If you’ve been a gym junkie for a while, you’ll know that ‘protein’ is one of the most important words in the gains vocabulary.
Protein is the macro that’s responsible for muscle growth. Vital to your lifting success, you’ll need to be hitting your intake needs, if you want to get on the gains train.
One of the most popular ways of doing this quickly is with a good old protein shake. Whether you’ve heard the fellow gym bros being obnoxiously loud with their shaker or once had a shaker gifted to you by your favourite gym wear and leggings brand (we see you), protein shakes have certainly cemented their place in our community.
(Getting lost with our gym lingo? We’ve got you covered here)
Protein shakes can be quite controversial though. There's plenty of debate about how much one should consume, as well as when. We called on Accredited Dietician Victoria Matkovic of Thrive Nutrition (@_thrive_nutrition) to sift through the myths and facts of protein shakes, so you can optimise your training.
It’s a SUPPLEMENT
Victoria’s first, and arguably most important point is that protein powder is designed to be a supplement to your diet. Your priority should be getting natural protein from your diet, as protein powder can lack other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals that come from protein within food.
(If you’re struggling with balancing your diet, we break down macros, micros and nutrients here).
Protein powder should not make up most of your diet. You should be aiming to consume 20-25g of protein 3-6 times per day with each meal. Wanting to get the perfect balance between protein powder and natural proteins in your diet? You can do this through meal prepping, and we’ve got the ultimate guide to get you started here.
However, shakes, or adding protein powder to meals like oats are a great way to mix up your food and diet, as well as being a convenient source of protein for when you’re on the go.
Like we were saying above, protein powder is a supplement to your diet. You don’t need crazy amounts every single day. 1-2 scoops will do the trick, paired with a balanced diet that includes protein in the foods you eat.
The perfect timing
Spoiler alert, you can have a protein shake whenever suits your schedule.
However, as protein powders are generally rapidly absorbed in our bodies, you can use this to your advantage and consume it within 4hrs post-exercise. The benefits of this are that the muscles will quickly soak up the protein to use for growth and repair. If you’re using whey, this is the optimal time.
Casein protein powders are a slower releasing protein and are great as a pre-bed snack as it slowly releases the necessary amino acids to repair your muscles.
In saying that, listen to your body and consume whenever it feels best for you.
What protein powder is the best?
Whey and casein are the two most popular types of protein powder that most people use, . The main difference between the two types is the digestion time.
Whey is the stuff of muscle growth gods. Perfect for a post workout protein shake, or mixed in with your morning oats, it’s digested much faster than casein. Within whey, there are again two different types of powder, whey protein concentrate (WPC) and whey protein isolate (WPI).
The big differences between the two:
- Value for money
- Relatively low in lactose
- Necessary amount of protein
- Slightly higher protein content
- Even lower levels of lactose than WPC
- Lower fat and carb content
Casein protein powder on the other hand is slower in it’s release of proteins. It typically contains more lactose (noted as sugars in the nutrition label) and fats compared to WPC and WPI, due to undergoing less processing. If you’re lactose intolerant, you might have to give this one a miss unfortunately. It’s perfect to take before bed to assist with muscle recovery, as well as boosting muscle growth.
As you can tell, there are many different options, meaning it’s about finding what works for your training routine and budget. The bottom line is, protein powder is fantastic for those wanting to consume extra protein for muscle repair and growth. However it is important to remember that it is only a supplement, and that you should still be consuming protein within your diet, rather than solely relying on powders. Get on the gains train with a good balance!
A massive thank you to Victoria Matkovic from Thrive Nutrition (@_thrive_nutrition) for providing us with all this super helpful information!