An increasing number of bodybuilders today are advocating the benefits of protein shakes. Even when you walk round the supermarket rather than a sports or health shop, you will see an array of protein-enriched foods, such as cereals and various flavours of pre-mixed shakes.
There are several different types of protein such as soy, milk, casein and whey. Although one of the best ways to provide your body with the correct amount of protein is by eating a nutritious diet, many bodybuilders agree it’s not always that simple to ingest all their protein through meals alone.
If you have a full-time job and other commitments, you may not have time to prepare protein-rich meals and this is where protein shakes come in. As long as you have a high-quality protein powder, a supply of water and a shaker bottle, you can ensure you always get your daily quota.
Benefits of protein shakes
Protein is vital for the production of muscles, manufacturing enzymes, hormones, cellular messengers, immune-system components and nucleic acids. When our body doesn’t have enough protein, it can’t function properly – it’s as simple as that! Our muscles don’t heal as quickly, so it’s likely that they can be over trained, thus causing injuries.
Hence if you don’t have time for a proper meal, a protein shake can quickly and easily provide the supply your body needs.
A good time for a protein shake is after a workout, so it can be delivered quickly to your muscles and heal any micro-tears caused by intense exercise. Protein shakes take only about 30 minutes to reach the muscles – vastly quicker than sold foods.
Best type of protein?
Whey protein is a favourite supplement for bodybuilders whose goal is to put on muscle and enhance their physique. The benefits of protein shakes are gauged using protein quality tests. A much-used criteria when measuring the quality of protein is its biological value, which is abbreviated to “BV”.
The BV is a scale of measurement that determines what percentage of a nutrient source is utilised by the body. The highest BV any food source can have is 100%. The BV refers to how well your body uses the nitrogen uptake (protein) that you’ve consumed.
The higher a protein’s BV, the better it’s considered to be for promoting growth. According to scientific research, when a protein with a higher BV is digested, it is used and retained more effectively.
This is believed to equate to an increased amount of lean tissue, but of course, other factors such as exercise and calorie intake also affect the end result. You can’t expect protein shakes alone to create the perfect physique!
As whey is a complete protein with a high BV, it contains most of the amino acids you need. In fact, it has the highest natural branched-chain amino acid content, with a BV of around 100.
Eggs also have a BV of 100, beef has a BV of 80, casein has 77, soy has 74, wheat has 54 and beans have 49. So a shake made with whey powder tops the list of the best protein shakes.
This doesn’t mean you should stop ingesting other sources of protein such as beef, eggs and milk. While it’s useful to understand the value of BV, this shouldn’t blinker you towards other protein-rich foods.
How much protein builds muscle?
You should take in a minimum amount of 1g of protein per pound of body weight to build muscle. If you weigh 150 lbs, for example, then you should take in 150g of protein each day for muscle growth.
There has been much debate about whether there’s a maximum amount of protein the body should have. One school of thought is that you can never have too much protein, as it speeds up the healing process. However, nutritionists say that if you take in excessive protein, you should counter this with calcium and magnesium to supplement your diet.
As well has having a protein shake after an intense workout, some nutritionists also recommend having one before bed. While you sleep, your muscles are slowly being depleted of protein, so it pays to top up your levels before bedtime.
Similarly, when you wake up, especially if you’ve had around eight hours’ sleep or more, extra protein should be consumed for breakfast too.
Cost v benefits?
Nutrition experts advise that having a balanced diet and supplementing this with whey protein drinks, rather than anything full of carbohydrates, can be beneficial. There are a number of types of protein powder and this can be bewildering for someone just starting out.
A commonly used type is concentrate, which tends to be the cheapest on the market. However, although it mixes well and can taste great, on average it contains only about 80% protein. It also contains around 5g of carbohydrate and 3g of fat per average serving. It also contains lactose.
The second type, isolate, has been filtered to remove most of the fat and carbs. As a result, it has a higher protein content of about 90%. It’s also good for people who are lactose intolerant. Although it doesn’t mix as well as concentrate and tends to be more expensive, it’s more beneficial in terms of higher protein content.
The third option, hydrolysate powder, has been filtered more times than isolate and has the highest protein content at about 95%. It’s ideal if you’re doing a thorough workout, or two sessions a day. It’s also full of digestive enzymes, which break it down more quickly, making it faster absorbing.
Best protein shaker bottles?
You can take steps to enhance the taste of your protein shakes such as using an insulated bottle, so your drink remains as cold as possible. There’s nothing worse than a lukewarm protein shake after a tough workout!
There are some specialist shaker bottles on the market, including the most popular brand, Blender Bottle, which is a household name for a lot of bodybuilders. They were among the first to include mixing balls for supplements and have a guaranteed leak-proof lid. The bottle can be washed in a dishwasher and it comes in different sizes, ranging from 20 to 32 ounces.
The Thermos vacuum-insulated stainless steel shaker bottle, although slightly more expensive, will keep your drink ice cold for longer – for up to 16 hours, to be precise – and it has all the useful features of a solid shaker bottle, such as a removable agitator that’s easy to clean and a carrying loop.
Regardless of your goals, protein shakes are a useful part of any nutrition programme and even people who don’t body build can enjoy a multitude of benefits.
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