Best Protein Powder for Building Muscle, the Basics
Protein powders are commonly consumed by people that workout. But, what is the best protein powder for building muscle and getting quicker results from your workout?
Let’s first consider the basics of protein powder.
The most widespread protein powder is whey. Another common protein powder is casein. Both of these proteins come from milk.
Whey protein is digested and absorbed faster in the human body than any other form of protein. This makes it popular among athletes today because of its ability to help return your post-workout body from a muscle-wasting state to a muscle-building state.
There are three different types of whey.
- Concentrate – Contains 80 percent protein with some lactose, water and fat.
- Isolate – Contains 90 percent protein with mostly lactose and fat
- Hydrolysed – Pre-digested by enzymes making it easier for you to digest
Let’s look at what each of these are in more detail.
Whey Protein Concentrate
This is the cheapest and most common form of whey protein.
This form of whey protein typically has a low level of fat and cholesterol when compared with other types. But, they contain higher levels of bioactive compounds, as well as carbohydrates, in the form of lactose. They usually contain between 29% to 89%% protein by weight.
Whey Protein Isolate
Whey isolates have had their base component (water) removed and are generally pure enough to be virtually lactose free, carbohydrate free, fat-free, and cholesterol free. This makes it a good solution for people that are lactose intolerant.
Whey isolates are also widely used in infant formula to provide a natural source of amino acids for optimal growth and development. They are usually at least 90% protein.
Hydrolysed whey is better if you have stomach issues, as it needs less breaking down and is easier to digest than the first two types.
The bottom line, Which Whey is Best?
All three types of whey have the same characteristics as far as the ability to feed your muscles. No single type builds muscle better than the other.
You probably noticed the varying percentages of protein in each. But a higher percentage of protein (based on protein type, not product content) does not mean it is the best protein powder for building muscle. The isolates go through a rigorous method of extraction and processing. Because this process is so harsh, the isolate is no longer considered a natural product. So care should be taken when considering this as your choice of protein powder type.
It should also be noted that, unless you are lactose intolerant, removing lactose is not a good thing. A small insulin response and dose of carbohydrates will help with absorption into your body.
The Other Protein – Casein
The other protein, casein, is found in milk. It is digested and absorbed more slowly than whey. This is due to its ability to form a gel or clot in the stomach, which makes it very efficient in nutrient supply. The clot is able to provide a sustained slow release of amino acids into the blood stream, sometimes lasting for several hours. This helps to feed your muscles during times when you are without food for many hours, like when you are sleeping.
How to choose the Best Protein Powder?
Now that we have the basics, let’s use this knowledge and formulate a method for determining the best protein powder for building muscle in your body.
The following is simply a guideline for selecting a good quality protein powder that will work at building muscle without damaging your body.
A Protein Powder Grading Scale
To start, look on the product label for two pieces of information:
- Grams of protein in one serving? (X)
- Serving size, in grams? (Y)
Once you have this, calculate the protein percentage or grade reference.
- X ÷ Y = Protein Grade Reference
So, if the product has 26 grams of protein per serving, and a single serving is 32 grams, you would get the following:
- 26 ÷ 32 = 0.8125 (81.25%)
This means that one serving of the product contains 81.25% protein.
Now that we have a method for measurement, let’s look at the recommendations based on the result you get from the formula.
Grade 50-65% – This is very low. Examine the following attributes:
- What else is in the product to give it such a low protein ratio?
- Does it contain additives, artificial ingredients and substances that are not desirable?
- Or, are the other ingredients useful carbohydrates or ingredients such as seeds, enzymes or other plant-sourced nutrients?
- Is it a dedicated mass-gainer product?
Grade 66-80% – This is normal for an average protein powder. But, examine the following:
- What else is in the product?
- Is there anything artificial, like flavouring or other items that are not desirable?
Grade 81-85% – Products in this ratio range can be considered trustworthy and reliable protein powders. But, consider the following:
This protein powder is probably more expensive than lower grade items. Although it may cost you a little bit extra, purchasing one of these products minimizes the chance that you will get poorly sourced protein. These products may even have superfood ingredients or other healthy perks. Check the labels to make sure you understand what you are buying.
Grade 90% or greater – This is a high-quality protein powder.
This means there is almost nothing else in the product other than the protein source. This product is probably sweetened naturally and has no preservatives or harmful additives. If you can afford it, this should be your selection for the best protein powder for building muscle.
Now that we know the percentage of whey and/or casein protein in the product, you may want to research a few more items.
- What is the quality of the protein source?
- Where is the source from?
- How bioavailable is the protein?
- What is the amino acid profile of the product?
- How does the product taste?
- How well does the product mix with liquid?
- What do you want to get out of the product?
Those are just a few things that can be considered, and they barely scratch the surface.
- Is the protein manufactured up to regulatory standards boards such as NSF or GMP?
- Were the cows that made the whey raised without hormones or steroids?
- Is this hydrolyzed, isolated or concentrated protein?
- How is the protein filtered and does it alter to molecular make-up for the protein?
Those are some examples of more probing questions that come to mind. You now have a starting point for what to look for and why.
Summing things up
Remember, this is just a guideline. If you are only interested in caloric intake, you may decide to consider a mass gainer product without worrying about its low protein ratio. Taking your goals into consideration, a low Protein Grade Reference product may be the perfect protein powder for you.
On the other hand, someone with food sensitivities or stomach issues may need a pure product with a few additional ingredients other than the protein source. For you, a 90 percent protein ratio or higher would probably be the right move.
The Protein Grade Reference does not indicate the quality of the product. It simply tells you how much of a serving is pure protein so you can compare and find the best product for yourself.