Mass Guide to Protein Powder Supplements in Sports Nutrition

Mass Guide to Protein Powder Supplements in Sports Nutrition

Protein is an essential nutrient for multiple bodily functions, including muscle growth, maintenance and repair and also the production of hormones and disease-fighting antibodies. When humans consume insufficient amounts of protein – whether from meat, dairy, vegetables or protein powder supplements – then the above functions can become compromised, leading to illness and muscle loss, as well as off-kilter hormone regulation and blood pH balance.

How much protein is too much?

The average man is typically advised to eat 56 grams of protein; the average woman should, we repeatedly read, aim for 46 grams of protein. This is a rule of thumb based on 0.8g of protein per bodyweight kilogram, where the ‘average’ man in this instance weighs 70kg/154lb and the average woman 58kg/127lb. If you weigh more or less than these averages, then your recommended protein intake scales accordingly.

People who frequently exercise (at least 2-3 times a week) with their bodyweight or free weights should aim for 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram bodyweight for effective recovery and muscle repair. 2 grams and more of protein per bodyweight kilo is thought to be excessive.

How often should I be eating protein or taking protein powder supplements?

Answers to this question are wide-ranging and often contradictory. If you’re looking to maintain or bulk, a quarter to a third of your calories could come from protein sources. If you’re looking to cut fat, you might look to swap some of your carbohydrate calories for protein. And there’s nothing wrong with eating a solid breakfast, lunch and dinner to evenly distribute your protein intake throughout the day.

What are the best sources of protein?

Protein is often categorised as either ‘complete’ or ‘incomplete’, i.e. containing all essential amino acids or lacking in some of them. Animal meat, eggs and soy are complete protein sources, whereas beans and nuts are incomplete proteins.


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Whey protein powder is typically regarded as the most quickly absorbed protein (particularly post-workout) and free-range eggs and meats are often deemed to be healthier sources of protein generally, but the best protein sources, ultimately, are the ones that work best for your goals, budget and dietary needs.

Why should I take protein supplements and which should I be taking?

Protein supplements from protein powders to protein bars can help you to achieve your daily protein requirements, not least if you’re training hard and regularly. They are often convenient, vitamin-enriched, flavoursome sources of this key macronutrient and can often be quicker utilised by the body after training to help tip the body into a state of muscle repair and growth known as anabolism.

The amount of protein you should be taking from supplements is ideally calculated from the discrepancy between the amount you get from real food and the amount you need to achieve your dietary goals. If you can stomach dairy, whey protein-derived supplements are widely researched, effective and affordable workout supplements.

What is whey protein, what type of whey protein powder should I try and when should I take it?

20% of the protein in milk is whey, a by-product of cheese production, rich in the amino acids discussed in our amino acids guide. Protein powder supplements are mostly fast-digesting and are typically found split into the below four categories.

Whey concentrate powder

Whey concentrate protein is the most common protein powder on the market today and is typically the highest in fat and lactose content, but the lowest in cost. Contains 70 to 85% protein per serving.

Whey protein isolate

Whey isolate powders are more expensive than concentrate as they are typically further filtered to reduce fat and lactose contents. They are often reported easier on the stomach but are invariably more expensive. Contains 90-98% protein per serving.

Whey protein blends

Blends of whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate combine the best of the above proteins: increased protein percentage at a mid-level cost per serving.

Casein protein powder

Four-fifths of the protein in milk is casein, a slow digesting, high quality (upwards of 90% pure) protein. It often has a ‘thicker’ taste and texture. Due to its slower absorption, it is often taken as a pre-sleep/overnight supplement.

In summary, the first three whey variants above are best taken first thing in the morning or following a workout and casein protein before bed to help keep the body in an anabolic state. If you are keen to experiment with your body composition and nutrition and are not lactose intolerant, then you should try each of the above proteins, and see which one works best for you.

Vegan-friendly protein versus whey powder

There is, still, a misconception in Western society that non-animal-derived diets can lead to illness and, in terms of bodybuilding, weakness. And yet, a quick search for ‘vegan bodybuilders’ should help to retard and even fully douse this notion. Non-dairy protein supplements still contain protein(!) and still contribute to your macros and your muscle mass development.

As stated above, however, soy protein is one of the few vegan-friendly protein supplements with a ‘complete’ amino acid profile, which could affect recovery and growth. If you want to explore non-dairy protein supplementation, you could add vegan protein to soups and bakes or even swap it with one of your scoops of dairy protein in between meals.

What are the side effects of increased protein consumption?

Increased protein consumption with all other variables held constant can lead to:

  • Weight gain
  • Dehydration
  • Stomach cramps and bloating

Any change to your diet should be consequent on education and consultation with a doctor where appropriate. Increased protein consumption is often best complimented with increased water and vegetable intake as well as regular exercise.

If you’ve found this sports supplements guide useful, why not check out our complete guides to amino acid supplementation and diet supplements and pills.

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Jack Mann

Jack Mann

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