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Protein Shakes – How to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck by Devin Gray, CSCS

These days, it’s hard not to get caught up in the world of supplements. Everybody seems to be pushing something in order to give you the results that you crave. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to get caught up in the hype. Many of my clients ask for my advice on choosing a protein supplement. In this article, I’ll be providing very basic information about protein powders. Namely, what types there are, what to be careful of, and when to take them for maximum results.

The most popular protein is whey, although soy powders and vegan powders have been shown to be just as effective in scientific studies. There are three types of whey powders. Listed from lowest to highest quality and cost, they are whey concentrate, whey isolate, and whey hydrolysate. The drawback of whey concentrate is that it is only 29-89% protein by weight, whereas isolate is at least 90% protein. Whey isolate also does not contain lactose. I recommend whey isolate to my clients. Before buying a protein powder, take care to research the brand.

ConsumerReports.org published a study in July, 2010 in which they found excessive levels of the toxic metals arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury in several popular brands. Recently, several athletes have blamed their supplements for causing positive steroids tests. For athletes, a quick Google search could save you a heap of trouble in the future.

Finally, the timing of a protein shake is critical for seeing results. When it comes to gaining muscle there is a critical window of 30 minutes post-workout. During a strenuous workout, the muscle is actually damaged. A simplified explanation is that micro tears in the muscle form, which the body then heals using the basic components of protein. To maximize results, a liquid combination of a simple carbohydrate and protein is recommended.

Clinical studies show a significant increase in lean muscle mass in groups that consume a protein powder within 30 minutes of resistance training compared to control groups that did the same workout program but had a shake after 30 minutes or not at all. Occasionally, the control actually lost muscle mass. In other words, without immediate protein it is as if you did not work out. You burned calories and built strength, but your muscles may not physically change. For what we call a ‘hard gainer’, a male that gains strength but struggles to gain muscle mass, this can make the difference between transformation and stagnation.

The bottom line: Choose a well-researched, scientifically proven supplement containing at least whey isolate and take it within 30 minutes of working out for the best results. I’ve seen great results with that method, and so can you. It’s a quick addition that can make a world of difference.

- Devin Gray, CSCS. Devin graduated Cum Laude from Texas A&M University with a B.S. in Kinesiology. As a certified strength & conditioning specialist, he has helped dozens of people reach a multitude of fitness goals. For more information, he may be reached at [email protected]