Your ultimate guide to protein powder
No longer the preserve of grunting body builders in the gym, find out why protein powders can form an important part of anyone’s health and workout routine.
A hit of protein may sound simple enough, but with so many types to choose from such as casein, whey, non-GMO and so many ways to take it: before or after your workout, as a drink or baked into food – it’s tempting just to give up and pick up a family pack of crisps and a bottle of wine! Don’t. Let team UM guide you through the tricky world of protein powders…
Whey protein might seem like an obvious choice: it enters your blood stream faster than any other protein and boasts the highest levels of leucine, an amino acid, which builds muscles and fuels you through a workout. Take it within an hour of exercising for faster, better results. But experts warn that it might not be right for everyone: ‘Whey is the globular protein, discarded as a waste product in the cheese industry,’ explains nutritionist Amie Richmond, ‘Even if you have a slight allergy to dairy it can have a detrimental effect on your immune system because your body will attack it like a pathogen.’ The result? A runny nose or mucus build up in the lungs.
Taken before bed, it helps repair muscles throughout the night. The best option is micellar casein – your body digests it more slowly so you’re getting more bang for your nutritional buck. Like whey, it is derived from dairy so unsuitable if you’re lactose intolerant and grass-fed options are always best.
Now for the vegan-friendly options. Made from de-hulled soybeans, soy protein digests at a mid-range rate and contains high levels of the amino acids, glutamine and arginine – ideal to support, digestion, brain function and a healthy immune system. The bad news? It tends to be highly processed explains Gareth Dew, founder of Dew fitness and nutrition. Not only that but it also has a high isoflavone content. ‘These little blighters interact with oestrogen in the body and can skew the female hormone’s production when taken in excess,’ explains Richmond, ‘The fear for men is that this can reduce testosterone levels but women should seriously watch their intake based on their height, weight and macros.’
Last but definitely not least comes hemp. No you’re not going to get baked off the stuff and it isn’t the most effective at building muscle (it contains just 10g of protein per scoop compared to 25g in whey) but it’s not all bad news. ‘Hemp is a complete plant based protein so it offers inflammation fighting omega-6 and it also has a high fibre count,’ explains Dew, ‘If you just want a subtle protein boost this is a great option nutritionally.’
HOW TO TAKE IT
If you don’t like the idea of a liquid diet that doesn’t involve white wine spritzers, you can bake with protein powders by using it as a substitute for flour. Just remember that while it may fit better with your macros and workout gains you can’t eat as much as you want. ‘A calorie is still a calorie!’ says Richmond, ‘While one might do the trick, don’t undo a good workout by gorging on an entire batch of protein muffins!’