutamine and other amino acids that help protect against muscle breakdown.