What is the best protein powder for fat loss and muscle gain?
Why protein is important
Few nutrients are as important as protein. If you don’t get enough your blood glucose levels, sugar cravings, muscular recovery, body composition and general health suffers. The “right” amount of protein for an individual actually depends on many factors though, including age, level of activity, body composition, current state of health, goals and so on
How much protein is best for weight loss?
To lose weight in an effective and sustainable manner you need to get your protein intake right. Weight loss is about energy balance. To lose weight you need to take on board fewer calories [energy in] than you burn [energy out]. Research shows that eating protein helps reduce the calories in, as protein helps control your appetite.
A recent study showed that men who consumed 25% of their calories from protein had increased feelings of fullness and a reduced desire for late afternoon and night snacking. In another study, women who increased their protein intake to 30% of calories ended up eating 441 fewer calories per day and lost 11 pounds in 12 weeks, simply by adding more protein to their diet.
How to use protein for weight loss
Studies have shown that whey protein supplements can promote weight loss and reduce hunger in both men and women. Whey protein reduces ghrelin and glucagon-like peptide 1 (two hormones that stimulate appetite), which may explain its effectiveness in reducing hunger and boosting weight loss.
In addition, other studies have shown that consuming sufficient protein (including the addition of whey protein) results in a significantly higher loss in body fat and a greater preservation of lean muscle. This is exactly what you want as muscle is metabolically more active than fat mass.
Although fewer studies have been done on mixed plant based proteins, the studies that have been done to date do show the same positive effects on hunger, weight loss and preservation of muscle mass.
What about whey protein for women?
Research shows that the positive effects of protein powders within a balanced diet are effective for both men and women. Preservation of lean muscle mass is especially important for women throughout all phases of life, as naturally women have a lower muscle mass than men.
Why you need protein for muscle building
Muscles are largely made up of protein. They are dynamically and constantly being broken down and rebuilt, and to a greater extend if you workout.
To gain muscle, your body must build more muscle fibres than it breaks down. This means that your body needs to be in a 'net-positive nitrogen balance', and for this reason, people who want to build muscle need to consume higher amounts of protein, alongside stimulating their muscles by doing resistance exercises.
How much protein do you need?
Regular exercisers and athletes have higher protein requirements than the general population. The extra protein consumed by active people helps to repair and rebuild muscle cells that are damaged during intense exercise.
The amount of protein you need depends on the type of exercise you do and your weight.
So just how much do you need?
- Weight training/high intensity exercise - 1.2-1.7g per kg body weight per day
- Endurance training- 1.2-1.4g per kg body weight per day
- Sedentary population - 0.8-1.0g per kg bodyweight per day
NOTE: Consuming more than 0.25g/kg body mass offer no further benefits to muscle protein synthesis and the excess is basically used for energy.
Which protein powder for muscle building?
As well as getting the amount right, the quality of the protein you use is incredibly important.
Leucine, a branched chain amino-acid, plays a critical role in ‘switching on’ muscle protein synthesis. Some foods are naturally high in leucine, including milk (and therefore whey protein) and red meat.
A such, research suggests that a whey supplement is better at getting your body to make more muscle, compared to a single plant-based protein (e.g. soy). Examples of great whey proteins for lean muscle gain that we have tried and tested include Innermost's 'Lean One' and KIN's 'Whey Less'
However, if you use a combination of plant proteins (such as hemp, brown rice and pea protein) you will also get all the amino acids found in whey. Therefore the results in muscle building will be the same. Form Nutrition is our vegan protein powder of choice, thanks to its complete spectrum of amino acids and probiotics, as well as its incredible taste.
In studies where volunteers were already consuming adequate amounts of protein in their diet, consuming whey protein supplements after their workouts made no difference to protein synthesis or strength. However, the timing of protein consumption did. Eating the protein supplements in the hour following exercise can help to prolong the protein synthesis response to exercise, helping to promote muscle gains and minimise muscle breakdown (losses).
Verdict on protein powders
Whether you're looking to lose fat or gain muscle (or both!), when used in the right way as discussed above, good quality protein powders can certainly help support your goals.
Protein powders are also extremely convenient and portable, which makes them a great option for boosting your protein intake, not only after a workout or on the go, but in your day-to-day diet too.
Easy ways to incorporate protein powder into your diet
- Mix a scoop of protein powder into your morning yogurt, smoothie or sprinkle on your porridge
- Add some protein powder to home baked goodies like pancakes, energy balls, bars and bread
- Simply combine protein powder with water, almond milk (or any other non-dairy alternative) and a handful of ice for a delicious afternoon or post-exercise snack
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- National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) data released today (14 May 2014) by Public Health England (PHE)
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