Protein is essential to muscle recovery and growth. Regardless of your fitness goals, protein plays a crucial role in your reaching those goals. Even if you don’t want to build muscle mass upon muscle mass, protein plays a major role in even the most basic rebuilding of muscle fibers after physical exercise.
However, there are quite a few options when it comes to protein (egg, whey, casein, soy, etc.). What type of protein is best and when should you be consuming protein? How much protein should you be consuming on average each day? These are important questions to which you need to know the answer in order to make the most of your training.
Types of Protein
Here is a rundown of the most common and most available proteins out there:
Whey protein is the most common form of protein on the market today. It is lactose based so those who are lactose intolerant will likely experience discomfort after taking whey. Whey is definitely the protein you want to be taking post-workout as all of its forms have faster absorption rates than other proteins. Whey protein most commonly comes in three different forms:
Hydrolysate is the most expensive, but highest quality protein available on the market. These proteins provide highly absorbable peptides as they have the highest absorption rate of the proteins available. Hydrolysate protein is also easier on the digestive system compared to whey concentrates.
Whey isolates are one of the quickest absorbing proteins available (though not as easily absorbed as hydrolysate). These proteins are great for those on a low carb diet as strictly whey isolate supplements have very low (if any) sugars.
Whey concentrate is the most common and most affordable whey option. It will be made up of a combination of pure whey protein, whey isolates, and the higher quality whey concentrate supplements will even include hydrolysate proteins as well.
Casein is the slow-digesting protein found in dairy products. It takes between 5-7 hours to breakdown and digest completely, thus slowing absorption rates significantly compared to to whey protein. Casein is the protein you want to take when you need you muscles to be fed over a long period of time (while sleeping or during a period of the day when you are not eating much).
Soy is a protein from, you guessed it, the soy bean. It is a vegetarian protein (which I figure you don’t care much about since you are on a hunting website…) that is also a great alternative for those who have a lactose intolerance.
Beef isolates form a protein that has become more popular in recent years. Beef proteins are slow-digesting and provide amino acids that are not as commonly found in whey proteins (carnation, arginine, leucine, etc.). Take this protein when you want to switch up protein sources to keep your body guessing and maximizing absorption rates.
Egg proteins are lactose free and are a great option for those who are lactose intolerant. While not being as easily absorbed as whey, egg proteins often absorb more rapidly than casein or beef proteins.
When to Take Protein
The answer to the question of when is more complex than just “after a workout.” Because different types of proteins function differently, you need to be sure to match the type of protein to the needs of your body at a given time.
Here are the times of day you could/should take protein and the types of protein you should take:
First Thing After You Wake Up
When you wake up, your body is in a catatonic state (using muscle as a source for energy). Your stomach is empty and your body needs something that will digest quickly and will be used to replenish nutrients in your muscles. A whey protein shake is a great thing to drink upon waking up because unlike simple carbs in cereal, your body will not convert it to fat cells after being catabolic. Instead, drinking a whey protein shake will get your body back to normal as quickly as possible.
As a Snack
A snack is something that should fill the gap between meals. A pure whey protein shake will not keep you satisfied very long since it digests so fast. Instead, combining whey and casein protein will allow your body to use they whey right away while slowly digesting the casein over a couple of hours. If you prefer a different protein, such as beef, egg, or soy, this is a great time to use these types of protein as well.
Before a Workout
You should not eat a whole meal before a workout. However, the right snack before a workout will help you to get a jump on providing protein to your muscles. You want a protein that will digest quickly so whey is the ticket. Take a serving of whey protein immediately before a workout (10-15 minutes before you begin active work).
After a Workout
This is without a doubt the most important time to take protein! Your muscles are sponges for nutrients after a workout and quality, fast digesting protein is a must. Immediately following a workout (within 20 minutes of completing your workout), take 1-2 servings of quality whey protein. To promote assimilation and transmission to your muscles, mix it with 1% milk – the fat will promote assimilation of the protein into your blood stream and the sugars in the milk will boost insulin levels to help get the protein to your muscles
Your muscles do the most recovery and repair while you sleep. Why would you not provide quality protein for this rebuilding period?! However, as discussed before, whey protein will not stay with you very long into your sleep. You need the slowest digesting protein before bed. Drink a serving of casein protein before bed, preferably with a serving of Wilderness Athlete’s Nighttime Optimizer – this will ensure that your body makes the most of the rest throughout the night.
As you can see, supplementing with protein is not as simple as “take protein after a workout.” You have to know the different types of protein and your body’s needs at different times during the day/night. Hopefully this info helps you to make the most of your workouts and your recovery time. Proper use of protein will help you to build the foundation that will help you succeed come this fall.