Muscle Fuel – A Guide to Protein Supplements - Protein Shakes

Muscle Fuel – A Guide to Protein Supplements – Protein Shakes & Amino Acids

There are hundreds of supplements out there for building muscle and losing weight and it’s hard to know as a consumer which of them offers genuine advantages and which ones you should ignore. The fact of the matter is that some of them genuinely do work, and in fact are really great at helping you build muscle, but unfortunately others do not and are just a scam. Meanwhile some others might work perfectly fine, but not be worth the money and not be necessary for most modest aims.

Here we will look at one of the main categories of supplements – protein shakes and amino acids, which are used to help give you the raw materials your body needs to build muscle mass.

Protein Shakes

For building muscle, protein shake is a very good supplement and is the only one that is close to being essential. While you can build muscle without protein shake, you won’t build half as much half as quickly because there are few other ways to get this much protein in your diet without eating an actual elephant. If you don’t have protein in your diet then you won’t be able to repair the micro-tears caused by lifting weights, and they won’t cause your muscles to grow. Simple as.

The best time of course to take protein shake is during your anabolic windows which means before bed and after workouts, and to keep it lean it’s better to take it with water (though it’s less healthy).

There are also different kinds of protein and this is worth noting. The best type of protein without a doubt here is whey protein, which is formed of (you guessed it) whey, which is a by-product of the cheese making process meaning it occurs naturally in milk. This is the most ‘bioavailable’ form of protein and the fastest acting, and it’s also relatively cheap.

Another option for those who don’t fancy whey is casein, which also comes from milk and makes up 80% of the protein in milk (as opposed to the 20% that’s whey). It’s unfortunately not as bio-available as whey meaning you won’t get as much benefit from it, and it is known to cause more ‘bloating’. What it’s good for though is a slower release of protein, which ensures that your body is gradually supplied with protein as opposed to getting it in one big go. This is handy for during sleep when your body will be quietly building your muscle over a long period and will appreciate that steady supply of building materials.

Another option is egg protein, which is all good and well and has the advantage of being lower in carbs than whey protein, but is also very expensive for what it is – especially considering the fact that it isn’t great in terms of bio-availability compared to either whey or eggs. So you’re better off just eating egg whites if you want to go this way (be careful of cholesterol and biotin deficiency though).

Finally there’s soy protein which comes from soy bean. This is a complete source of protein, but is much less bioavailable than whey and doesn’t have the same friendly branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s) that you get from whey. In short soy protein won’t work as well, but if you’re a vegetarian (bad idea) or allergic to milk (not your fault) then this is a route you can go down.

Amino Acids

Amino acids come in tablet form, and do a similar job to protein shakes providing you with the amino acids directly which make up protein. These are the carbon compounds that our bodies are made up of, and taking them in tablet form of course means that there’s no carbs or bloating. They’re also quite cheap this way, and though they’re less bioavailable, they often come in good combinations ensuring you get the right balance of BCAAs and essential amino acids.

Protein And Its Role In A Healthy Lifestyle

The role of protein in our lives is well understood by most of us. It’s an essential nutrient. Proteins are made up of long strings of amino acids, called polypeptides. When we consume proteins, our digestive system breaks them back down into their constituent amino acids for subsequent use by the body. We use amino acids in some shape or form for nearly every bodily process. They are the pre-cursors, or ‘ingredients’ we need to be able to manufacture hormones, enzymes, body tissues and body structures. They are used to repair cells and can even be used as fuel to keep our cells running.

Proteins – An Essential Source Of Amino Acids

Tyrosine for example is used to produce melanin, our skin and hair pigment. The essential amino acids valine, isoleucine and leucine are used to build and repair muscle tissue. Arginine is used to make nitric oxide, a vasodilatory mediator that plays a vital role in keeping our blood pressure healthy and our heart muscles contracting regularly. Creatine, despite its popularity as a muscle-building supplement, is naturally produced in our bodies using arginine and glycine. You can read more about Creatine supplements, and whether they’re worth the hype.

Protein Supply – It’s All About Diet

Most of us get enough protein from our diet. Even those of us who perhaps don’t eat as healthily as we should! Proteins are obtained from all manner of dietary sources. Some of these foods are referred to as complete protein sources, meaning they provide all the essential amino acids and many of the non-essential ones as well. What is an essential amino acid? All amino acids are ‘essential’ in the sense that we require all 20 of them in varying amounts. However, the 9 amino acids deemed ‘essential’ are those that must be obtained via our diet because we can’t manufacture them ourselves. In other words, they are an ‘essential’ part of our diet. Non-essential amino acids are those we can manufacture ourselves provided we have the raw ingredients.

Most animal proteins are complete protein sources – meat, dairy, eggs, fish. Therefore, people who eat these proteins regularly are unlikely to require special protein supplements unless they’re into heavy bodybuilding. Even then, those additional protein requirements can usually be met by increasing dietary intake of proteins.

Even Vegetarians And Vegans Get Enough Dietary Protein

Even vegetarians are mostly OK for protein because they still eat diary and eggs. The group at most risk of not getting enough protein are vegans, who only eat non-animal foods. However there are many plant based sources of proteins that contain these essential amino acids, which debunks the protein myth that we need to eat meat as a source of protein! Hemp and soy proteins for example contain all 20 amino acids. Other good plant based sources of protein for vegans includes nuts, seeds, and legumes – beans, chickpeas, lentils etc. In fact, one cup of cooked beans provides the same quantity of protein as 2 ounces of meat! Mushrooms are another good source of protein.

About Stephen Sammes

Stephen (spelt ‘ph’ not ‘v’) Sammes is a writer and editor with a special interest in natural health and wellness. He’s also keenly interested in food. Of the healthy sort that is! When he’s not researching and writing about health, he can often be found improving his own at his local gym.