Basic Guide to Protein Supplements

Basic Guide to Protein Supplements

– You finally took your first step into the gym, and been put through your paces. Thus begins your road to your dream physique. Whether it’s a men’s physique look, a freaky hulk-like bodybuilder, or just visible abs ready for the summer.

But working out isn’t enough. You need protein powder in order to get more muscles, lose fat, and stronger. Right?


As a beginner, you’re a supplement companies’ dream; the ultimate target.

Someone who isn’t clued up about supplements. Someone who can be fooled into thinking that you need isolate protein upon rising. Whey protein throughout the day, casein protein before bed. BCAA pre-, intra- and post workout.

The list goes on and on!

I want to help you avoid being made a mug by these big supplement companies.

Protein powders are awesome – I use them almost daily. However, that doesn’t mean you need to re-mortgage your house to supply your supplements bill.

This is my very basic guide to protein supplements for beginners.

What is Protein Powder?

Any kind of protein powder is really nothing more than a food source.

There is nothing magical about it. Using a protein powder won’t make you stronger or allow you to make gains any quicker than not using one. It’s just a protein source. Think of protein powder the same as you would chicken breast, eggs, tuna, steak and fish. You get the idea.

Protein is a macronutrient that is essential for muscle growth & repair. It is made of amino acids, which are the building blocks so to speak of muscle tissue.

When you eat any food containing protein, the body breaks it down into amino acids, and digests it.

So to take away all the bull and confusion, just think of a protein powder as nothing more than a food source.

Now that’s out the way, I want to give you a run down of the different types of protein powder available.

Whey Protein Powder

This is by far the most popular protein supplement on the market. It is derived from the by-product of turning milk into cheese. It contains a full amino acid profile, and is quickly absorbed by the body. This is why it’s often recommended to take it post workout.

Whey protein comes in a few different types – whereby

Concentrate is the most popular; typically containing 80% content. This is the industry standard, however a whey concentrate supplement can vary between 70 and 85% protein content. Whey Protein also contains a small serving of carbs (lactose) and fat.

Whey Protein Isolate undergoes a further procedure, removing the majority of the carb and fat content. A whey protein isolate has typically, 90-95% protein content.

Hydrolysed Whey Protein undergoes a procedure known as hydrolysis. This process breaks down the amino acids & protein chains, into much smaller protein particles. This allows for the protein to be faster digested and absorbed by the body.


Which Whey To Use?

Whilst isolate contains fewer carbs & fat, and while hydrolysed whey protein is absorbed faster by the body, as a beginner, you can’t go wrong with a whey protein concentrate.

The additional 2-3 grams of carbs and 1g of fat from a whey protein concentrate to an isolate is almost insignificant.

I always recommend whey protein concentrate to anyone who has just started working out. You can find out why in my impact whey protein review.

Whey protein concentrate does the job and it’s affordable. If you find you have digestive issues with the concentrate, then maybe look into an isolate or hydrolysed protein.

Otherwise, save your money, go for the cheaper protein option.

Casein Protein

Casein protein is derived from milk. The udder of the cow is the source for this supplement. Casein is made by undergoing a procedure, during which the milk protein is being separated from the carbs and the fats.

Unlike whey protein, which is a fast absorbing protein powder, casein protein is a slow releasing & slow digesting protein. It can take up to 6 hours to be fully absorbed by the body.

Casein protein has a slightly gritty texture, and is much thicker than whey protein. For this reason, casein is a great choice for making a protein dessert.

What is Best For?

It was always believed that the optimal time to use a casein protein supplement was before bed. The reasoning behind this was that the slow releasing nature would drip feed the muscle through the night, for a prolonged period when you won’t be eating.

Most recently however, the combination of a whey & casein protein has been shown to improve protein synthesis when consumed post workout.

Egg Protein Supplements

Egg protein supplements are a complete protein source, and are made from separating the egg white from the yolk. The egg white then undergoes a dehydrating process to create the egg protein powder.

Egg protein is a medium speed releasing protein powder: faster than casein but slower than whey.

Rice Protein

Rice protein is an incomplete protein source. It is derived, obviously, from rice.

The biggest detractor to rice protein is the fact that it is not a complete protein source, meaning it does not contain a full amino acid profile.

Rice protein would be a worthwhile choice for vegetarians, or vegans. However, if you do not restrict yourself from these food groups, then an egg, whey or casein protein would be the better option.

Soy Protein

For being a plant based protein source, Soy protein actually contains a full essential amino acid profile. It comes from hulled soybeans, after they have been made into soy flour.

Like egg protein, soy is a medium releasing protein.

There is a lot of controversy around soy protein, in that it is quite often genetically modified. It has also been known to raise oestrogen levels, which is not what any male wants.

Pea Protein

Another popular choice for vegans or vegetarians, Pea protein, comes from the yellow part of a split pea.

It has a very high digestion rate, which means there is very little waste and it is also very filling. The obvious benefit of this is for those dieting to lose weight. Having a protein source that makes you feel fuller for longer will make it easier to follow a calorie deficit.

Hemp Protein

Hemp comes from the seeds of a cannabis plant. But don’t be thinking about making pot brownies with this!

It contains a full amino profile, and is a suitable choice for vegans.

Cutting Through The Crap – What Protein Supplement is right for you?

Assuming you’re not a vegetarian, vegan, or have any lactose problems, then you really do not need to venture outside of the confines of whey protein.

You can use whey as a meal replacement shake, pre- & post-workout.

I would personally recommend whey protein concentrate, as it’s the best value for money protein supplement you’ll be able to get.

If you have issues digesting the whey protein concentrate, then try an isolate.

A protein blend of both casein and whey, or casein, whey and egg protein is also another good option. It’s not essential, by any means, and you don’t need a blend AND a whey protein supplement. Either or.

The benefit of a blend is that it does offer a combination of proteins with different absorption rates. The only thing to be weary of about a protein blend is if it’s a “proprietary blend”. This means that a company does not have to list the quantity break down of each protein used. Some supplement companies hide behind this to outright scam customers with cheap ingredients. Always check your labels!

Don’t worry though; you won’t be losing gains if you don’t use a blend!

TL;DR Version – Get a Whey Protein concentrate or a protein blend containing whey/casein as the main ingredient. Don’t waste time worrying or stressing over protein supplements!

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Adam Foster

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