I talk about my stance on the supplement industry HERE and this is a follow up from that post. I am not against supplementation, I just hate all the hype and nonsense that surrounds the industry and as a result, I try to distance myself and my gyms from it as much as possible.
I was talking to a friend of mine a few weeks ago and he said he opened the boot of his car to get something out of it revealing a couple of tubs of protein that he happened to have stored there. His aunt or grandmother or something was there when he opened the boot and he said she nearly fainted and said:
“ohhhh, you’re on them muscle drink/ steroid things… I can’t believe it, they’ll be the death of you” – or something to that effect. Hilarious
People have this misconception that protein shakes are the primary determinant in building muscle and either 1. You can’t build muscle without them or 2. You get absolutely huge from taking them and they are like taking steroids or some other muscle building compound.
Neither of these statements are true in the slightest… So lads, the big massive tub of protein you buy before you start your 6 week ‘get ripped for Ibiza’ program is NOT going to make you huge and ripped.
Similarly, adding protein shakes to a shocking diet composing of a breakfast roll and a bowl of cornflakes is not really going to help you gain any muscle weight.
Ladies, protein powders do NOT ‘bulk you up’. If gaining muscle weight was that easy, 1. I’d probably have very few male clients and 2. Most men would not be able to get through the door
But… that isn’t to say that protein isn’t helping if you use it correctly.
So in order to clear this up quickly and not end up writing a 20,000-word book on protein, let’s do a simplified overview of what is going on in those big buckets of dodgy looking powder.
The 3 main functions of protein powder
First of all, protein powder is just a food stuff. That’s it. Any other ingredients or additions in there are merely minutiae.
There are a lot of different types of protein but only two worth talking about in real detail because they are the most popular ones.
Whey protein and Casein protein
Whey protein is useful pre and post-exercise (mainly weight training) and Casein is better as a ‘meal replacement’ or as a satiety mechanism/ stop you from being hungry.
Whey can be useful for:
They can help recovery.
Most good quality whey protein powders will be faster to digest and get absorbed than the whole food version. This helps get amino acids/protein into the muscle cells slightly quicker which can help accelerate the recovery process.
Using pre or post workout as a meal/snack.
Personally, I can eat a meal and then head straight to the gym afterwards and do a full training session. Some people cannot imagine going to the gym on an empty stomach and need to eat before training. Some people can’t train with anything in their stomach and swear by training on empty because they feel sluggish or just plain old fashioned ‘full’ after eating.
So taking protein in and around your workouts is a good thing for some people because they will provide a small bit of satiety for those who need something pre-workout but when a meal isn’t practical.
Making up for a lack of protein.
This is not really recommended as I would prefer if you reached your protein goals for any given day using real food. Sometimes a busy lifestyle or an eating preference can allow for a bit of leeway here. (vegetarians/vegans etc.)
Like I said above, I could ramble on for days on this subject but I don’t want the email to turn into a snoozefest so I’ll leave it at that.
Long story short, taking a whey post workout shake to accelerate recovery or taking a casein shake before bed to keep you from diving head first into the cookie jar, help keep amino acid levels up during times of calorie restriction, reduce protein /muscle breakdown will do you no harm and probably even help your progress. Probably.
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Bryan Kavanagh BSc. CSCS