At some point in time, every bodybuilder wonders if they should add protein powder to their diet and workout plan.

Some of the more commonly asked questions about protein powder have been answered below by Vince Del Monte as part of his No Nonsense Muscle Building Program.

Is Protein Powder really necessary?
Although protein supplements are not an absolute requirement for gaining mass, it would be almost impossible for any person to get 400 grams of protein per day from cooking food. If your protein intake is greater than 200 grams per day I will suggest a protein powder – it will make your life a lot easier.

In addition, dollar for dollar, protein powders and meal replacement drinks tend to be more cost effective than whole food. But, don’t get this wrong – protein powders are still supplements – and a supplement is an addition to the diet. The focus of any diet should be whole food – and if often preferable to powders because it can offer a complete spectrum of nutrients that powders cannot.

Where should you be getting your ‘whole food’ protein?

Meat
Fish
Poultry
Eggs
Since getting all your protein may not be convenient or practical (especially if you eat 6 or more times a day to get your required intake) – Vince stresses ….

” for optimal muscle gains, you should limit yourself to a maximum of three shakes per day or 40 % of your meals. To some this might even sound like it’s going ‘overboard’ and I would not disagree.”

Both whole food and supplements are necessary to achieve a complete nutritional balance – including protein intake. For those challenged in the kitchen, do not make the mistake of thinking protein powders can or will take the place of a solid nutrition and training program.

Does protein powder really work (and are they healthy)?
The first part of this question is probably the most asked; while the answer to the second part is equally important. According to Vince – ‘Yes – protein powder really works’. We all know that protein is composed of building blocks, ie., amino acids, that perform a variety of bodily functions like building and maintaining healthy muscles -when combined with exercise and diet. But did you know that protein also…

Supports red blood cell production
Boosts your immune system
Keeps your skin, hair and fingernails healthy
The protein powder you choose will determine how effective it works. Many protein powders contain unhealthy ingredients like aspartame, fructose and artificial colors. Choose a protein powder with natural ingredients – not unhealthy additives, refined carbohydrates (fructose, sucrose or brown rice syrup) that add nothing to muscle growth and fat burning.

Once these products are removed you’ll find the product is left almost tasteless (sometimes even gross). In this case you need to rethink your priorities, choosing a more healthy powder over a powder that has non-beneficial ingredients. Also purchase your protein powder from a reputable company – do your homework and then buy responsibly.

How much protein powder do I need… to achieve my goals?
The only way to answer this question is to quote Vince, “Protein is an extremely important macro nutrient and should be eaten frequently throughout the day. I recommend at least 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. This means that if you are 150 pounds and 10% body fat (150 x 0.10 = 15 lbs of fat leaving 135 lbs of lean mass), you will require at least 135 to approximately 205 grams of protein per day.

“I recommend that protein powder be used primarily for your pre-workout, workout and post-workout shake. This is when liquid food is more advantageous over whole food since it has a faster absorption rate.

“I do not recommend protein powder do be used for meal replacements for more than two meals. Here is what a typical day might look like:

Meal 1 (breakfast) – whole food
Meal 2 (mid morning) – liquid protein meal
Meal 3 (lunch) – whole food
Meal 4 (mid afternoon) whole food
Meal 5 (pre and post workout) liquid protein meal
Meal 6 (dinner) whole food
Meal 7 (before bed) whole food
What kind of protein powder should I use?
Before deciding which protein powder is necessary, here is a short protein primer to help you make sense of the thousands of different protein powders from which to choose:

WHEY PROTEIN makes up 20% of total milk protein. Whey is recognized for its excellent amino acid profile, high cysteine content, rapid digestion, and interesting variety of peptides. Since it is very quickly digested the best time to consume it is before your workout, during your workout or immediately after your workout. These would be considered the phase in the day where you need energy the most and when your body is in anabolic state.

CASEIN PROTEIN
makes up 80% of total milk protein. Casein is recognized for its excellent amino acid profile, slow digestive nature, and interesting variety of peptides. Since casein is slowly digested into your bloodstream, don’t use it during workouts or after workouts – you need a fast absorbing protein at these times. Instead, use a casein protein for all other times outside the pre and post workout window.

SOY PROTEIN is the most controversial of all protein types. While the soy groupies have gone to great lengths to label soy as a super food with magical effects, there is also a good amount of research that suggests soy protein may be contraindicated in many situations. BECAUSE OF ALL THE CONFUSION, IN MY PERSONAL OPINION, I SUGGEST AVOIDING SOY PROTEIN ALTOGETHER AND STICKING TO THE OTHER TYPES LISTED.

Protein Blends are generally a combination of several types of protein blends such as whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, egg protein, casein protein, and soy protein.

Why would you want a blend anyway? You will receive the full spectrum of proteins and you will receive varying rates of absorption from the different types of protein. Using a blend will create an anabolic environment from the whey and an anti-catabolic environment from the casein – use this kind at any time of the day but NOT before or after a workout.

Whey hydrolysates (also known as hydrolyzed whey protein, and are also called peptides), are powerful proteins that are more quickly absorbed; more so than any other form, since your body prefers peptides to whole proteins. Hydrolysates are produced through very low heat, low acid and mild enzymatic filtration processes, (those highest in the essential and the branched chain amino acids) and are potentially the most anabolic for short-term protein synthesis such as the pre and post-workout window.

Whey Protein Versus Whey Isolate:
Most whey protein powders that stock the supplement shelves are made up of whey concentrate and mixed in with a small portion of whey isolate. Comparing the two, whey protein isolate is more expensive than whey protein concentrate because it has a higher quality (more pure) and a higher BV (biological value). Whey protein isolate contains more protein and less fat and lactose per serving. Most whey protein isolates contain 90-98% protein while whey concentrates contain 70-85% protein.

Whey protein isolate is the highest yield of protein currently available that comes from milk. Because of its chemical properties it is the easiest to absorb into your system. Obviously with its high concentration, it appears that an isolate protein would be the obvious choice instead of a concentrate. However, this is an individual decision because the isolate is more expensive, and just because it is purer does not guarantee that it will help build bigger muscles. Its extra concentration may not justify its extra cost.

SO WHAT IS THE BOTTOM LINE? WHICH SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?
For the Pre-workout and Post-workout phases, as long as whey hydrolysate is the first or second ingredient on the supplement label then there is probably not enough in the product to influence protein synthesis to reap the optimal benefits. As stated, whey isolates are also a extremely high quality whey and for maximal anabolism isolates should be combined with whey hydrolysates for only the pre-workout and post-workout phases of your program. The inclusion of small amounts of whey concentrates will not harm you but this should not be the first ingredient on the tub of protein powder.

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR THE STRONGEST PROTEIN POWDER TO EXPLOIT YOUR FULL GROWTH POTENTIAL DURING THE GROWTH AND RECOVERY PHASES (ANY TIME OTHER THAN PRE AND POST WORKOUT PERIOD) THEN USE A BLEND.

You will receive the full spectrum of proteins and you will receive varying rates of absorption from the different types of protein. Using a blend will create an anabolic environment from the whey and an anti-catabolic environment from the casein.

Conclusion
I hope this article familiarized you with the basics of protein powder and gave you a foundation to work from when deciding on your next order. Don’t get caught up in the hype and start becoming a more educated consumer when you take your next trip to the nutrition store. Now you can tell the sales rep exactly what you are looking for instead of staring blankly at the shelves without a clue!