In the world of protein supplements, whey (fast-acting protein) or casein (slow-acting) are recommended. Whey is good for rapid post-workout replenishment, while casein is great when you need a steady supply of protein for a period of time, such as when you’re asleep, says Adrian Tan, director of The Gym At Orchard (thegymatorchard.com).
Now for the jargon: Protein powder (including whey and casein) is available as either concentrates or isolates/hydrosylates. Concentrates are the cheapest proteins available, but they contain higher amounts of fat and carbohydrates, and can be clumpy and hard to mix. Still, they contain compounds that can boost your immune system and augment further muscle growth, says Tan. Isolates/hydrosylates, on the other hand, contain less fat and carbs. They’re absorbed more efficiently by our bodies, but are, of course, much more expensive.
If you work out regularly (about three to five days a week), you’ll need to chug down at least 1g of protein per kilogram of your body weight every day. Take most of your protein after your workouts: A study in the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition noted that 20g was the optimal amount of protein needed to maximise post-workout muscle growth.
Interestingly, if you’re looking to lose weight, consuming about 1g to 1.5g of protein per kilogram of your body weight a day – coupled with a workout regime – can help preserve your muscle mass.
Chug It Fast
“When you work out, your muscles are primed to respond to protein,” says Jeffrey Volek, PhD, from the University of Connecticut in the US. He recommends splitting your protein intake: Consume half your protein 30 minutes before your workout, and the other half 30 minutes after. And do not take more than 30g of protein at one go.
A study from the University of Texas showed that consuming more than 30g of protein in one sitting had no additional effect on muscle development. “There’s only so much you can put in to maximise performance. The rest is spillover,” says study author Douglas Paddon Jones, PhD.
Still, a supplement is as its name suggests – a supplement, says Tan. Make sure that you get enough protein from the food you eat before you consume protein supplements. At least 30 per cent of your food should be made up of high-quality protein sources such as lean meats, fish, dairy and poultry, says Susan Bowerman, an assistant director at UCLA’s Centre for Human Nutrition. Generally, protein from animal sources are more easily absorbed by our bodies (for example, we can absorb up to 94 per cent of the protein in eggs). Don’t go for soya protein unless you’re a vegan, as it may increase your oestrogen levels.