If You've Ever Wondered Which Is The Best Protein Powder To Help You Lose Weight And Build Muscle, You Need To Read This Article
Protein powder has become synonymous with health and fitness. Like Jedis and lightsabers. Starbucks and shit coffee. Tinder and misery. When you start working out, thoughts quickly turn to which is the best protein powder, as if it's some miracle substance.
The shelves of the gym adorned with huge tubs of powdered gains. But which one do you choose?
Is there a best protein powder to build muscle and lose weight? Should women opt for something different? And what about isolate, concentrate, soy, milk, and casein?
It's a complete mind-fuck.
If you've ever tied yourself up in knots deciding on the best protein powder for you, then you're in the right place. In this article, you'll find the answers to all your questions. Once you're done reading, you'll have all the knowledge you need to make the right choice.
So if you're ready to get started, let's do this.
And if you want to listen to the audio version, click the play button below:
Is Whey The Best Protein Powder, Or Is There Another?
"Is Whey Just Whey Better?"
When it comes to protein powder, whey is the leader of the pack. It's the one you've heard of, even if you have no clue what it is and what it does.
Brands advertising "100% whey protein" in the largest font known to man, make it seem like a good thing.
But in reality, the benefits of whey are often overplayed.
This might seem like bro-blasphemy, but you can't deny the facts. Allow me to explain, before you start hurling your 5kg tubs of 'Mass Gainer 4000' at me.
While there are many reasons to drink a protein shake, the main one is for post-workout recovery. After all, you want to make the most of your training session and maximise gains, right? And while there's no need to rush for a protein shake immediately after training, there is benefit in early post-workout protein consumption to promote hypertrophy.
Is Whey The Best Protein Powder To Optimise Post-Workout Nutrition?
The answer is yes, it probably is. This study compared whey with casein and soy protein both at rest and post-workout.
The results showed Muscle Protein Synthesis, or MPS for short (the process of building muscle), was 93% greater when comparing whey and casein, at rest. And 18% greater when comparing whey and soy.
Flip that over to post-exercise, and MPS was 122% greater with whey vs casein. And 31% greater than soy.
So what are the mechanisms at play here? Why is whey consistently coming out on top as the best protein powder?
Well, it comes down to two main reasons;
- A high Leucine content.
- Faster absorption.
"Simon. Stop getting technical, what the fuck is Leucine? Just give me the facts!"
Think of Leucine as the key that unlocks the door to muscle gain. Once Leucine busts that door open, all those other essential amino acids get to work and start building precious muscle.
Whey protein has a very high Leucine content, so with a relatively small amount the muscle building door gets unlocked. And, it's for this reason, whey is considered by many to be the best protein powder for building muscle.
"So, if whey protein seems like the best protein powder, why did you say the benefits were overplayed?"
While post-workout nutrition is important, total protein intake and protein frequency are MORE important for building muscle. So it's important not to get bogged down in the minutia of post-workout protein powder before focusing your attention on the more fundamental aspects of nutrition.
But It's Not All About Muscle Protein Synthesis
In the muscle-building equation, MPS is only one side of the coin. The balance between MPS and Muscle Protein Breakdown (MPB) needs to be considered. And the fundamental principle you need to think about is keeping that balance in favour of MPS.
And this is where casein protein plays an important role. A large serving of casein-based protein before bed can inhibit MPB by up to 34%, compared to whey. This slow-release protein appears to have a more beneficial effect in this scenario.
But before you go and stock your cupboards to resemble your local GNC, consider this. You can get the protein you need from regular food. You don't need to live a life of powder. For example, greek yoghurt is almost 100% casein. Therefore, a large serving of this before bed may be all you need.
What About If Weight Loss, Not Building Muscle Is The Goal?
If your primary goal is to lose weight, not build muscle, does the debate over the best protein powder take a different tack?
Probably not, is the short answer.
This study took groups of overweight and obese individuals and compared whey protein supplementation with soy protein, and a control group consuming a calorie-equated amount of carbohydrate.
The whey protein group saw significant reductions in waist circumference (2.4cm lower), compared the other groups.
Both the whey protein and soy protein group saw reductions in body weight and body fat, with whey protein being the most significant, compared to the control group.
What caused these significant differences?
The main driver of these differences is largely related to reduction in appetite, leading to fewer overall calories being consumed. The study showed that the "hunger hormone" ghrelin was lower in the whey protein group.
But having said this, consuming a high protein diet in general might be enough to benefit from increased feelings of fullness. Supplementing with protein shakes isn't essential for weight and fat loss.
Don't overthink it. If you want to use a protein powder as part of your nutrition then whey is likely to be cover most of your requirements. But don't get carried away thinking it's a miracle solution.
If You Want The Best Protein Powder Should You Isolate Or Concentrate?
"You Are NOT Struggling To See Progress Because You're Not Having The Right Whey Protein"
With whey leading the protein pack, attention turns to what type of whey should you have. Because, not only is there a million types of protein powder, there's a million types of whey too.
But for the purposes of brevity, I'm going to stick with the isolate vs concentrate in our quest for the best protein powder.
When it comes to this part of the debate, you're likely to hear a lot on unnecessary pontification. But there's none of that here, so let's get to the point.
What's The Difference?
Whey isolate is generally considered to be "better" in the land of the gym pump. Although, in reality, there's very little to choose between the two. A whey isolate goes through an extra level of processing, with the end result being more protein and less carbs and fat per serving. So if monitoring macros down to the finite detail is getting THAT crucial, then opt for the isolate.
For most, a concentrate will do the job just as well.
And it's also worth noting, whey protein isolate has all the lactose removed, making in more palatable for our lactose-intolerant friends.
Is Whey Isolate Better Post-Workout?
To be honest, it's not something you need to worry about.
Because total protein intake and protein frequency are vastly more important. Again, don't get bogged down in the weeds and forget to do what matters most.
As long as you hit the right amount of Leucine, the differences in lean mass gains is minimal. For example, you wouldn't notice much material difference between a whey protein blend and whey protein isolate.
Having said that, being wary of phrases like 'proprietary blend' is a good idea. A proprietary blend of protein, is a supplement companies way of not telling you exactly what's in the product. And in my personal view, that's a bit shady.
You are not struggling to lose weight or build muscle because you're not having whey isolate. Consider your needs objectively, before buying the most expensive protein powder available because it has and extra 0.25g of protein per serving.
Do You Even NEED A Protein Powder?
"Is The Search For Your Powdered Protein Holy Grail Pointless?"
Protein powder is convenient. Nothing more.
At the end of the day, it's filtered milk in powdered form. A by-product of making cheese, providing an easy way to increase the protein content of your diet.
It has no magic powers. It won't instantly turn your arms from mere Twiglets into bulging t-shirt busters.
In fact, when you take convenience out of the equation, the benefits are minimal for the average person. Just having plain milk post-workout will support the process of hypertrophy. Take a look for yourself...
But What About The Vegans?
Clearly vegans haven't don't have the option of whey and milk at their disposal, so what other options exist?
Soy is one, which we've covered already. So let's consider other solutions.
The main issue with vegan protein sources is they can be lower in Leucine (remember how important that was from earlier). Plant proteins are also predominantly incomplete, therefore not providing the full amino acid profile required to maximise MPS.
But don't hit the panic button just yet. The emergency brake on the gain train hasn't been activated yet.
You see, combining protein sources and having slightly more protein per meal should mean you hit the Leucine threshold AND get the full amino acid profile. So look for protein powders with a blend of proteins, such as pea, rice, and hemp. You should also find a scoop of vegan protein powder is larger than whey, and thereby takes care of the need to have a little more per serving.
So vegan gainers can rejoice and hop back on the gain train.
The search for the best protein powder might be an irrelevant quest. For the average person looking to lose weight and get in shape, protein needs can be satisfied with or without the use of protein powder.
Can You Ever Have Too Many Protein Shakes?
"How Many Protein Shakes You Have Is Highly Individual"
"Protein damages your kidneys."
You've heard that one before, right?
For the record, a high protein diet, with or without the inclusion of protein powder does not damage your kidneys. Some studies have shown you can reduce the risk of negative renal function through weight loss. Even if the diet followed is high in protein.
So from that perspective, having multiple protein shakes per day is not an issue.
But there might be other reasons to resist filling your diet with them.
For one, you might find a meal of solid food more filling than a liquid shake. More often than not, this comes down to your own hunger and satiety cues.
Secondly, there's the farts... Yes, I went there. high consumption of protein might give you bloating and a little gas. Not a huge issue. Although, your partner might not appreciate the Dutch Oven burning quite so strong each night.
Technically, even the best protein powder is just food. So having multiple shake per day is fine. However, pay attention to hunger and opt for solution that fill you up the most when losing weight.
The Bottom Line On The Best Protein Powder For Weight Loss And Building Muscle
The best protein powder for most people is probably whey. It has benefits over other forms and is relatively cheap. But be careful not to overplay the benefits and get obsessed with having the "right type" of protein.
Protein powder offers a convenient source of high quality protein, supporting optimal post-workout recovery and achieving total protein intake goals. And whey protein edges the competition in the race to be crowned "The Best Protein Powder." But let's not get carried away here.
The humble protein powder isn't magical.
It is not the deity of the gains you may have been led to believe.
You can lose weight and build muscle without buying a single tub of the stuff. But I realise it's convenient and may even give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside that you're doing the right things. And that's cool.
Protein powders are great. But make sure you look beyond that 30g scoop and consider how your whole diet supports your goal. Because that's where the big wins are.
Here's How To Calculate How Many Calories You Need To Achieve Your Fitness Goals (And A Free Training Programme)
If you want to get on the fast track to a leaner, healthier, stronger body, I've got something for you. Simply click the link below and you'll get access to my free online calorie and macro calculator. Designed to take the headache out of knowing how many calories you need to achieve your goals. Plus, you can grab my Lean Life Kickstarter Pack. In it you’ll find a free 4 week beginner’s training programme (complete with exercise videos and a workout tracker), free recipe packs, plus so much more.
So if you want all that, go here.
But for now, all I’ll say is… Keep living the Lean Life and I’ll see you soon.