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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Right Protein Powder for Your Training Needs

Proteins powders are some of the best supplements for building lean muscle, gaining weight, and energising your workouts. But each of these great benefits of protein powder are provided by different types of products. Some protein powders are best taken before a workout, others are more effective for post-workout recovery. So before you go buying a protein powder all willy-nilly, first think about your training goals, and then make an informed decision. 

Protein powders come in three types: whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, and casein. Choosing the right protein powder involves an assessment of your training goals. 

What Is Whey Protein?

Whey is a dairy by-product extracted from milk during curdling, a process involved in the making of cheese. Animal milk is made up of about 20% whey protein, while the remaining 80% is made up of casein. Whey is a complete protein sources, covering all nine of the essential amino acids.

Whey Protein Concentrate

Whey protein concentrate is a high protein product that contains as much as 89% protein. Because whey protein concentrate contains lactose and calories, it tends to be more filling. The lactose in this type of protein can make it difficult to digest for people who are lactose intolerant. Due to its lower protein percentage than other types of whey protein, whey protein concentrate is generally cheaper. And although many athletes and bodybuilders will say that whey protein isolate is the better product, whey protein concentrate is great for meal replacement shakes because of its high calorie and fat count. 

Whey Protein Isolate

Whey protein isolate is hailed by many trainers as the superior whey protein product. These products are filled with higher protein content (90%) and little to no fat or lactose. Whey protein isolate is a more refined and pure version of whey protein concentrate. Both whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate contain the full range of essential amino acids (arginine, leucine, valine, lysine, isoleucine, and branched-chain amino acids). 

Each of these amino acids, in their own way, promotes muscle growth and speeds recovery. Whey protein isolate contains higher amounts of pure protein, and they are generally considered to be more effective at building muscle. And because of their limited lactose, they are well tolerated by people who are lactose intolerant. 

Whey Protein Blends

Whey protein blends are products that try to balance the benefits of each type of protein. By combining the flavor, fat, and calorie benefits of whey protein concentrate with the pure protein benefits of whey protein isolate, whey protein blends attempt to reach compromise between taste, fullness, and muscle-building effectiveness. 


Like whey protein, casein protein, comes from milk. Casein makes up 80% of the protein found in milk, while whey makes up about 20%. Casein is removed from milk through chemical-free processing. Casein protein has a much different function than whey protein. Whey protein is designed for fast absorption, which makes it great for high-intensity workouts, and quickly replenishing muscles following training. Casein protein has a different effect. Casein protein is known as a slow-digesting protein, a protein that whose specific benefits are experienced over time. 

Protein Synthesis & Protein Breakdown

Whey protein and casein protein have distinct benefits for the two factors involved in muscular development: protein synthesis and protein breakdown. Protein synthesis is the process through which the body repairs muscle protein that has broken down during training. The goal of muscle building is to maximize protein synthesis while limiting protein breakdown. 

Whey protein is digested within forty minutes of ingestion. Because of its fast absorption, whey protein is most beneficial for pre or post-workout uses, pumping quickly to the necessary muscle groups to encourage protein synthesis and repair. For high-intensity training sessions and for quick muscle recovery follow workouts, whey protein is what you want.

Casein protein, on the other hand, is a slow-digesting protein, and can be referred to as a muscle-saving protein. Rather than encouraging protein synthesis, the slow-digesting nature of casein protein limits protein breakdown. These effects are best experienced when casein protein is taken during the night, which works to provide your muscle with a constant, but limited, supply of muscle-saving protein. Casein protein is also excellent for meal replacement shakes, as they provide a long-term (three or four hour) supply of protein. 

When choosing your protein supplement, make sure that you’re using the right tool for the right job. There are so many people with excellent training habits but poor supplementation habits, which significantly limits their full athletic potential. Don’t just read a package or bottle that says “Full of Muscle Building Amino Acids” and run to the cashier. Do your research. Know what and when to take the right supplement for the proper purpose. Your training sessions will be all the better and all the more effective. At the end of the day, we’re all here for results.

AstroNutrition is a premier supplier of sports nutrition and other dietary supplements, a community of healthy living advocates, and an educational source for fitness enthusiasts. Check out their blog and join the conversation!