Fitness and sports, in general, are inseparable from the modern lifestyle. But training alone is not enough to keep fit. A balanced and well thought-out diet is a must for an athlete. The forms conscious and targeted protein intake of one of the core elements of a sports diet. With meals, the body does not always get enough protein to compensate for the increased need for these macronutrients.
It is best for the body, and especially for the muscles, to benefit from the pure proteins obtained by means of special filtration processes. That’s why most sports doctors recommend a heavy sip of protein drink after training. But not only you as an athlete, but also other groups benefit from the intake of protein-containing supplements. The range of protein supplements on the market today is huge and choosing a product is anything but easy.
Top 10 Protein Powders
What is a protein powder?
Protein powder is a high-dose protein in powder form, which is designed for the preparation of instant shakes. On the market, such powders are available in different sized containers and in a wide range of flavors. First and foremost, the protein powders are aimed at power and endurance athletes as well as fitness enthusiasts in general.
What are proteins and what functions do these organic compounds take over in the organism?
Proteins, colloquially called proteins, are organic macromolecules, which consist of the so-called proteinogenic amino acids. The amino acids combine to form proteins using peptides, the “short” proteins. Depending on the type of protein, these compounds form chains of different lengths. In total, 21 amino acids are involved in the production of proteins in the human organism, with 8 amino acids being essential for humans.
Essential means that the organism is unable to synthesize these amino acids themselves. Humans are reliant on the intake of the essential amino acids L-isoleucine, L-leucine, L-lysine, L-methionine, L-phenylalanine, L-threonine, L-tryptophan, L-valine.
Why do athletes need protein-containing supplements?
The protein powders have been an integral part of every balanced sports diet for years. Not only professional athletes, but also committed fitness fans and bodybuilders use protein shakes to build up the muscle mass targeted and swift. The reason for this strategy is an increased need for protein after extensive training, whereby the supplied proteins benefit in particular the musculature.
This protein hunger of the body has to be satisfied – and this is exactly where the protein powders come into play. After a long training session, the muscles send a clear signal to the organism: they need an intake of the body’s own building blocks in order to gain mass and to withstand the challenge. When the muscles get a demanded dose of protein, the muscles grow. If the proteins are left out, the training proves to be not very effective.
It can even lead to muscle atrophy. If the strength athlete tries to cover his increased protein requirement with an extensive meal, the organism, together with proteins, gets plenty of carbohydrates and fats that the body currently does not need.
For which groups are high-dose protein powders suitable?
Although most manufacturers promote protein powder primarily as a high-quality sports food, strength athletes are not the only profiteers of these supplements. Regular intake of pure proteins makes sense for the following users:
- Strength athletes, endurance athletes: Athletes and fitness fans gain the most by eating protein shakes.
- People who want to lose weight: The supply of protein has been shown to help with weight loss because proteins are enough for a long time to fill you and on the other hand, the weight loss is not at the expense of muscle mass. A protein-rich low-carb diet also ensures that the unwanted yo-yo effect is absent and you permanently reduce body weight.
- Patients during convalescence in general weakness: The highly concentrated protein shakes support muscle growth and regeneration. Even in the elderly and in muscle loss, the protein powder can provide an effective remedy. An important prerequisite is a regular training as well as sufficient physical activities.
- People who are exposed to permanent stress: It must be proven that the intake of protein lowers the stress level. Obviously, it is associated with the stabilization of insulin and thus blood sugar levels. In addition, a dose of protein provides energy, strengthens the body’s defense and generally helps to master the stressful situations more successfully. Of course, the stress cannot be completely eliminated by taking protein shakes.
Which proteins are used in a protein supplement?
All protein powders can be divided into two large groups. On the one hand, these are the mono protein food supplements that only use one source of protein – the whey protein whey. On the other hand, these are multi-component supplements. In this case, manufacturers use a mixture of three to five types of protein, with the whey protein usually being present as a component of the mixture.
- Whey protein: the well-digestible whey protein
The whey protein is probably the most popular protein source ever. This protein is derived from whey (English “whey”), which originally contains only 3 percent protein, through a multi-stage filtering process. The whey protein is a real booster for muscle growth and is processed by the body very quickly to muscle mass.
However, for people with lactose intolerance, lactose, which is present in all Whey products except ultra-high-filtered isolates, can be somewhat problematic. Most Whey protein powders are a mixture of protein isolates, concentrates, and sometimes hydrolyzates.
- Casein: particularly saturating milk protein
More than ¾ of the protein mass of milk is casein. The remainder is attributable to the whey protein. In the case of multicomponent protein powders, casein is usually included as calcium caseinate. Just like Whey, casein also benefits the muscles but does not work that fast. It takes up to 8 hours for casein to be split in the gastrointestinal tract and for the amino acids to reach their target – the musculature.
Due to slow metabolism, the milk protein casein is ideal for losing weight. All strength athletes benefit from the casein-containing supplements since these products supply the muscles with all necessary amino acids over a longer period of time.
- Soy protein: Sas vegan protein
The soy protein is the most popular vegetable protein ever, and not only vegans are convinced of it. The soy protein is generally well digestible and produces long-lasting satiety. In addition to the whey proteins whey and casein, soy protein also directly benefits the musculature. A clear plus of soy protein: it does not contain cholesterol, which has a positive effect on blood sugar levels.
The disadvantage is a comparatively high content of phytoestrogens. These hormone-like materials are suspected in the male athletes to negatively influence the testosterone levels. It is no coincidence that soya is considered a “female” protein and is actually recommended primarily to athletes. Alternatives to soy protein are other plant proteins such as wheat and pea protein.
Isolates, concentrates, hydrolysates – what is behind these terms?
With only a few exceptions, every protein powder is a multi-component protein. For example, even if the manufacturer identifies the product as “100% whey”, it is most often a combination of whey concentrates and whey isolates. Not only the whey protein, but all other proteins are in a supplement optionally as isolates, concentrates or hydrolyzates and – as is often the case – represented as a mixture of these products. We will briefly discuss the differences between these forms using the example of whey protein.
A whey protein concentrate is produced as a by-product in the recovery of casein from the milk. This process is called ultrafiltration: A membrane lets water, acids and lactose pass, protein and fat remain behind. Subsequently, this mass is evaporated to further increase the protein concentration. The proportion of pure protein in a whey concentrate is between 70 and 80 percent, the fat content is up to 5 percent. Ultrafiltration does not filter out all of the lactose, so carbohydrates make up around 6 to 8 percent of the concentrate.
A protein isolate is formed during another filtration process. Often, manufacturers now use microporous ceramic filters or alternatively resort to an ion exchange process.
When and how should the protein powders be taken?
We, therefore, limit ourselves to some general advice on the dosage and intake of protein supplements.
- At least in the first few weeks after the start of the training program, quite a few sports doctors are finding it more appropriate to exceed the recommended dosage. According to the principle, a lot helps a lot the proteins quickly build up your muscles. Later, the increased dosage loses its booster effect, because the excess protein excretes the organism.
- The powders are usually equally soluble in both milk and water. However, some manufacturers recommend the preparation only with milk. You prefer to eat low-fat milk, especially if you are on a low-fat and low-carbohydrate diet.
- The protein shakes are to drink once a day unless the manufacturer gives a different recommendation. The whey supplements work best after a workout. Whether you prepare your drink immediately after training or an hour or two later, it does not play a significant role.