Protein 101

In a world awash with hyped-up protein powders and outrageous claims, it can seem near impossible to know what’s what.

We feel your pain, and so we’ve compiled a few hints to help you choose protein supplements that are best for you.

First, let’s make a distinction: Protein powders are NOT the same as mass gainers or meal replacements. Mass gainers are designed to (you guessed it) help you increase your mass - and we’re not only talking about your lean muscle mass. Many people who have unwittingly bought a mass gainer have gained fat as well. Meal replacements are designed to provide you with all the components of a balanced meal. Like mass gainers, having a meal replacement after a workout can actually promote weight gain if you are using them in addition to your regular meals.

To ensure your protein supplement is not going to sabotage all your hard work, make sure it is low in fat (about 1-5 grams per serving), low in carbs (again, 1-5 grams per serving) and high in protein (around 20-30 grams per serving). Mass gainers and meal replacements will be high in all these nutrients.

Also make sure your powder only has 7 - 10 ingredients - and you want to be able to pronounce them. The more natural the ingredients the better for your body.

There are also a few different types of protein supplements you should know about. You should pick the one that works for you based on when and how you plan to use it.

Concentrate: This protein is absorbed at a moderate pace. It’s ideal for between meals.

Isolate: Whey protein isolate is absorbed at a quicker rate, and is therefore recommended right after a workout since it will feed protein and amino acids into depleted muscle cells.

Casein: This has the longest digestion period and is a popular pick among bodybuilders and athletes as their pre-bed meal since it will slowly feed muscles throughout the night.

Finally, it’s important to look around when you’re searching for a protein supplement. Don’t just buy one because it is the most expensive and has pie-in-the-sky claims. Supplements that have been around awhile are the best. If it has only been around a year or so, it’s better to go for a protein supplement that has a longer track record.

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