One of the most misunderstood concepts when it comes to supporting your gym efforts with good nutrition, is the important role that protein plays in getting the most out of your hard work! I know you’ve probably all heard that you need to be getting protein in, in order to build muscle, but how much? Well…again it depends on who you ask.
I’m a believer that, as long as you’re choosing high quality protein sources…you should be getting anywhere between 1.5 and 2 grams per pound of bodyweight. Obviously in this scenario…a 150lb young hardgainer would want to be getting at least 225 to 300 grams of protein a day!
Yes…that sounds a bit overwhelming, but the results are worth the time it may take to figure out WHERE to get all this from.
How YOU Can Get Enough Protein for Muscle Growth
That said, I figured I’d take care of that second part for you! I’ll tell you WHERE you can get it so all you’ve got to do is make sure you’re doing it! I know, sometimes that’s the hardest part. But you can only lead a horse to water right?
That said, the most important issue to cover is that there are LOTS of different forms of protein on the market…and each one has it’s own benefits. In order to benefit YOU the most with this post I wanted to go over each of these and tell you WHEN SPECIFICALLY IN THE DAY you can take these to get the optimal muscle building benefit of each.
First up is WHEY PROTEIN. Whey protein alone doesn’t tell the whole story. There’s Whey Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Concentrate and finally Hydrolyzed Whey Protein. They are all the same in that they utilize the fast absorbing “whey” as the main source of the protein. The difference is in the bioavailability of the whey in each (how quickly it can be absorbed and how much of it will actually be absorbed by the body).
Whey Protein Isolate is better than Whey Protein Concentrate in this regard, with about a 20-25% higher total absorption. That said, you will pay more for this. When you consider however that you’ll actually be absorbing more per serving you’ll actually be able to cut back serving size a bit with the isolate so you may wind up spending the same amount of money for a superior product!
The Hydrolyzed version of this is considered the Roll’s Royce of proteins. This is because the process further breaks down the proteins into more usable and absorbable amino acids. Keep in mind however, it hasn’t been really proven yet if this extra bit of bioavailability has been linked to faster muscle building. To date, only our friendly lab rats have shown such benefits!
Knowing that you want to look more muscular than a lab rat…I might save my money and stick with either of the first two options! Either way, because of its rapid absorption…you’re going to want to take your whey protein early in the morning to break the overnight fast and get some much needed aminos into your bloodstream and muscle cells as soon as possible. This will break the catabolic state you were in from not eating for the last 8 hours or so.
Next up is EGG PROTEIN. Eggs truly are nature’s perfect protein. When the yolk is eaten with the white you get every one of the essential amino acids and over 7 grams of protein in each egg. Most eat 3 or more eggs at a time, so you’re looking at over 20 grams of solid protein in one cheap and easy to prepare option.
That said, you should exercise some caution with the yolks. Even though the fats associated with eggs are of the “healthier” variety than that that you’d find in your potato chips, fried foods and processed foods…it’s still a good idea to limit the amounts here a bit. Simple fix. Just mix 1 yolk for every three eggs. Now you still get the abundance of the aminos without overdoing the cholesterol and fats from the yolks.
Next is something called MICELLULAR CASEIN. No…I’m not talking about Verizon or ATT here…I’m talking about Micellular casein which is a protein that is derived from milk in an undenatured form. What this mean to you and your body is that it is broken down MUCH MORE SLOWLY than Whey protein.
In fact, it can take up to 7 hours to completely break down and deliver the aminos from casein to your muscles. You might be saying “Well what the heck good is that?” I want to get the amino acids into my muscles fast so I can get them to recover quicker from a workout. This might be true if you were talking about a post workout shake. In that case you’d want to stick to the earlier discussed Whey Isolates.
BUT, recovery doesn’t just happen after a workout. In fact, the majority of your recovery is going to take place while you’re getting your ZZZ’s! And THIS is the perfect time to load up on your Casein. Take it just before bed and ensure that you’ll be delivering a slow drip of recuperative proteins to your muscles when they need it the most.
That said, here’s a little trick for you as well. Skim milk contains something called calcium caseinate. This is a derivative of casein and also breaks down verrrry slowwwllly! As a matter of fact, it provides a bit more in the way of protein content than casein does.
Anyway, if you only have whey protein but want the benefits of slower delivery of the protein into your system that casein provides….mix the whey with skim milk and drink it that way. Now you’ll get a sort of “before and after” effect of the protein. Early returns from the rapidly absorbed whey and a boomerang aftereffect from the more slowly digested calcium caseinate.
Finally, there’s the much unheralded SOY PROTEIN. The biggest advantage of soy is that it provides the only plant based complete protein source and is therefore perfect for vegetarians. Not only that, but it has been shown to have some heart protective effects as well, and since there is no milk product in it…it is a highly tolerable alternative to those that have problems with digesting lactose.
So there you have it. A breakdown of some of the most prevalent proteins on the market and those that are filling the shelves of your local supplement shops…and confusing you in the process. Now you can sort through the mess without a bit more clarity, looking for the protein source that is going to fit YOUR specific needs.
My suggestion is if you struggle the most with eating solid food for breakfast…then make sure you’re getting your whey protein powder at least to help you get the aminos your body needs at the most crucial time in the day. If on the other hand, your issues are eating badly at night and snacking on junk….then make sure you have a casein powder on hand to mix into a shake that can both kill your cravings and feed your muscle at the same time. Whichever your weakness, you should now feel more prepared to make an educated decision.
Want to know more about the right kinds of food to be eating to support muscle growth? Wish you knew EXACTLY WHEN certain foods can provide the most benefit to your muscle building efforts? Find out all of this and more in the AthLEAN-X Factor meal plans that come with the AthLEAN-X Training System. You can read more about both by clicking here
Jeff Cavaliere M.S.P.T, CSCS
Jeff Cavaliere is a Physical Therapist, Strength Coach and creator of the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and ATHLEAN-Rx Supplements. He has a Masters in Physical Therapy (MSPT) and has worked as Head Physical Therapist for the New York Mets, as well as training many elite professional athletes in Major League Baseball, NFL, MMA and professional wrestling. His programs produce “next level” achievements in muscle size, strength and performance for professional athletes and anyone looking to build a muscular athletic physique.