You are here

Expert Guide: Protein Supplements

Protein Supplements Guide: Learn How To Choose The Right Product

Average: 4.3 (21 votes)
4.3 5 21
Protein is essential for muscle growth and maintaining lean muscle mass. This guide teaches you about the different types of protein supplements available, what they're used for, and how to take them.

This Guide Teaches You:

  • The benefits of using protein supplements, and importance of protein supplement timing.
  • About the various forms of protein foods used in supplementation.
  • Why proper protein intake plays an essential role in the muscle building process.
  • About the thermogenic qualities of protein, and how it heps with fat loss and metabolism.
  • What some of the best natural protein food sources are.
  • How much protein is needed per day.
  • The advantages of real food and the advantages of protein supplements.
  • What protein sources are used in protein supplements.
  • When to take the various forms of protein powder.
  • How to combine protein and carbohydrate intake for weight gain.
  • How to choose the right protein powder, weight gainer, meal replacement and recovery powder.
  • What supplements stack well with protein supplements.

Welcome to Muscle and Strength’s complete guide to protein supplementation. This guide contains information on every aspect of protein supplementation, including a look at the benefits of using protein supplements, protein supplement timing, and a look at various forms of protein foods used in supplementation.

If you still have questions after reading the information on protein supplements contained in this article, please ask one of the experienced members of the forum.

Understanding Protein Basics

What is Protein and Why is it Important?

Protein is one of three macronutrients used by the body for energy. These macronutrients include protein, carbs and fats.

Scientifically, protein is a series of amino acids linked together like a chain. The links that hold these amino acids together are known as peptide links. Amino acids are the primary source for nitrogen in the body. Having a positive nitrogen balance is essential for proper muscle growth and repair.

In addition to its muscle building properties, protein is needed:

  • To keep a balanced PH level in the blood.
  • For muscle tissue preservation during dieting or cuts.
  • As an energy source when there are no carbohydrates available.
  • To build and maintain proper hormone levels.
  • For necessary chemical reactions to take place.
  • To keep the body’s immune system functioning properly.
  • For proper regulation of the body’s fluid balance.

Protein and Muscle Growth

Increasing your daily protein intake while on a resistance training program helps to increase lean muscle mass. The human body is in a constant state of “protein turnover.” Muscle tissue is continuously being repaired and replaced. To maximize this repair, you must maintain a protein positive nitrogen balance.

When you undereat protein, you confuse your body. It only has so many raw materials to work with, and can’t repair everything it needs to repair. In this scenario, muscle can be lost. In addition, other vital bodily functions are compromised, such as hormone regulation and blood PH balance.

When you are involved with an intense weight training regimen, more muscle tissue than normal is in need of repair. This is the reason why weightlifters and bodybuilders need more protein. Muscle growth is more taxing on the body’s nitrogen balance then muscle maintenance.

Frequent protein feedings insure a steady stream of amino acids, and help maintain a proper nitrogen balance.

Protein and Fat Loss

Protein foods are very thermogenic. Simply put, it requires more energy to digest protein. The human body has to work 30% harder to digest protein foods then it does to digest and process carbs and fats. For this reason, a high protein diet boosts your metabolism and aids in fat loss.

Proper protein intake is also required for the body to properly mobilize stored fat for energy. If you undereat protein, your body will have a harder time drawing on fat stores, and may cannibalize muscle tissue for energy. This is one of the reasons why low protein diets can make you feel weak and tired.

Protein and Recovery

Protein plays a vital role in muscle recovery and workout “rebound.” When you workout, two things happen:

  1. Your muscles are depleted of glycogen.
  2. Your muscles are damaged, and are in need of repair.

A steady stream of protein insures a proper nitrogen balance. And a positive nitrogen balance allows your body to be in “muscle repair mode”. The faster your muscles repair, the faster you recover. Conversely, undereating protein foods creates a negative nitrogen balance. In this state, it will take longer to recover.

Extra protein is essential, especially for athletes who have frequent workouts, or for athletes who are cutting fat.

Protein Food Sources

Typical protein food sources include: eggs, cheese, milk, chicken, seafood, fish, poultry, beef, pork, lamb, veal, soy, nuts and legumes. Small amounts of protein can also be found in fatty and starchy foods. Because protein levels in these foods are minimal, they are generally “ignored” by bodybuilders and athletes when a protein diet is structured.

Protein food sources are divided into two categories: complete and incomplete protein foods.

A complete protein food contains all essential amino acids. Animal proteins (meat) are complete protein sources. Incomplete protein foods, such as vegetables, lack several essential amino acids. These lacking amino acids vary from food source to food source.

Protein supplement foods have grown in popularity over the last 30 years because of several factors. They are convenient, and require no cooking time. Protein supplements are also cost effective, and can provide an average serving cost far below that of beef, seafood and even chicken.

Benefits of Protein (Protein for Good Health)

Proper protein intake has numerous benefits for good health. They are:

Anabolism. Eating protein keeps your body in an anabolic state. In terms of muscle building, “anabolism” refers to the construction, and not destruction of muscle tissue. The opposite of an anabolic state is a catabolic state. Not eating enough protein can cause muscle tissue to be catabolized.

Growth Hormone Regulation. Proper growth hormones levels are essential for good health. Growth hormone contains 190 amino acids. Eating enough protein insures that your body has the necessary building blocks to construct growth hormone. Growth hormone deficiency slows the metabolism, and can lead to lower bone density, muscle loss, and numerous other health problems including and number of psychological issues.

IGF-1. IGF-1 allows muscle cells to properly respond to growth hormone. IGF-1 contains over 70 amino acids. Without proper protein intake, IGF-1 levels can be lowered, making it harder for your body to utilize available growth hormone.

Metabolism. As stated previously, protein requires more energy to process, so inherently it boosts your metabolism. Eating less then ideal amounts of protein also makes it difficult for the body to draw upon fat reserves.

Insulin. Protein helps lower insulin levels in the blood, which is a factor in proper energy regulation.

How Much Protein do I Need?

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for adults in the USA is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This translates to approximately 0.36 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. For a 200 pound individual, the minimum RDA requirement is 72 grams of protein per day. For a 150 pound individual, the minimum RDA requirement is 54 grams of protein per day.

Those involved with intense exercise, or individuals looking to add muscle mass, should consume at least twice the RDA’s recommended minimums. It is generally advised that bodybuilders eat 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Another good guideline is to make sure that 20 to 40% of your daily calories come from protein sources.

1 to 1.5 Grams of Protein per Pound of Bodyweight.

Bodyweight – Grams of Protein Required

  • 125 pounds – 125 to 188 grams of protein
  • 150 pounds – 150 to 225 grams of protein
  • 175 pounds – 175 to 263 grams of protein
  • 200 pounds – 200 to 300 grams of protein
  • 225 pounds – 225 to 338 grams of protein
  • 250 pounds – 250 to 375 grams of protein

20 to 40% of Daily Calories from Protein.

Calories – Grams of Protein Required

  • 1500 calories – 75 to 150 grams of protein
  • 2000 calories – 100 to 200 grams of protein
  • 2500 calories – 125 to 250 grams of protein
  • 3000 calories – 150 to 300 grams of protein
  • 3500 calories – 175 to 350 grams of protein
  • 4000 calories – 200 to 400 grams of protein
  • 5000 calories – 250 to 500 grams of protein

Introduction to Protein Supplements

We have taken a look at the role of proper protein intake with regards to good health. It has been established that athletes and bodybuilders need more protein to insure fast recovery and new muscle growth. With this information in hand, it’s time to take an in-depth look at protein supplements.

What are Protein Supplements?

Protein supplements are protein and nutrition sources, and food products, that are utilized to assist bodybuilders and athletes to achieve their desired daily protein intake requirements. Types of protein supplements include protein powders, protein bars, weight gainers and meal replacements.

Protein supplements generally contain more then 20 to 30 grams of protein per serving, and are fortified with vitamins and minerals. Protein supplements also come in numerous flavors, from fruit flavored protein powders, to cookie and cream flavored weight gainers, to peanut butter flavored protein bars.

Understanding Common Terminology (Isolate, Blends, Amino Acids, etc.)

The following is a list of common terms associated with protein supplements:

Isolate. An isolated protein source is one that has been chemically purified to remove most everything other then the actual protein source. Generally isolates are 90%+ pure protein.

Concentrate. A concentrated protein source is not as pure as an isolate, and generally contains 70 to 85% of the protein source. Concentrates contain more fats, carbohydrates, and in the case of whey protein, more lactose.

Blends. A protein blend is a combination of various protein sources and purity levels. A blend can be more cost effective then a pure isolate, and can also offer the benefit of having both fast digesting and slow digesting protein sources.

Amino Acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. While there are over 100 total amino acids, only 20 amino acids are considered standard. These standard amino acids are separated into two categories: essential and non-essential amino acids. Essential amino acids cannot be created in the human body, and must be obtained from food. Non-essential amino acids can be synthesized, or created, in the human body.

BCAA. Branched chain amino acids, also called BCAA, is a term that refers to a chain  of the three essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine. The combination of these 3 essential amino acids make up over one-third the skeletal muscle in the body, and play a vital role in protein synthesis.

Weight Gainer. Weight gainers are high calorie protein powders meant to assist bodybuilders and athletes who are in need of rapid weight gain. They can be used as meals on the go, or in between meals as a means of adding extra daily calories.

Meal Replacements. Meal replacement protein products are considered to be entire meals in and of themselves. They contain a formulated nutritional and macronutrient blend that provides not only enough protein, but also an appropriate amount of carbs, healthy fats and vitamins and minerals.

Recovery. A recovery blend is a protein supplement that contains any number of additional, non-protein supplement products meant to aid in post-workout recovery. These supplements range from creatine to multivitamin and minerals, and larger doses of glutamine and taurine.

Slow Digesting. A slow digesting protein source provides a long term stream of protein and amino acids, meant to assist in keeping a positive nitrogen balance for longer periods of times. A slow digesting protein is a great choice for in between meals.

Fast Digesting. A fast digesting protein source, such as whey protein, acts quickly to help regulate bodily nitrogen levels, especially after periods of fasting. A fast digesting protein is also beneficial as a post-workout protein source.

Energy Bar. Energy bars provide a quick, healthy and sustained source of energy when you need a pick-me-up in between meals. While an energy bar does contain some protein, in general, it does not contain as much protein as a protein bar.

Benefits of Using Protein Supplements

Most hardcore athletes make sure to eat anywhere between 5 to 8 small protein meals each day. Preparing the necessary food for these meals can be extremely time consuming. The primary benefit of using protein supplements is that they require very little “prep” time.

Protein supplements are generally “grab and go.” How many times has life intervened, and changed your plans for the day? For most of us, quite often. Protein supplements require no refrigeration, and are very portable. They can go where you go, with very little hassle.

You will also find that protein supplements can save you money. Beef, salmon and other popular protein food sources can be costly. Protein powders, on the other hand, generally cost less per 30 gram serving. This extra cash in hand can allow you to eat the more expensive protein foods. And if you’re eating to pack on weight, a weight gainer is very economical.

Proper protein timing is essential to maximizing muscle gains. Protein supplements provide you with the ability to have a fast digesting or slow digesting protein meal whenever you need it.

Who Uses Protein Supplements?

Bodybuilders. For those looking to add muscle mass, protein supplementation isn’t an option…it’s a requirement. Whether you’re a whey protein addict, or just like to have a protein bar handy just in case, protein supplements are a bodybuilder’s safety net.

Athletes. Protein supplementation isn’t just for bodybuilders. Hard training athletes need extra protein for energy, to repair muscle, and to insure proper body functioning.

Dieters. Protein foods speed up the metabolism, and allow for the proper burning of stored fat. Protein also leaves your feeling more satisfied after a meal. Dieters use protein supplements and meal replacement products to help the fat burning process, and to fend off hunger.

Hardgainers. For those that are underweight, or for those with a fast metabolism, eating enough to normalize body weight can be difficult. Protein foods, especially weight gainers, cam add vital calories during times of the day when eating is difficult, but required.

Protein Supplements versus Real Food

Advantages of protein supplements:

  • Fast digesting protein foods are best eaten early in the morning, and post-workout. The BV value of whey protein makes it the perfect protein source at these times.
  • Protein supplements can be cost effective. Some protein foods, such as beef and fish, can be quite costly per 30 gram serving.
  • Protein supplements are generally a more complete and balanced protein source.
  • Protein supplements are often fortified with vitamins and minerals, making them a multi-dimensional protein food.
  • Weight gainers offer high calorie foods that are easily broken down, and less filling.
  • Protein supplements come is a wide variety of flavors, and can take away some of the “blandness” that comes with a high protein diet.
  • Many protein foods can serve as a low-calorie means to satisfy your sweet tooth.
  • Protein supplements are more convenient, and require little to no cleanup.
  • Protein supplements are much less temperature sensitive, and generally require no refrigeration or heating.
  • Certain protein supplements have a higher biological value that real foods.
  • A protein shake can be easier on the stomach before bed.

Advantages of real food:

  • You know exactly what you’re eating and where it came from.
  • Protein foods such as eggs, string cheese, milk and tuna can be more cost effective then certain protein supplements.
  • Real food is more versatile. It can be used to in conjunction with other foods for just about any craving or occasion.
  • Certain protein supplements can have a greater variance of actual listed ingredients.
  • Shakes can cause stomach and digestive bloating for some individuals.
  • A variety of real foods can provide a nutritional depth that is hard to achieve with protein supplements.
  • Milk and eggs are nutritional grand slams.
  • Beef has been shown in studies to pack on more muscle mass than other forms of protein.

Protein Sources Used in Protein Supplements

Whey Protein. Whey proteins account for 20% of the protein in milk. Whey protein is a by-product in the production of cheese. Initially thought of as just a waste product, whey protein is now the most popular protein supplementation protein source. It has a very high BV rating, and is rich in the muscle-building amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Whey protein is a fast digesting protein source, and isn’t filling. Whey protein is also low in glutamine and arginine.

Whey Isolate. Whey isolate is a more expensive version of whey protein. It is a higher quality protein source with a higher biological value (BV), and contains less fat and lactose per serving then whey concentrate. Whey isolate generally contains 90 to 98& protein, while whey concentrate contains 70 to 85% protein.

Whey Concentrate. Whey concentrate is a more cost-effective member of the whey family. It requires less processing time, but also contains more fat and lactose. Whey concentrate is 70 to 85% protein.

Whey Protein Blends. Whey protein blends are specialized protein formulas that contain both whey Isolates and whey concentrates. Whey protein blends are generally more cost effective then whey isolate, and have a higher protein percentage ratio then whey concentrates.

Casein Protein. Casein proteins account for 80% of the protein in milk.  Casein protein is a slow digesting protein that is isolated from milk. It is 92% protein, and has a very “thick” taste. Because of this, it is a very popular protein in weight gainers. Casein protein, although it has a lower BV value then whey, is more efficiently used to build muscle. Because casein protein is used by the body to build muscle, and less is used as a energy source, casein supplementation encourages the body to use carbs and stored fat for energy. Casein is also very high in the popular bodybuilding supplement glutamine.

Egg Albumin. Egg albumin is the egg white. It is popular in bodybuilding circles because of a higher essential to non-essential amino acid ratio, and because egg whites contain less cholesterol then egg yolks. Eggs are often considered the king of natural food proteins because of their high essential amino acids levels. Egg protein is the best alternative for those that are lactose intolerant.

Soy Protein. Soy protein is high quality, but not as efficient as milk or casein protein, It is a fast digesting protein source that has an average amino acid profile. Because of this, it is not the most desirable protein source for those looking to build muscle.

Soy Protein Isolate. Soy protein isolate has a greater BV then regular soy protein, meaning that more of it is utilized by the body. But soy protein isolate is of lower quality then soy protein.

Goat Milk Protein. No other protein source has a higher bioavailability then goat milk protein. In addition, goat milk protein is extremely high in BCAA and is 100% lactose free. Its BV rating of 104 is superior to most foods, including eggs, which have a 100 BV.

Wheat Protein. Wheat protein is a healthy and natural alternative to dairy and egg-based proteins. It is lactose and cholesterol free, and is perfect for vegetarian bodybuilders and athletes. Wheat protein is also very high is glutamic acid.

Pea Protein. Pea protein is a 100% gluten free protein source that is a great alternative for vegetarians. As with wheat protein, pea protein is lactose free and does not contain any cholesterol. It is very easy to digest and is rich in amino acids.

Complete Milk Protein. Complete milk protein is the dried protein from milk, with the carbs and fat removed. Milk protein is nutritious, and contains calcium and high levels of other vitamins and minerals. Complete milk protein contains both whey and casein proteins.

How to Use Protein Supplements for Maximum Results

When to Take Your Protein Powder

Protein timing is the science of when and how to take protein powder supplements for the best results. It isn’t as simple as just choosing a great tasting protein flavor, mixing and enjoying. Other factors come into play.

First Thing In The Morning. After waking, your body is in a fasting condition. You haven’t eaten protein for quite some time, and your body needs a fast digesting protein source to insure that you remain in a positive nitrogen balance.

At this time it’s a good idea to use both a fast and slow digesting protein powder. This could be a whey protein drink with a solid protein source such as eggs and cheese, or a whey/casein protein powder mix.

A fast digesting protein will quickly place the body into a positive nitrogen balance, and get the day off to a good, muscle building start. A slow digesting protein source, like casein protein, will continue to feed amino acids into the blood stream, and hold you off until your next protein meal.

Pre Workout. Your pre-workout meal should consist of a slow digesting protein powder that will keep the body in a positive nitrogen balance as you workout.

Post Workout. You should take the same approach post-workout as you did first thing in the morning. Consume a mixture of fast and slow digesting protein sources to help you recover from the workout, and propel you in a positive nitrogen balance to your next meal.

Between Meals. Regular protein supplement meals and snacks eaten throughout the day should be from slow digesting proteins, such as casein or egg protein. Slow digesting protein in between major meals assures that you will maintain a positive nitrogen balance throughout the day.

Night Time. Having a slow digesting protein supplement before bed maximizes your nitrogen balance while sleeping. Casein protein is a good choice before hitting the sack.

Meal Replacements

Meal replacements are one of the most underrated and underused supplements on the market. They are much more then just a protein source – they are complete and nutritious meals.

A meal replacement bar or shake can contain fast or slow digesting proteins, or protein blends. Before purchasing meal replacements, make sure you are familiar with its protein source. As with protein powders, meal replacements can be taken at various time of the day. It should be noted that some meal replacements are designed to help you during diets, and some are aimed to help you gain weight.

Meal replacements with whey protein (or whey blends) are best eaten first thing in the morning, as a replacement for breakfast. The fast digesting whey protein will help to restore a positive nitrogen balance, and will get your body on the road to building or repairing muscle.

Meal replacements specifically categorized as “lean” are for weight loss, and are best eaten as a replacement for a main meal such as breakfast or lunch.

Meal replacement shakes or bars with slow digesting, non-whey protein sources are best eaten as replacements for lunch or dinner. The slow digesting proteins will keep your body in a positive nitrogen balance for longer periods of time.

Protein and Carbohydrates for Weight Gain

For underweight “hardgainers” or trainees looking to bulk, quality carbohydrate intake is just as important as frequent protein feedings. Weight gainer protein supplements provide a great source of complex and simple carbs, and generally digest faster then whole foods.

To maximize weight gain, it is best to use a weight gainer protein supplement at least 2 to 3 times per day.  A solid approach is to drink a weight gainer shake in between meals, and then have a third before bed.

Enhancing Protein Uptake with Fast Digesting Carbs

Quality carbohydrates should be eaten with every protein meal. Quality carbs improve protein transport and utilization. There are numerous fast digesting carbohydrate products that are designed to compliment protein supplementation.

Waxy maize is a fast digesting complex carb source that is perfect before, during or after training. It is able to replenish glycogen stores faster the whole food complex carb sources, and is the king of all carb supplements.

Carb powders, such as Carbo Gain or Carbo Plus, provide quality complex carbohydrates. These powders mix easily with protein powders, and can be utilized throughout the day to maximize your gains.

Example Protein Supplementation Plan

Protein Supplementation Plan for Gaining Muscle.

The following is a list of suggested times for various protein supplements. It is not recommended that you eat only protein supplement foods. Protein variety is essential for good health and muscle mass.

  • Morning – Protein shake, whey/casein protein powder blend.
  • Mid-Morning – Protein Bar
  • Lunch – Protein shake, slow digesting protein source such as casein or egg protein.
  • Mid-Afternoon – Protein Bar
  • Pre-Workout – Whey protein shake, fast digesting protein source. Waxy maize.
  • Workout -  Whey protein and waxy maize.
  • Post-workout -  Protein shake, whey/casein protein powder blend. Waxy maize.
  • Before Bed -  Protein shake, slow digesting protein source such as casein or egg protein.

Protein Supplementation Plan for Adding Weight.

The following is a list of suggested times for various protein supplements. It is not recommended that you eat only protein supplement foods. Protein variety is essential for good health and muscle mass.

  • Morning – Calorie dense meal replacement bar, or whey protein based weight gainer shake.
  • Mid-Morning – Weight gainer shake, slow digesting protein source such as casein or egg protein.
  • Lunch – Calorie dense meal replacement bar.
  • Mid-Afternoon – Weight gainer shake, slow digesting protein source such as casein or egg protein.
  • Pre-Workout – Whey protein shake, fast digesting protein source. Waxy maize.
  • Workout -  Whey protein and waxy maize.
  • Post-workout -  Protein shake, whey/casein protein powder blend. Waxy maize.
  • Before Bed -  Weight gainer shake, slow digesting protein source such as casein or egg protein.

Choosing the Right Protein Powder

Choosing a protein powder can be confusing. There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of protein powder brands, variations, and flavors. Please read the following to help you decide on the best purchase.

Price vs. Quality

Not all protein powders are created equal. Choosing a protein powder based on cost alone is a mistake. There are many factors that go into the creation of a protein powder. Generally, lower cost equals a low quality of raw ingredients, and an inferior quality control process. A poor manufacturing process can decrease the quality of the finished product, making less of the protein bioavailable. Simply put…you may be flushing money down the drain because inferior protein that isn’t as easily digested.

As with most products, price equals quality. Take time and do your research. Generally, the more you spend, the more you get for your money.

Whey Protein:  Isolate vs Blend vs Concentrate

Whey isolates are the purest form of whey protein. A whey isolate is 90 to 98% pure protein, and contains very little fat and lactose. Because of this, whey isolate is a good, low calorie protein source for lifters who are watching their weight or trying to cut. Because of its purity, whey isolate protein is also more expensive.

A whey concentrate contains more fat and lactose then a whey isolate, and is approximately 70 to 85% pure protein. Whey concentrate is less expensive, and higher in calories. Because of these factors, whey concentrate is a better choice for lifters who are bulking or trying to gain weight.

A whey protein blend is a good middle ground whey protein. If want a quality, cost-effective whey protein, and are not cutting or bulking, a whey blend is the best way to go.

Looking for a Good Amino Acid Profile

An amino acid profile is simply the amount of amino acids, BCAA, and essential amino acids that are contain in a protein powder. When looking at an amino acid profile, you look primarily at the amount of essential amino acids and BCAAs per serving.

BCAAs

  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Valine

Essential Amino Acids

  • Phenylalanine
  • Valine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Isoleucine
  • Methionine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine

There are 12 non-essential amino acids. Non-essential amino acids can be manufactured by the body. It is far more important to have a protein powder with a good essential amino acid profile, then it is to worry about the protein powder’s non-essential amino acid content.

Weight Gainers

When choosing a weight gainer, consider the following 7 points:

  1. Price vs. Quality. A weight gainer is no different then a protein powder. Low cost often means a lower quality of ingredients, poor manufacturing standards, protein that isn’t as easily digested, and the possibility of inaccurate label claims. Look for a weight gainer manufactured by a reputable supplement company.
  2. Taste. What good is a quality weight gainer if it tastes horrible? If possible, check product reviews before purchasing. The last thing you want to do is spend money on a weight gainer that is chalky, lumpy, grainy and ill-tasting.
  3. Protein. Look for a good protein range per serving. You want at least 40 grams of protein per weight gainer shake. Eating more protein first thing in the morning, or post-workout is also a good idea. A weight gainer with 50 to 60 grams of protein per serving is perfect for these times of day.
  4. Protein and Carb Ratio. A weight gainer should be proving you a good amount of calories from carbs. Look for a carb to protein ration of 2 to 1 per serving.
  5. Sugar. Watch the sugar content per serving. Some weight gainers are barely more then sugar mixed with flavoring and protein powder. Look for a weight gainer that has under 30 grams of sugars per serving. Many quality weight gainers have fewer then 10 grams of sugars per serving.
  6. Cholesterol. Look for a weight gainer that has fewer then 100 mgs of cholesterol per serving.
  7. Saturated Fats. Saturated fats are bad fats. Most quality weight gainers keep the saturated fat content per serving at 5 to 10 grams. Some weight gainers have as much as 20 grams of saturated fats per serving.

Recovery Powders

Muscle is not built in the gym. It is built after you leave the gym, during the recovery process. Recovery powders are usually taken post-workout. When comparing recovery powders, look for:

  1. Waxy Maize. Waxy maize is a rapidly digesting complex carb that can quickly restore glycogen to your depleted muscles.
  2. Amino Acids. You want your recovery powder to be rich in essential aminos and BCAAs.
  3. Creatine. Some recovery powders contain creatine, and provide you with more bang for your buck.
  4. Protein. While protein is not the prime focus of a recovery powder, some recovery powders contain quite a bit more protein then others.
  5. Sugars. Some recovery powders are very high in sugar. Keep a close eye on sugar content when comparing products.
  6. Misc. Many recovery powders have added plant extracts and added supplements, like beta-alanine and glutamine.

The ingredients contained in recovery powders are extremely varied. Do your homework before purchasing a recovery powder that isn’t right for your needs.

Meal Replacements

Meal replacements come in a wide range of products and choices. There are meal replacement breakfast cereals, and meal replacement bars. There are meal replacement shakes designed for women, and meal replacement powders aimed at adding lean mass. When shopping meal replacement products, please pay close attention not only its ingredients, but also what specifically it should be used for.

Regardless of product type, here are some factors to consider when purchasing a meal replacement product:

  1. Protein. Consider the protein content per serving, and if it is a blend, or fast or slow digesting proteins. Breakfast meal replacement products should contain some form of fast digesting whey protein. Meal replacement shakes or bars for lunch or dinner should contain a slow digesting protein source, such as casein protein. Also, some meal replacement products contain less then 30 grams of protein per serving. While this is an acceptable level for athletes and female bodybuilders, it may not be enough for men who are looking to pack on muscle mass.
  2. Value. Don’t just look at the overall cost of the product. Consider the overall cost per serving.
  3. Calories. Many meal replacement products, though nutritionally sound, don’t have many calories. In fact, most meal replacement products hover around the 200 calorie mark.
  4. Vitamins and Minerals. The point of a meal replacement is to replace a meal. Meal replacement products need to be rich in vitamins and minerals. Always compare the vitamin and mineral content or MRPs before purchasing.
  5. Added Value. Some meal replacement products contain extra supplements, or are rich in aminos and BCAAs. This hidden value can save you money.

Taste, Mixability and Aftertaste

A quality protein supplement made with quality ingredients, and manufactured by a reputable company can still be less then desirable. After all, good ingredients don’t always make for the best tasting meal. A good protein supplement also has to have solid intangibles…great taste, quick mixability, and no aftertaste.

One of the best ways of finding out about these protein supplement intangibles is via product reviews and the Muscle and Strength forum. Do your research, and don’t hesitate to ask others.

Some lower quality protein powders mix well. And some expensive, quality powders are chalky, mix poorly, and have a very bad aftertaste. On the same note, the taste and texture of protein bars varies greatly.

Stacking Other Supplements with Protein

Creatine

Creatine can add 10 pounds of muscle mass, and up to a 10% strength gain. Creatine uptake can be maximized by taking it with a 1:1 ratio of protein to carbs. Because of this, a creatine and protein stack is extremely beneficial.

Pre-Workout

Nitric oxide, creatine and beta alanine are popular pre-workout supplements. Many pre-workout formulas contain these vital supplements, but very few pre-workout formulas contain protein. Research has revealed that protein consumption pre-workout can be more important then post-workout protein. One of the best pre-workout approaches you can take is to stack protein, waxy maize and a NO (or pre-workout) drink. This insures that you have the energy and positive nitrogen balance to power through your workout, and the NO and creatine to maximize your efforts.

Intra-Workout

Taking whey protein and waxy maize intra-workout helps you to sustain energy and retain a positive nitrogen balance. But more can be done to maximize your workouts. Intraworkout supplements are becoming very popular. Intra-workout supplements often include vitamins C and E, a quality blend of aminos and BCAAs, beta alanine, B vitamins, creatine, glutamine, arginine and more. Because of the variety of supplements included in an intra-workout product, they are a great value.

Carbohydrates

The whey protein, waxy maize combination is an essential workout stack. Not only does waxy maize assist the body in delivering and absorbing protein, heightening the potency of whey protein, but it also is a fast digesting complex carbohydrate source that fuels your muscles with much needed glycogen.

Multivitamin

Multivitamins are often one of the most overlooked supplements. The body needs  proper amount of vitamins and minerals to function. And it should go without saying that athletes, and those looking to add muscle mass, generally need more vitamin and mineral building blocks then the average man or woman. Make sure you purchase a quality and reputable vitamin and mineral supplement pack.

Fat Burners

If you’re looking to cut fat or lose weight, you can’t go wrong with a protein supplement and fat burner stack. Protein is a natural fat burner, requiring more energy to digest and process then carbs and fats. By adding a fat burner to the mix, you will be amplifying the effects of your fat burning efforts.

Related Expert Guides

Related Supplements View all Top Supplements
Myo-Blitz XS

Pre-Training Muscle Builder with Intense Energy and Focus!*

4.35
Average: 4.4 (3 votes)
Pure Whey Protein Isolate

Unbelievably Great Tasting Micro-Filtered Pure Whey Protein Isolate!

4.35
Average: 4.4 (105 votes)

Comments (68)

Add a comment

No Profile Pic
Dhaval Rathod
Posted Thu, 03/15/2012 - 15:24

This Article is so helpful for all Weight Gainers & Weight Looser who wants to have Protein Supplement for daily diet plan.
Read once before having any protein supplement product if u are planning to keep one.

  • 75
  • 74
No Profile Pic
prajwal
Posted Sat, 09/15/2012 - 07:18

But they have not mentioned about the side effects after consuming the supplements!

  • 62
  • 52
No Profile Pic
Saddam
Posted Fri, 03/16/2012 - 01:50

My weight is very low i want to give rise my weight.
So please give me list of some protein powder with their rate.

  • 60
  • 57
No Profile Pic
Ed Allen
Posted Tue, 04/10/2012 - 14:24

I recently started a workout routine. I have been skinny (or as I like to say, "Horizontally Challenged" lol) my entire life. I didn't even break 100 pounds until I was in 11th grade. I'm now almost 40 and when I started 4 weeks ago, I weighed about 116.5 pounds. In only 4 1/2 weeks, I'm up to 126. That's almost 2 pounds a week which is phenomenal for someone like me who has a really hard time gaining weight.

Anyway, I have 4 drinks that I take almost every day and I'll list them for you here...

MORNING
Dymatize Elite Mass Gainer / Creatine / Glutamine / WHOLE Milk

DURING WORKOUT
Power Carb / Xtend / Creatine / Glutamine / Arginine

POST WORKOUT
Whey Isolate / Creatine / Glutamine

RIGHT BEFORE BED
Probolic / Creatine / Glutamine / (sometimes peanut butter)

The only 2 I don't take every day are the whey isolate and the workout drink. On days I don't work out, I skip those two. Anyway, I hope this helps. It seems to be working for me so far. :)

Ed

  • 56
  • 60
No Profile Pic
vipul
Posted Sat, 04/21/2012 - 12:38

Very helpful article.. one I was searching for .

  • 49
  • 52
No Profile Pic
Pete
Posted Tue, 04/24/2012 - 07:40

Sir, may I ask what the best supplement because I'm started lifting wts and doing regular exercised and diet I wanna ask because there's a lot of protein shake and amino supplement in the market today , I just want a lean and firm body ..Im 5'4" in ht and 65kg in wt...hope to hear from u asap ,thanks :)

  • 55
  • 58
No Profile Pic
Vishwanath
Posted Mon, 03/10/2014 - 14:25

Which protien powder should i take? because i started workout from last 2 months, height is 5 feets 5 inches & weight is 65 kg. & what should be time table?
Kindly suggeste

  • 11
  • 10
No Profile Pic
Aaron
Posted Thu, 04/26/2012 - 13:50

Great article and very informative. I have a question....I lift 4 days/week and do cardio 2 days/week (1 HIIT and 1 regular). I am 37, 6ft. tall and weigh 207. Ideally I want to be 185-190 solid (toned and athletic not meadheadish). I looked at the P90x diet and it says I need to eat about 3,000 kcals but a trainer to me to lean out and gain muscle I need to eat about 2,600 kcals. So I am confused about that...However with eating 6 times a day whats the best protein on the market for type of training and what schedule is best.

Please shoot me an email back!

Thanks.

  • 50
  • 44
Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 04/30/2012 - 12:18

2600 seems like a more reasonable choice when trying to lose fat. Age impacts the equation as well, so there is a chance you might be better serve with 2300 to 2400 cals per day based on your metabolism. But starting at 2600 gets my nod. You can always make adjustments down if this is not working.

Regarding protein, whey protein is very popular. I would recommend one of the best-selling brands, and to check out reviews here on M&S.

  • 45
  • 45
No Profile Pic
Rakesh
Posted Mon, 04/30/2012 - 02:12

The article was very Helpfull.......
Thanks

  • 52
  • 41
No Profile Pic
Sonny
Posted Tue, 05/01/2012 - 22:25

If I do 2 whey protien shakes a day when is the best time to take them? Should I do morning and post workout or pre and post workout etc...

  • 44
  • 59
Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Fri, 05/04/2012 - 14:57

Post workout is a good choice. I like to use one 60-90 minutes before working out with a banana, instead of eating a heavier meal. Youc an also use when in between whole foods meals.

  • 47
  • 44
No Profile Pic
Sara
Posted Thu, 05/17/2012 - 16:45

I think this article has a lot of helpful information in it, but the recommended intake of protein is way off. The RDA recommendation for protein consumption is .8g protein per kg of body weight. This is the normal recommendation and even for athletes or those who train in excess of 5 days a week is only 1.5-1.8g/kg body weight. So even on the high end of protein consumption (1.8g/kg body weight) for athletes your table should be this.
125 pounds – 101 grams of protein
150 pounds – 121 grams of protein
175 pounds – 142 grams of protein
200 pounds – 162 grams of protein
225 pounds – 182 grams of protein
250 pounds – 202 grams of protein

I am certified through The Cooper Institute as a personal trainer and with information such as RDA's and more research on athlete needs this is more of a realistic intake of protein, any excess protein is just stored as fat. Hope this is helpful!

  • 44
  • 50
No Profile Pic
Tricia
Posted Mon, 08/06/2012 - 20:06

RDA Standards are made for regular people that do the minimum suggested activity level or for those that are inactive and are not for athletes and especially not body builder (or wanna be body builders). RDA is the disease model at looking at macro nutrients not a sport performance and muscle gain model

  • 39
  • 47
No Profile Pic
Sangeet
Posted Sat, 09/08/2012 - 05:13

hi,

I don't want to gain wait but am working out and want to build muscles and bring my weight to 72kg levels. what kind of protein intake should i have. i am 44 yr male, 5'10" with 78kg weight.

thanks

  • 45
  • 58
No Profile Pic
LMUstudent
Posted Tue, 11/06/2012 - 07:16

Sara you're definitely correct in that their recommendations for protein intake were WAY off. At the rate they suggest (3.3 grams/kg body weight) you would be damaging your kidneys. It isn't recommended that you even exceed about 2 grams per kilogram of body weight, around 3 grams per kilogram is where you start seeing serious kidney damage. 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight is, as you stated, the correct intake for a strength athlete who trains between 4 and 7 days a week. If not, your body isn't even using all of this and you're putting your kidneys through more work than they need to be doing. Be careful where you get your nutritional advice from, folks.

  • 38
  • 65
No Profile Pic
Daniel
Posted Mon, 02/04/2013 - 19:09

Sara,
Please contact me via email regarding proper nutrition for my daughter. She is fifteen, and is participating in competitive cheerleading. I would like some help with choosing supplements to provide adequate nutrition for her.
danieledgar71@gmail.com
Thank you.

  • 54
  • 49
No Profile Pic
Elio
Posted Wed, 03/26/2014 - 09:27

Hi Sara,
i was reading the comments and the artical and im so confused, you as a professional i can really use you're help.
i am 188 cm
77 kg
i really want to gain some muscle but in a good way and im not tolerent to lactose

  • 7
  • 7
No Profile Pic
Andrew
Posted Fri, 05/18/2012 - 22:48

Is grass-fed whey or casein more beneficial?
when and how should someone trying to lose fat AND gain muscle use whey and casein?
whey morning, pre&post workout and casein before bed?

  • 52
  • 36
No Profile Pic
tsitsi
Posted Mon, 05/21/2012 - 09:40

thanks for the information it was very helpful but I still remain confused,how helpful are protein supplements I am trying to lose weight from 86kg to 60kg. which is the best protein supplement for me. what are the after effects of protein supplements.looking forward for a reply.thank you.

  • 42
  • 45
No Profile Pic
Ashish Tiwari
Posted Wed, 07/25/2012 - 03:42

Hi - I am 27 male of 5'10 and weigh 83 Kgs. I have actually a wide bone structure and I find very tough to stay in shape. I generally do 6 day workout and with 2 day cardio and 4 day weight training. I want to reduce my weight by atleast 8-10 kgs and also want to build strong muscles. Please suggest what kind of supplement (Whey / isolated etc..) would be best for me.

Thanks in anticipation
Ashish

  • 51
  • 49
No Profile Pic
Johnny
Posted Mon, 07/30/2012 - 17:39

Hi Steve, I am pretty new to the muscle building/weight loss area. I am 28 male, 5'7 and weigh 175 pounds. I am planning to reduce a bit more and gain muscle weight. I do exercise 5 times a week (cardio and strength). I am hence, planning to include Whey protein in my diet (preferably Optimum gold standard whey).

I am a bit worried, since I read some negatives about Protein Isolates. eg.

Can you put some light on this blurry topic?

  • 45
  • 49
No Profile Pic
Phil
Posted Mon, 08/13/2012 - 06:51

great article except for this one part that had two opposite things written about protein timing. in the section titled "when to take your protein" under the pre-workout portion you stated, "Your pre-workout meal should consist of a SLOW digesting protein powder that will keep the body in a positive nitrogen balance as you workout." such as casein powder. however, later on in the article under the "example protein supplement plan" you state, "Pre-Workout – Whey protein shake, FAST digesting protein source. Waxy maize." twice. so was the first statement regarding SLOW digestive protein powders for pre-workouts a mistake?

  • 49
  • 45
No Profile Pic
Evelyn
Posted Tue, 08/21/2012 - 10:02

I am 77 yrs. old and need to build muscle in my upper arms and thighs. Which is the best way to go. I take whole food multivitamins daily. Should I take whey protein supplements or get quicker results with whey powder plus supplementation.

  • 51
  • 51
Joey's picture
Joey
Posted Wed, 08/22/2012 - 15:19

Hey Evelyn,

Think of whey protein as a food. Look at the nutritional profile and include it with your muscle-building diet.

  • 36
  • 60
No Profile Pic
Lesley
Posted Wed, 08/22/2012 - 17:11

Is there a print friendly version?

  • 31
  • 54
Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Wed, 09/19/2012 - 15:47

Not at this time, no.

  • 33
  • 47
No Profile Pic
Partap
Posted Thu, 11/01/2012 - 18:44

To print a copy of the article, (1) click at the top of the article and (2) press two keys at the same time: Control + P

  • 36
  • 51
No Profile Pic
Sangeet
Posted Sat, 09/08/2012 - 05:12

hi,

I don't want to gain wait but am working out and want to build muscles. what kind of protein intake should i have. i am 44, 5'10" with 78kg weight.

thanks

  • 34
  • 54
No Profile Pic
as
Posted Mon, 09/17/2012 - 05:42

this is the best clearing everything article.
i was looking for an article who can answer my all queries in once, this was the article which i was looking for.
Thanks a lot for wonderful info.

  • 46
  • 51
No Profile Pic
manish
Posted Mon, 10/01/2012 - 03:01

hi, my height is 5'6", weight 54-55 kg, i want to increase my weight. please suggest me diet & workout timing.

  • 41
  • 56
No Profile Pic
nikhil paralkar
Posted Fri, 10/05/2012 - 06:05

my son is a ADHD (attention deficit hyper active)patient and has a very lean / thin structure , I would like to give him some weight gain supplement (whey or mass gain powder) is it advisable or does this kind of supplements have any side effects. Kindly advise.

  • 45
  • 32
Joey's picture
Joey
Posted Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:20

Hey Nikhil,

You can think of whey protein as food. I'd advise for you to give your son as much whole food as possible and supplement with whey when needed. There shouldn't be any side effects.

  • 38
  • 43
No Profile Pic
nitish
Posted Thu, 10/11/2012 - 10:36

Very nice article.... Gives a perfect idea of protein supplement... Very good.:-)

  • 32
  • 48
No Profile Pic
Dr.Abhishek Malkani
Posted Fri, 10/26/2012 - 02:21

Very nice whay protein

  • 34
  • 48
No Profile Pic
veer pratap singh
Posted Mon, 11/12/2012 - 23:27

it is a very good article about the body

  • 33
  • 47
No Profile Pic
Hanafi
Posted Sat, 11/17/2012 - 22:43

Currently im using C4 extreme as my pre-workout and inner armour super quad as my post-workout supplement, it will result lean muscle right? not sizing? can i alternate with mass gainer such as serious mass? enlighten me..

  • 46
  • 35
Joey's picture
Joey
Posted Tue, 11/20/2012 - 10:12

How much muscle/ weight you gain will be dependent on your diet. The supplements will help, but keep track of your overall calories to ensure results. Here is a very helpful guide: http://www.muscleandstrength.com/expert-guides/muscle-building

  • 41
  • 39
No Profile Pic
n8 the gr8
Posted Mon, 11/19/2012 - 00:29

I am 29 years old weighing 207lbs.and 5'6"i use to be 250lbs.my lowest i got to was 187lbs.the way i got that weight was alot of jumping jacks,push ups,and sit ups.Along with only having a whey protein shake after working out.And durinig work at a nine hour shift i would eat salad with low fat cottage cheese.After work i would pound down as much food as i can.Now thats all fine and well for losing weight now that i have all the weights and everything i need to gain muscle what is the best way to gain that muscle and not fat.BEING SINCE I HAVE A HISTORY OF HAVING A SLOW AND FAT GAINING METABOLISIM:^)

  • 43
  • 41
Joey's picture
Joey
Posted Tue, 11/20/2012 - 10:14

You can do a slow / lean bulk by slowly adding additional calories to your diet rather than making large jumps. Easting slightly above maintenance level will help limit fat gain.

  • 36
  • 47
No Profile Pic
Megan
Posted Sun, 12/16/2012 - 01:04

Thank you Muscle & Strength, this article is super informative and helped clarify a lot of questions I had about protein and the body in general :-)
Cheers!

  • 40
  • 35
No Profile Pic
rajesh
Posted Mon, 01/21/2013 - 02:46

mussal tak very nice proten................

  • 37
  • 33
No Profile Pic
Will
Posted Sun, 02/10/2013 - 17:06

One last thing I'm still confused about...

Do I take protein in the morning etc even on days I'm not working out? Rest days/cardio days

Thanks

  • 41
  • 44
mnsjason's picture
mnsjason
Posted Wed, 02/13/2013 - 19:06

I'd recommend that you do, as you're BMR will stay pretty steady throughout the week. You'll also want to make sure that you're providing adequate protein for growth, as it's during rest that muscles are able to repair and grow.

  • 46
  • 45
No Profile Pic
Will
Posted Thu, 02/14/2013 - 16:43

Or can i do that through a good protein diet?

  • 24
  • 33
No Profile Pic
Hossam
Posted Thu, 03/07/2013 - 21:04

I believe side effects of that stuff are much worse than we think.
I was told simply anything u take goes straight to liver and liver takes any harms of whatever uve taken and since those supplements are manufactured so it cant be as healthy or as good as natural food, then you find out ur liver is damaged and ur health is goin down.

  • 20
  • 25
No Profile Pic
Noel
Posted Tue, 03/19/2013 - 22:56

I am 50 yrs old, 155 lbs and 5'4" in height
and workout/lift weights 4x a week . . . I have a history of having high cholesterol levels if left unchecked (right now I am under prescription of atorvastatin [lipitor] for 100 days). . . the doctor recommends exercise and proper diet ( fish & Vegetables & White meat) . . . . my protein intake is Nitro-TEch . . taken 3x a day ( morning, post-work-out & bedtime) during training days and 2x a day (morning & bedtime) on non-training days. MY concern is the Cholosterol contained in the protein blend . . . . is this LDL (good) or HDL (bad) . . . Please enlighten me on this . . . any helpful commetns will be much appreciated.

  • 21
  • 19
No Profile Pic
nash
Posted Sun, 03/24/2013 - 16:18

mr Steve i used to workout around 8months continually but i didnt feel any big changes i took sizeon whey protein and bcaa now a days i didnt workout my height 5.11 weight 82kg i wanna get weight so pls tell me which supplement is better to take build muscle pre and post workouts
if i take per workout superpump
while training sizeon
post work bcaa
pls give me a guide

  • 15
  • 26
No Profile Pic
Jean Botha
Posted Tue, 03/26/2013 - 06:31

My son is 15 years old, he is a rugby player, and doing weights. I would like to know which protein supplements can he take that is save for him. We do not want to use something that is illegal. He wants to makes his career in sport and do not want to be banned from it.

  • 19
  • 27
mnsjason's picture
mnsjason
Posted Tue, 04/16/2013 - 17:30

While it would certainly be legal and safe to use any of the protein supplements on our site, you would want to look for a list of banned substances with the athletic commission your son is currently playing for or plans on playing with. This will ensure that he does not end up taking something that, while legal and safe, may be banned by specific organizations. The safest bet is to pick a pure whey isolate, as these supplements typically do not contain other ingredients. You can view a full description of any product on our site by clicking the Nutritional Info tab.

  • 13
  • 17

Pages

Add new comment