If you're looking to build muscle quickly, boost your macros and even shrink your recovery time, it's hard to beat a decent protein shake — whether it's whey or vegan. With research proving that protein supplementation, as part of a resistance training programme, can maintain lean body mass and increase strength, adding protein shakes to your diet quickly becomes a no-brainer if you're looking to build strength, size or athleticism.
But remember, with great amounts of protein comes great responsibility. It's important to know that protein supplementation isn't a catch-all solution for guys looking to add mass quickly. Rather, it's a convenient way of increasing your protein intake day-to-day and, for some, a solution to curbing a sweet tooth. There are, however, certain hurdles you should overcome to truly become a master of the protein shake
Protein is a molecule made from chemicals called amino acids. Our bodies need these amino acids to function properly – they carry oxygen through blood, boost the immune system and build muscle.
There are 20 different amino acids in all, nine of which the human body can't produce. These are known as 'essential' amino acids and we need to get them from food.
Knowing is what is actually in your protein shake. Milk contains two main types of protein: whey and casein.
Whey protein is found in the watery portion of milk and is a mixture of protein isolates. It's considered a complete protein – it contains all nine essential amino acids, which the body can't produce. That's why whey protein shakes are so important for muscle gain and why they are so popular in fitness circles. Generally, whey protein contains lower levels of fat and carbohydrates, minimising gut distress and helps with weight-loss.
So you know your casein from your whey protein, but do you know about whey isolate? Whey isolate, generally speaking, goes through more processing to eliminate reserves of fat, carbohydrates and lactose. Because of this, whey isolate is normally more expensive than regular whey protein.
Unlike whey, casein is a slow releasing protein, which can take up to six hours to completely digest and be utilised. Casein will help drip-feed your muscles over several hours, ensuring your body is constantly topped up with protein.
It's not ideal during the day – after a gym session – when your body desperately needs that protein fix. However, taking Casein last thing at night – the time when your body recovers best – is the most practical way to keep your muscles firing on all cylinders, avoiding 'starvation mode' – when your body starts to break down muscle for fuel.
If you want to fully maximise your fitness goals, then you will need to consume a combination of both casein and whey protein (although not in the same shake). A study conducted by Baylor University, Texas, observed 36 males undergoing heavy strength training and discovered that the group consuming a whey and casein combination far out-performed those who were on a combination of whey, BCAAs, and glutamine supplement. Over the 10-week period, results showed that those who took a combination of both protein supplements built significantly more lean muscle.
If you're not sure where to start, give Alpha Meal a try. 100% Grass fed whey protein.