Protein, comprising of essential amino acids does more than to help repair muscles post workout. Protein does not get utilized by the body as easily as does fat and carbohydrate, for the body stores it for a limited period of time to help in certain important, crucial functions. These functions include transport of nutrients, promoting muscle build up, repair of injured muscle tissues, maintaining and normal blood pH, enhancing immune function, helping with adequate hormone production.
Since protein, unlike fat and carbohydrates, is not stored for later use therefore, limiting the usage of protein for one particular time.
Nutrition and performance experts base their recommendation on a 25-30 gm. protein intake per sitting or per meal as provided in the evidence studies. Unlike earlier times, the nutrition market has evolved and now offers a wide range of protein-types so that you may choose which suits you best and use it to max out your results.
Protein powders are mostly flexible and can be used in a variety of ways that are effortless thus making them a very convenient source of protein option. What else could time-crunched individuals, especially athletes ask for, right?
Here comes the big question: How do you pick one?
To start with, know how much protein you need. As per evidence based studies, recreational athletes need anywhere between 0.8-1.0 gm. protein/ kg of bodyweight per day. However, if you workout for 1.5-2 hours per day, 4-5 days a week then your protein recommendations may go up to 1.2-1.5 gm. protein/ kg of bodyweight per day to maintain a positive nitrogen balance atmosphere so that there is efficient protein synthesis happening.
When it comes down to the protein content per serving, most powders provide anywhere between 20-50 gm. protein per serving. It is widely believed that having a higher protein concentration per serving would be beneficial, it is rather the contrary. As mentioned earlier, the body uses limited amount of protein per meal as it cannot really store the extra for later use. And therefore, the best choice would be to narrow down on a protein powder that fits the 25-30 gm. / serving category.
While all proteins contain amino acids, not all protein sources as similar in this regard, i.e. the amino acid ranges in all the sources differ from one another. Broadly categorized, there are two main types of proteins namely, whey and casein that account for 20% and 80% of milk, respectively. The third one to enter the nutrition market has been plant based protein (best suited for those who are vegan or intolerant towards lactose form milk). Each type of protein has a different effect on the body, therefore before going for any protein, it is suggested that you pay attention to the label.
Whey being an easily digestible protein with high bioavailability is rapidly absorbed and taken into the blood stream quickly. It helps carry the essential amino acids and nutrients to the exercising muscle to aid with faster recovery and replenishment. Also, the fact that whey protein contains the highest mount of Leucine- the essential amino acid that is most important for boosting energy, muscle recovery as well as performance.
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While Casein is also a milk protein and shares the same bioavailability score as whey, it affects the protein synthesis differently. The difference is in the rate of protein absorption and the consequent steps; casein being a slow digesting protein may take upto 7 hours or more for absorptions and results in a sustained release of protein as compared to whey protein, which almost instantaneously peaks the protein synthesis rate.
While whey can be considered as an ideal post workout option, casein can be used for overnight, sustained protein absorption.
Plant protein, being the newest addition to nutrition market; also keep the potential of providing a good source of amino acids and help with maintaining immune functions. Soy protein is the best among the plant based protein after milk proteins, as it contains a complete and a higher amino acids profile as compared to other plant proteins.
There are several other options to choose among plant based protein sources for those who are allergic to soy. However, since plant proteins usually have strong flavours, they need to be masked using sweeteners and/ or flavourings. This could sometimes get them to have strong flavours or too much sweetness.
One of the major factors when considering a product is the safety quotient. Aim for products that bear the certified marks from the FSSAI or the NSF certified for sport mark to ensure that they are safe, authentic and will give the promised results.
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