March 26, 2021 10 min read
Protein Power is one of the most common staples of any weightlifter’s loadout when they head to the gym. There’s a world of powders and bottles out there waiting to supplement your workouts, but there isn’t a lot of information out there teaching you what all of these powders are going to do for you.
Protein powders will promise you the moon if you believe everything on the labels, but if you’re curious about how they really work and what you’re actually buying we’ve got you covered. We’re going to be doing in depth on protein powders, what they are, how they work, and what benefits you can expect from them.
Protein powders are exactly what they sound like. They’re nothing too fancy, they’re just concentrated sources of powdered protein. More specifically, they’re water soluble proteins. You want your protein powders to be water soluble because otherwise you’re going to be choking them down while you’re already thirsty from a strenuous workout. They’re useful because you can mix them into smoothies or just dump them into your water bottle for a quick and easy addition of essential nutrients.
Protein powders come from pretty much any source of protein under the sun. You can make protein powders out of animal products like eggs and dairy, or you can pull it from plants like rice, peas, or soy beans. For most folks, the source of the protein isn’t going to matter too much, unless you’re pushing into the highest echelons of fitness you’re probably not going to need to scrutinize the exact molecular makeup of the proteins you’re adding to your post-workout beverage.
The most common forms of protein powders are all pretty straightforward. The first of these is protein concentrates. Protein concentrates are made by pulling protein from a whole food with heat and acids, or heat and enzymes. You’re basically baking and extracting proteins when producing protein concentrates. Protein concentrates yield a powder that’s about 60 to 80% protein and the rest of the power is fat and carbs. Having the leftover carb and fat content in your protein concentrates can be a nice way to boost your energy levels before you hit the gym, or keep your motor running if you have to go straight from the bench to the office.
Protein isolates take the protein concentrate process one step further and filters out the fat and carbs leaving you with a powder that’s 90 to 95% protein. If you’re really intense about your diet and closely regulating your carb intake, or you’re just looking to get your carbs from elsewhere you might want to look for a protein powder made from protein isolates. These are going to make it easy to track exactly how much of exactly what you’re adding to your daily intake.
Finally we have protein hydrolysates. These are produced with the most extreme of these processes. That doesn’t mean that they’re radioactive superproteins or anything like that, but they are going to be one of the most pure forms of protein powder you’re likely to come across. The extra steps might make protein hydrolysates a little more expensive than a protein concentrate or a protein isolate. You get protein hydrolysates by heating proteins even more and treating them with more acids or enzymes. The goal here is to break down the bonds between amino acids. Hydrolysates are great from protein powders and heavy lifters looking to max out their gains, because they’re specially designed to be absorbed by your body more easily than proteins that have been left more intact.
We know the “how” let’s talk about the “what” a little bit more. Protein powders are made from proteins, protein powder producers aren’t meticulously building protein molecules out of barrels full out amino acids freshly extracted from the amino acid mines. There are common sources of protein out in the world that are easy to concentrate down into powders. If you’re shopping around for a protein powder, get used to seeing these ingredients.
The most popular protein out on the powder market is probably going to be whey. Whey is water-soluble protein made from milk. If you’ve ever wondered what exactly whey is, today’s your lucky day. Whey is a byproduct of making cheese or casein. Whey is going to be everywhere cheese is made, so it’s easy to get a hold of, and it’s rich in protein, making it an excellent candidate for collecting and refining into a protein powder. There are two main types of whey: sweet whey and sour whey. Sweet whey is made when you’re making rennet hard cheese like cheddar or Swiss cheese, and sour whey is the byproduct of acidic dairy products like cottage cheese or strained yogurts.
Beyond being a plentiful byproduct it’s also a complete protein. This means that it’s going to be full of all of the amino acids you need from your food. If you feel like (or know after talking to a doctor or a certified nutritionist) your diet is lacking some crucial amino acids, you can rest easy after you add whey proteins to your diet. Whey proteins are also easy for body to deal with. Whey protein is a protein that the body can slurp up pretty quickly and easily.
Casein is another dairy protein. When you’re making casein, one of the byproducts is whey, so it’s not surprising to see that many protein powder producers will have casein protein powders as well as whey protein powders. It’s high in glutamine which is an amino acid that seems to be useful in the body for speeding up muscle recovery after exercise. Casein is digested by the body a little bit more slowly than other proteins, so you might want to take this one at night, or as a hunger suppressant.
If you’re looking for a complete protein, but you’re a vegan or your body doesn’t like to process dairy, then soy protein powers are going to be a godsend for you. When it comes down to it there isn’t going to be any huge difference between soy protein powders or whey protein powders. You can try experimenting with different soy powders and tracking your hunger to see if maybe your body prefers absorbing one over the other, but functionally, it comes down to preference.
If you’re looking for other plant-based alternatives to whey and casein protein powders, then pea and hemp proteins are also excellent protein powders. Pea proteins are very common in plant-based powders. They’re a high-quality protein, and they’re a great source for arginine, one of the amino acids your body craves. Hemp is a little less common, but don’t count it out. We get protein powders from the seeds of hemp plants. They’re a more complete protein than pea protein, making them another great choice for folks with dairy allergies or vegan lifestyles.
Protein powders just need one thing: a source of protein. As long as you have that and it’s not too hard to heat and apply acids or enzymes, you can make relatively cheap powders in large quantities. The composition of the protein powders tend to be pretty similar, and most of them are complete proteins, making them great supplements to your diet, giving you all of the amino acids you need to boost your diet and your gains.
Protein powders are great for a number of reasons. They’re easy to travel with, they’re a great source of a crucial nutrient, and they’re cost-effective ways to squeeze in a quick meal or snack when you’re pressed for time. Keeping your body well-stocked with nutrients is important if you’re trying to lose weight and build muscle.
Suppresses hunger: Protein is one of the best thing you can eat to suppress your hunger. Your body is constantly checking the contents of your stomach for nutrients and releasing hormones to signal different needs to your brain. Proteins are one of the most crucial nutrients for your body. Your body needs them to build structures in the body, and used as signals for all kinds of processes that are crucial to your survival in general. They’re also complicated, and it takes your body longer to digest than something more simple like the straightforward carbohydrates you stir into a cup of coffee in the morning.
Your body senses the protein you’ve been consuming and more readily sends signals to your brain telling you that it’s time to stop eating than any other nutrient. This is why it’s so easy to eat seemingly endless amounts of “empty calories.” Your body loves carbohydrates, it’s where you get energy from, and if it were up to your lizard brain you’d never stop eating them just in case you were to ever run out. Your body is happy too store excess as fat for whenever some time of great famine descends on you like it often would on our distant ancestors.
This is why eating meals that are high in protein is important. If you want to feel satisfied at the end of a meal, then you’re going to need leafy greens and protein to take up space and trigger satisfaction signals. When you combine a diet that’s high in protein with exercise, you’re going to be burning fat and building muscle a lot more quickly because you’re going to have a much easier time managing your hunger. When it’s easier to manage your hunger, we become less prone to aimless grazing, and we’ll have the energy to make informed and reasonable decisions about or diets when it’s time to eat again.
It’s hard to overstate how easy it is to slip protein powders into your daily life, and how much that small change can affect your overall health. If you’re having trouble with getting some breakfast in your face before leaving for work, you can bridge the gap with a bottle of protein powder. This way, you won’t be spending the first part of your day feeling like you’re starving, and getting some vital nutrients into your body will get you up and running so you’re not getting a sluggish start.
Diets also become much easier with protein supplements. We traditionally think of changing our diets as a brainbending task that requires the willpower of the gods. If you’re used to thinking of a diet as something that requires eating fad meals and starving yourself just to shed a few pounds, then you’ll be happy to know how protein powder can turn all of that on its head.
If you pick up some protein powder, you now have access to something that will curb your hunger because it’s giving you the nutrients your body is begging for, and it’s something that will immediately prove useful to you if you’re working out. When you’re working on building muscle or burning fat, you need to get your body the energy and building material it needs without going overboard. You don’t need monastic meditation, and you don’t need to starve yourself. You need protein and a sheet of paper. Just track what you’re eating, and keep yourself full with a little bit of protein.
Your muscles are made out of protein, pure and simple. If you want to build more muscle, you need more protein. You are what you eat after all. If you want to be muscular, then you need to eat the building blocks of muscle. Protein powders are an easy way to make sure you’re getting the right amount of protein in your diet. You’ll always know exactly the amount of protein you’re geting, because it’s right there on the package, and it’s easy to measure out. Getting protein from your meals is usually pretty reliable, but if you’re looking to keep your nutrients as unambiguous as possible, then you’re going to get a lot out of using protein powders to supplement your diet.
Keeping your diet full of protein is also going to ensure you plateau less often. Your muscles are always looking to improve themselves after a particularly tough workout, but if you don’t have the raw material to work with, you’re not going to be getting the gains you worked so hard for.
Recovery is going to be one of the most important aspects of your workout routine. When you’re well rested you’re more ready and willing to hit the gym again and again. If you approach each workout with your body fully recovered, you’re also going to be able to push yourself to your limits safely and effectively. Dropping your form is a quick way to cheat yourself out of potential gains, and building muscle relies on you being capable of pushing yourself far enough to create tiny tears in your muscles that will later be rebuilt bigger and better.
This means that if you’re coming in with fresh muscles that have been given the time and materials to rebuild themselves, you’re going to be getting bigger gains much more quickly. Protein powders are going to be helpful with rebuilding muscle quickly, leaving you feeling fresher and more ready to tackle your next session.
Quick recovery is also going to help your mindset. If you’re not hurting the next day you’re probably less likely to curse your workouts and more excited to meet the next one. Ending your day with a protein supplement can be a great way to accelerate your recovery.
Because it’s easy to top yourself off with some protein, you’re going to be more energized and able to make better decisions about what you’re eating. Your brain needs energy the same way your muscles do. Protein powders are going to keep your body full of the nutrients you need for operating a full capacity. It’s easier to keep track of your nutrients when you’re topping off a trip to the gym with protein shakes and replacing your potato chips with a scoop in the middle of the day, you’re going to have the clarity and focus that you need to make a nutritious dinner that’s healthy and fits into whatever diet you’ve designed for yourself.
Giving your body the energy you need to preform inside and outside of the gym is going to improve your general well being, and give you the quality of life you’ve been seeking.
Protein powders are excellent for boosting your body and giving you the energy to face the day. They’re versatile and incredibly useful no matter what your activity levels are. If you’re on the go and looking for a way to curb your hunger, a scoop will do and get you through a quick lunch. If you’re lifting every day, protein powder will come to your body’s aid. You’ll be building muscle and recoving quickly enough to jump right back into the saddle. If you’re struggling with a new diet and hungry is clawing at your consciousness all day long, you can alleviate some of that torment with a little bit of protein.