When it comes to working out supplements are one of the most popular topics of discussion and protein supplements are at the top of that list. There can be so much information that it’s completely overwhelming. Here, we will simplify things and cover the What, Why, When, and How when it comes to adding protein to your diet to support your CrossFit and HIIT workouts.
Protein Supplements – Are They Worth It?
In the world of fitness, protein supplements are without a doubt one of the most common supplements out there. But are those big tubs of powder really worth it and can they help you pave your way to an aesthetic, functional physique? In this article, we’ll give you our take on the matter and discuss the different types of protein and their benefits. Without further ado, let’s see if there’s a faster whey to gains!
What Is Protein, Even?
Besides being a powdered supplement, protein is the building block of our bodies and is in fact, the most essential macronutrient.
The word itself comes from the Greek “protos” meaning primary/first, so that can tell you just how important protein is!
Proteins are basically made up of aminoacids that are linked together to form a protein and when we consume protein, the body breaks up the links to absorb the amino acids.
In the body, the functions of protein include but are not limited to:
- Protective function
- Catalytic function (In order for certain processes in the body to occur, certain proteins called enzymes need to be present)
- Structural (Proteins make up the structure of the body and most of its tissues)
- Regulative function (Proteins regulate a variety of mechanisms and systems in the body, such as the hormonal system)
Because protein is that important for the body, we need to make sure that we are deriving enough of it from quality sources.
That is, 0.6-1g of protein per lb. of bodyweight, depending on your body composition and activity levels (i.e someone with more muscle mass that trains more would be on the higher end of the 0.6-1g range)
Protein powder is a high-protein dietary supplement, which we use to make high protein intake easier or to provide the body with quick, vital protein in times of need or when food intake is not possible. Some protein supplements contain only one protein source, whereas others contain several. Animal and plant products can both be sources for protein supplements. Without a doubt, animal protein supplements are the most popular form of protein powders in sports nutrition (made from milk, eggs, meat).
In the past decade however, plant-based protein supplements have also gained traction, due to the increase in interest in plant-based diets, among the fitness population.
Protein before or after a workout?
Protein is without a doubt the most popular supplement in the fitness world nowadays. But should you drink it before or after a workout for optimal results?
Well, the truth is that you can absorb powdered protein significantly quicker than protein from food, making it the perfect post-workout drink, as it provides quality protein, quickly, at a time of need.
On the other hand, consuming a high-protein meal 2 hours before a workout can stimulate the anabolic (constructive) response of the body to a workout.
Optimally, if you only have one protein dose per day, you should have a high-protein, high-carb meal before a workout (at least 90 mins prior) and then, a whey protein shake after the workout.
This will ensure that you are covering all your nutritional needs for intra-workout energy, as well as recovery.
Types Of Protein Supplements
As we just mentioned, there are a wide variety of ways and sources used to produce protein supplements, so let’s have a look at the most popular ones!
Whey protein is by far the most popular protein supplement available. Its popularity stems from the fact that it is quickly absorbed by the body, taking only 60 minutes to do so. Protein intake is most important in the morning, just after waking up, and immediately after an exercise. When it comes to whey protein, we have a few options depending on the manner through which the protein is produced.
- Whey Concentrate
- This type of protein derives through filtration, during which the proteins separate from all other contents of the product used for making it.
- Though good, whey concentrate contains some fat and lactose, which in many people can lead to stomach discomfort due to lactose intolerance.
- Nevertheless, up to 85% of the content in whey concentrate supplements is protein, meaning that it is a good option, especially if you are on a budget.
- Whey Isolate
- This second variation of whey protein is the isolated version, which, as you can guess by the name, undergoes more processing.
- More processing means that a bigger part of the protein will be isolated and thus, the end product will have less fats and lactose.
- This is without a doubt one of the mid-budget options for every trainee.
- Hydrolyzed Whey Protein
- This third type of whey protein is the bugatti of all proteins as it is the most expensive protein supplement, due to it having the highest protein content.
- The protein derives via a process called “hydrolysis” which breaks down the protein molecules to a certain extent and improves their absorption.
- A fun fact here is that hydrolyzed protein is so good at providing amino acids, that it is often added in some intra-workout formulas to support the musculature with a quick amino acid flow.
- Whey Concentrate
This is another dairy-derived protein supplement that can have a place in a supplement regimen. Although the amino acid composition of this form of protein is beneficial, absorption is substantially slower (6-8 hours). Casein has a significant anti catabolic effect, making it ideal for consumption when fast protein isn’t required right away. The amino acid flow is weaker but longer during casein digestion, making it an essential component of our pre-sleep meal, resulting in a powerful anti catabolic impact and improved sleep recovery.
This supplement is the subject of much debate because it is thought to impact testosterone levels in males, according to some studies. We won’t go into detail because this is still a topic due for study and research for a concrete conclusion. Nevertheless, when the amino acid patterns of plant and animal proteins are examined, soy protein is the plant protein that comes closest to animal-source protein in every scenario. You can easily absorb soy protein and it can be an excellent supplement to your diet, particularly if you are a vegetarian.
Hemp, also known as cannabis sativa, is an excellent source of protein because it includes a complete set of amino acids in the proper ratios, including BCAAs and essential amino acids. Cannabis is free of sugars, as well as saturated and trans fats, lactose, and gluten. Hemp protein can also strengthen the immune system and metabolism while lowering harmful cholesterol and blood pressure. Hemp is an excellent addition to your diet if you want to enhance your protein consumption because it is a completely natural product that you can easily absorb and is high in antioxidants and enzymes.
What’s the quality of plant-based protein sources?
As you may already know, amino acids are the building blocks of all proteins. There are 20 amino acids in total, 9 of which are essential, meaning that the body needs them, but can’t produce them on its own. And while animal products like meat, organs, eggs and dairy, contain all essential amino acids, the same doesn’t really go for plant foods.
Most plant foods lack certain amino acids, which makes them incomplete, when it comes to their protein content. For this reason, plant protein sources are classified as being of a lesser quality and biological value for the human body, as opposed to animal products. Unfortunately for some, this will never change, but if you are a plant-based eater, your best bet is to combine different plants, in order to make them compensate for one another’s lacks.
Can you get enough protein from the vegan diet?
One thing we know about plant-based nutrition is that it is simply poor in protein and high in carbohydrates and fiber. And though it may be hard to meet your protein needs on a plant-based diet, it is not impossible.
As a plant-based eater, you should rely on a variety of grains, beans, legumes and other products, to meet all your protein needs for the day.
Here are some of the best plant-based protein sources
By combining these and other plant products, you CAN get enough protein, but, it is likely that you won’t get the full amino acid profile that your body needs.
Nevertheless, we encourage you to experiment and see what works best for you!
The market offers a wide variety of options when it comes to protein supplements and those are without a doubt viable additions to your nutrition plan.
To choose the best option for you, factor in the following:
- Type of diet you’re following (Are you plant-based or an omnivore?)
- Any present/past intolerances to any ingredients contained in the product
Based on these 3, you will be able to easily pick the best protein supplement for you, which will grant sustained protein intake at times of need, thus improving recovery and overall body composition in the long term.