The majority of athletes I consult with usually want to know what protein supplements are best and if they are necessary to their sport. I will help answer when and what protein supplements may be beneficial in an athletes nutrition plan. But, first let’s get this straight, no nutritional supplement will counter negative effects of a poor diet on physical performance! But, supplements can be a solution to filling a nutritional gap. There are some key bits of information to consider. The quality control of nutritional supplements does vary considerably, and a consumer may not always get everything they think they are paying for.
I get excited to talk about fueling with clients as for many it is just a guessing game, or worse, there is no fueling around the training session at all! I appreciate the science behind proper fueling and refueling for performance and recovery.
Adequate refueling (what to eat after a training session) post workout should be a 3:1 or 4:1 carb to protein ratio, consumed within 30-60 minutes of training completion. This is when your muscle and liver cells act like a sponge and soak up that nutrition to recover and repair! Depending on your size, you need 15-30 grams of protein after a hard workout to refuel and start to rebuild muscle. It’s not always possible to consume a meal right after a workout or maybe you just don’t have an appetite after intense exercise. Eating real food is ideal, but in a pinch it’s perfectly OK to grab something easy like a smoothie/shake with protein powder. Adding frozen fruit and fluid to a protein powder is a fabulous way to get in what you need post workout; carb, protein, and fluids – in a convenient and refreshing way.
But there are so many protein powders on the shelfs and online! How do you know what is the best or worst choice? I separate the choices into whey based and plant based protein powders.
Whey based protein is a complete source of protein with branch chain amino acids, which are the building blocks for muscle growth. It is high in Leucine (which we call the leucine trigger – some good science here). After consumption of whey protein, which is higher in leucine content than soy, casein, or plant protein, there is a rapid increase in blood concentration of leucine and this increase corresponds to the extent of stimulation of muscle protein synthesis. Therefore, whey protein has a superior increase in muscle protein synthesis compared to soy, casein, and plant protein.
Whey protein is the fast-digesting part of dairy protein. Different forms of whey protein supplements are available, with two of the most common being whey concentrate and whey isolate.
Whey concentrate is only 70-80% protein and has some fillers from lactose and fat. If you have problems digesting whey due to the lactose content, avoid the concentrate and go for isolate!
Whey isolate undergoes more processing, which results in a higher protein content 90%+ with less carbs, lactose and fat. Whey isolate is typically more expensive than whey concentrate.
Whichever you choose, whey is a high-quality protein that can help you reach your daily protein intake goals.
I have done some extensive research to find a great tasting protein powder without unnecessary additives (artificial sweeteners/flavors, carrageen, corn syrup solids) and the one that has stuck for my family and I, is Klean Athlete. All their products are NSF Certified for Sport, which means they go through rigorous testing and are free from banned substances and contaminants. This is especially important for athletes who play at a level where drug testing is involved as it provides athletes the peace of mind they need in order to perform at their best—safely and effectively. I also believe non-drug tested athletes and casual competitors alike should also have access to supplements free of banned substances!
Because I am a regular consumer of Klean Athlete and this is my number 1 choice of supplements to recommend to my clients, I am able to offer you an affiliate discount of 15% off any Klean Athlete Product. To receive the discount simply copy and paste the link below to order, set up your account and you are good to order with 15% off.
Plant based protein powders are easily digestible and have been proven to fight inflammation and reduce muscle soreness, which makes them a good alternative for any athlete or active person who follow a vegan diet or suffer from dairy allergies. These often include soy, brown rice, pea, chia, and or hemp protein. Although whey based protein has been scientifically proven as the superior protein powder choice for it’s muscle-building benefits, there are alternatives for you!
Suzanne Iovanni, RDN, CSSD
*Sports Nutrition plans should be individualized as nutrient requirements are not static and energy availability is the foundation for health and performance.
**Consult with a sports dietitian for an individualized nutrition and fueling plan.