While protein powders were once quite a niche product, they have now become much more mainstream, especially since the benefits of protein are being much more widely acknowledged. If you have been wanting to venture into the world of protein powders and shakes but do not know where to begin, here are a few basics that will help you to understand all that is out there.
Whey-based protein powders are the most commonly available, and are basically a milk product that has had all of its fat and carbohydrates removed. This means that it is quickly absorbed by the body, which is why many athletes turn to whey-based protein shakes for their post-workout recovery sessions.
Just like whey, casein is also a milk-based product, and is commonly used in the making of cheese. However, the difference lies in the way in which the body digests casein, as this process takes longer than it does with whey. While this means that they are not ideal post-workout, they are great for an afternoon or evening snack, as they will help your muscles to gradually recover overnight.
If you feel as though you could benefit from both a casein and a whey powder, it may be worth looking into products that combine the two. This means that your body will be able to obtain an immediate effect from your shake, thanks to the whey, as well as long term energy for many hours afterwards, due to the casein.
Even if you do not follow a vegan diet, plant-based proteins still have so many different benefits, making them well worth considering. These tend to contain antioxidant-rich superfoods, which will have the effect of boosting your immune system, enabling you to train for longer, and harder. They also tend to be kinder to the gut, and while many may feel as though they are not as effective as milk-based protein powders, recent studies have shown that plant-based proteins are just as capable of building muscle as milk-based proteins. Common examples of plant-based proteins include pea protein, which contains high levels of arginine, which is an amino acid required to build muscle, soya protein and hemp protein, which also contains many beneficial life enzymes and essential fatty acids.
An Energy Boost
While a protein shake on its own is fantastic for maintaining your muscles, it is not going to provide you with much energy, which is where all of the extra supplements come in. However, since you are only beginning to experiment with protein shakes, it would be easiest to skip the supplements for now and working on adding your own energy-rich foods to the blend. An easy way to do this is by using a protein powder in a smoothie, mixing it with ingredients such as oats, almond butter and coconut milk.
The world of protein shakes and powders can often seem intimidating, but even if you are not a serious athlete, you are still likely to be able to derive a few benefits from one. However, it is important to keep in mind that protein powders are supplements, and cannot replace your body’s need for a healthy and well-balanced diet.