Picking A Protein Supplement

At least once a week I get a question from someone about which supplements to take to get the most out of their efforts.  There is no shortage of options-that’s for sure.  Unfortunately, MOST supplements aren’t worth your money.  As a general statement-the more colorful and flashy the label, the more expensive and worthless the supplement.  There are a few supplements that have stood the test of time and proved effective through comprehensive research: Fish oils, creatine monohydrate, and a protein or protein/carbohydrate shake.  The next big question is, “Which protein supplement should I take?”

Below is a copy of an email I sent to a student of mine who was looking for the answer to that question for her dad.  As an appropriate prequel-I’m not a big muscle milk fan.  I know it tastes good-so do cheeseburgers, but I don’t recommend eating those while you lift.  There’s one ingredient in Muscle Milk (glycocyamine) that’s been tied in with increasing homocysteine levels, which is a marker for cardiovascular disease.  Considering the risk, there is no benefit of taking Muscle Milk over other protein shakes.

“Assuming your dad has now discarded all of his muscle milk and is looking for a new protein supplement, I have some recommendations.  Different protein supplements are more ideal for different purposes.  If he is drinking it before, during, and/or after working out (before/during AND after is typically best), he should look to get a whey protein supplement.  Whey protein is rapidly digested and consequently used  wherever needed IMMEDIATELY.  This is in contrast to casein protein, which takes longer to be digested and absorbed.  Think of casein as a time-release protein-it provides smaller amounts of protein over a longer period of time.  I typically have a whey protein supplement AND a casein/whey mix supplement.  I take the whey either before or sip on it during my lifts, and then drink a shake after my workouts.  I take the casein/whey mix whenever my schedule is too chaotic and my planning too poor to have a whole food protein source and I need a quick source of high quality protein.  When looking at protein supplements I typically look for something that has 20-30g of protein per serving.  Many supplements will have something like 75g per serving, and use that as a selling point.  The amount of protein that can be absorbed at any one time is highly dependent upon the individual and the current status of that individual (immediately after training vs. day off for example), but I can’t imagine anyone using 75g at once.  Taking that much just puts a little more stress on their kidney and lets them  urinate out their money (pleasant, I know). I don’t recommend taking more than 40g in any one sitting, for anyone.  I’ve had success with products from BioTest (Surge for during/immediately after workouts, GROW! for after workouts, Metabolic Drive to fill in for missed real food meals), and Optimum Nutrition’s 100% Whey protein.”

I don’t usually like to make blanket statements like this, but frankly-if you aren’t taking a protein supplement, you aren’t serious about your training.  Don’t take my word for it.  Pick up some Surge and Metabolic Drive from BioTest.  Try it for yourself.  When you start to notice that you’re progressing faster and feel better, send me a thank you email.

Please enter your first name and email below to sign up for my FREE Athletic Development and Hockey Training Newsletter!