Protein powder 101

Whether you're a seasoned athlete or just starting to hit your stride in the gym, you've probably considered using protein supplements, if you haven't started already. There are so many different types out there that all serve different purposes, so it's understandable to feel a bit overwhelmed if you've never shopped for it before. Luckily, there are answers to all of the questions you may have! Here are the basics that you should know before purchasing your first batch of protein powder:

Protein powder is beneficial for anyone looking to build muscle.Protein powder is beneficial for anyone looking to build muscle.

Why should I use protein powder?
There are many reasons that people decide to begin taking protein supplements. Of course, protein is a crucial element in a well-balanced diet, but its benefits go further than just supporting your immune system and speeding up red blood cell production. According to Bodybuilding, whey protein in particular is a good choice for people looking to build muscle and lose fat in a healthy way. Since it helps you maintain lean muscle when used along with a healthy fitness regimen, it can also help you increase muscle strength.

What should I look for on the label?
There are many types of whey protein, so reading all of the labels can be a real whirlwind. However, one thing that everyone who's looking to begin taking protein powder needs is a high-quality protein. Not only will high-quality protein taste better, but it'll offer more benefits and a healthier shake. Of all types of protein powders, whey tends to have the highest amount of biological value, which some believe is a big factor in helping you grow your muscles. The biological value is the proportion of absorbed protein from your food. Other varieties include casein, egg white protein and soy protein, but they don't have as high of a biological value. Whey protein has a higher biovalue than most any other source of protein, and a non-denatured whey protein concentrate has the most optimized biovalue. Another thing to keep an eye out for on your protein labels is the amount of additives. If you don't want to use a plain powder, look for natural sweeteners and flavors.

"Most people drink protein shakes after a workout."

When should I consume them?
There are a few different ways you can consume your protein powder. Some people use their protein shakes as meals, helping them get their day started, or as a replacement for lunch when they don't have time for a traditional mid-day break. However, many body builders and fitness fanatics prefer to use them before or after their workouts. There's a small window of time after a workout, according to a study in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, in which an influx of nutrients will have the biggest benefit on your muscles and body. Because of this, many people opt to guzzle a protein shake within a half hour of their gym session. While doing this is not exactly necessary to reap the benefits of your workout, the extra strength and muscle gain is worth it!

Other varieties of whey protein, like Fuel, however, are best taken before your workout. This is a great option if you aren't going straight home after the gym and want to drink something to get you going before you start exercising, rather than after. This is a light way to get your energy up without having a heavy meal sitting in your stomach while you exercise.

How do I make shakes?
There are many different recipes for protein shakes, so you're guaranteed to find at least one that you love! While the simplest way to do this is to add the protein powder to water or milk and either shake it up or throw it in a blender with some ice, that's far from the only option. If you love chocolate covered strawberries, try making a protein smoothie with chocolate powder and blended strawberries. If you like pina coladas, coconut and pineapple smoothies taste great with vanilla whey protein. Mix and match your favorite ingredients to create the ultimate protein shake - there's no harm in making it even more nutritious with various fruits and veggies.

What else can I put protein powder in?
You can put your protein powder to just about anything, especially baked goods. Get your day started by mixing your favorite protein powder into your oatmeal. The mix of protein and fiber will be sure to hold you over until lunchtime. If you have a sweet tooth, make those cookies a little more nutritious by adding some whey protein powder to your dough. You can enhance the taste with flavored powders, or you can go with an unflavored variety so it's essentially undetectable. There will be no shortage of protein in your diet!