Best Protein Form to Gain Muscle Mass

One of the first thing newbie bodybuilders do when they get on a high protein die,t is they start to obsess over which is the best protein form to gain muscle mass. Who can blame them when there is hundreds of different supplement companies saying they have the best protein form for gaining muscle. Every bodybuilding guru seems to say something different about each protein form. Some protein forms go in fads where one year everyone is advocating some new technologically advanced protein. Is all the obsession over different protein forms really overrated or could finding the best protein really make a difference in gaining muscle mass? I’m going to go over some of the major protein types and discuss some aspects on some of the protein forms you probably haven’t heard before.

Biological Value (BV) of each protein form

One of the first things we need to know before you can find the best protein form is something called biological value. Every protein has different biological values. The higher the value the better your body can retain the proteins in your body (called nitrogen balance). This has been verified in studies and the baseline number 100 given to eggs as a reference point.

In theory, a protein with a poor nitrogen balance means you will have to take more of it in order to get the same results. For example, plant protein sources tend to be incomplete. This is because the ratios of amino acids have to be in certain ratios for optimum utilization in the body. If one amino acid isn’t available it can become a limiting factor from the body using other amino acids to build proteins. A good rule of thumb is plant proteins you need about 1/3 more grams of protein to equal the average animal protein source.

Biological value is a bit overrated though as there is multiple factors that you need to look at when comparing a protein form. If it was that easy to compare proteins there would be no need to compare each protein in depth and I could just simply list in order the BV values of each protein form. The higher the biological value protein form, it means it usually exits the body faster too. You won’t get that steady stream of amino acids slowly entering and leaving the body with the protein forms that have really high biological value. Therefore, biological value is not the end all be all. A fast digesting protein does though have its purpose when a bodybuilder needs a fast digesting protein. We will go into that more throughout the article.

BCAA

BCAA or Branch chained amino acids that have special importance to bodybuilding because they are the most crucial to gaining lean muscle mass. This has been verified in studies and is why bodybuilders often supplement with extra BCAA powders at certain times, even though protein itself already has a lot of BCAA in it.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is the most common protein powder supplement used for bodybuilding. It is derived from skimming the top when they are making cheese. The reason why its so commonly used is because its the cheapest, has the highest biological value, and the highest level of BCAA. The biological value can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on when you are using it. Whey protein seems to have the best health benefits too. The growth protein factors in it seem to really boost the immune system. Studies have shown its reduced tumors in mice.

Whey protein concentrate

Whey protein concentrate is in its regular form and its the cheapest. It has a biological value of 104. It usually has more lactose and less protein per serving than whey isolate. Those very sensitive to lactose may want to try whey isolate instead. Whey protein concentrate should be taken with fat or fiber to slow its digestion down if your not taking pre or post workout or breakfast.

Whey Isolate

Whey isolate has a much higher biological value at 157. It might be more expensive, but you get a lot more bang for your buck. Unfortunately, this protein really leaves the system fast, so its not an ideal protein for just any meal. This protein would be only good for pre and post workout and breakfast when you wake up and need an instant source of amino acids. Any other part of the day if you insist on using this protein, you definitely should use fat or fiber along with the meal to help slow the digestion.

Hydrolyzed Whey protein

This protein has been broken down to short amino acid chains. Regular whey protein has very long bound amino chains all wrapped up that takes a while to digest. Hydrolyzed whey protein has been pre digested making it easier for the stomach to break it down into very short amino acid chains.

Unfortunately, hydrolyzed is a serious health concern and I do not recommend it. Hydrolyzed whey protein releases large amounts of glutamate acid freely due to the hydrolysis. They can then convert to MSG. MSG has had some health experts thinking it could play a role in disease. While the jury is really out on how much MSG impacts the health and we can absorb in our body, I would stay away from this type of protein as a precaution. Its more expensive and unnecessary anyways.

Casein Protein

Casein protein powder is derived from milk. Milk is part casein and whey protein. I would say that casein protein powder is the 2nd most popular protein powder used by bodybuilders at the moment. Casein digests much slower than whey protein with a biological value at 77. Its been shown in studies to release very slow and minimizing the catabolic effect as a result. Casein is preferred protein powder for night time or day meals that aren’t around your workout or breakfast. Its ideal for those times you need a slow increase and emptying of amino acids to keep your blood stream amino acids steady. That way you never have the chance to break down muscle due to lack of amino acids in the blood.

Milk protein

Milk protein is both whey protein and casein so you get the best of both worlds. Its BV at 80 means its mainly casein. It digests slowly while at the same time has extra BCAA from the whey portion.

Egg

Eggs have 100 BV. They were the common protein form back in the golden age of bodybuilding before protein powders were common. Eggs are starting to come back. The cons to eggs are they are expensive if you get them in powder form. And there is only so many eggs the average person can eat in a day, without feeling like puking. The cholesterol could be hard on the liver if you go overboard.

Soy

Soy protein is derived from the soy plant. Its more of a common source of protein powder by vegetarians and non-bodybuilders. Vegetarian bodybuilders usually drink this as a source of protein. Soy has gotten a lot of negative press over the years and I believe rightly so. Some studies have suggested soy lowers testosterone, libido, sperm, and increases estrogen. Ive gone over the studies and there are studies that suggest that and then there are others that don’t. There is even a wise tale that japan wives give it to their husband to keep them from straying. Your going to have studies that say anything, but the fact there are so many studies that show a negative impact in conjunction to the wives tales and anecdotal evidence, definitely makes me think soy does do these things.

Soy contains the highest level of phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are found in plants that act like weak estrogens. Now they can actually act like estrogen blockers because they are so weak and prevent the more potent real estrogen from attaching. This is how nolvadex works in men when they use it post cycle after steroids to lower estrogen and increase testosterone again. Everytime you eat oatmeal or fruit your getting a dose of phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens have health benefits. The difference between soy and other food sources, is it is many times higher than any other food source per serving. I believe that is why soy has a negative impact and the other foods don’t. The levels of phytoestrogens become so high that it overloads the body and instead of acting like weak estrogens it just becomes an estrogen effect on men.

Conclusion

There really is no such thing as the best protein form to gain muscle mass. The only 2 protein forms I recommend you should always stay away from as pointed out earlier, is soy protein and hydrolyzed protein forms. Fast digesting proteins like whey are preferred during breakfast, preworkout, and postworkout. Casein protein powder, milk, or meat would be better at those other times. Even then, whey protein can be used at other times like before bed if its taken with plenty of fats to really slow down the digestion. As you can see any protein form can work, it just depends on what time of the day you are using them and whether you add fat or fiber to slow down the digestion to accommodate its natural digestion speed.

If You Miss a Meal While Bulking Will You Lose Muscle?

Most bodybuilders are taught either from other bodybuilder gurus or from obsessive compulsive routine and trying to be “hardcore” that they must not ever miss a meal. Its equivalent to a bodybuilding sin. You know the bodybuilding guys were talking about. They practically jump out a window if they are going to miss a meal. They will even plan their vacations or events to make sure they will always get their food at regular intervals. If they miss a meal or two they think their entire weeks progress in the gym will be severely diminished or even reversed. Is it really that big a deal if bodybuilders miss a meal occasionally while bulking?

What happens in the body when you miss a meal

To understand how important each meal is we first have to have a basic understanding of how the body of a bodybuilder reacts to bulking and protein and lost meals. When you are bodybuilding assuming you are getting a meal containing protein and carbs every 3 hours chances are your body has a steady stream of amino acids in the bloodstream. Your glucose levels won’t drop too much. This means that your insulin levels will stay in the normal level for most of the 3 hours. When insulin levels start to drop significantly when you go too long without a meal (say 3+ hours) then your Glucagon levels rise. This causes your cortisol levels to rise too. Insulin blocks cortisol and also increases protein synthesis and prevents protein breakdown by up to 50% (University College London 2006 (2006) Proc Physiol Soc 3, C46) Unfortunately cortisol loves to break down protein. If it can’t get the amino acids from the blood stream its more likely to get them from your muscles. You enter a catabolic state at that point because when protein synthesis drops and protelysis (protein breakdown) increases you have a net loss of protein from the muscles. This is why dieting often causes substantial muscle loss.

How bad will the muscle loss be from a lost meal?

It depends on how many hours a person is going without a meal, how often they are doing this, what critical times of the day, and if they are trying to make up those lost meals somehow. If your missing a meal within the critical 24 hour window after you have a much bigger impact, since its during this time the protein synthesis is heightened to rebuild muscle. Missing
a meal during the breakfast and early part of the day is more important too. Your metabolism is higher and your body needs more nutrients and it sets your physiology for the rest of the day.

What can we do to minimize muscle loss during lost meal?

If you can’t have a full meal, anything with some protein will avoid the muscle loss. If you can’t have significant protein, anything to spike your insulin should also dramatically help. Whether it be some candy or a sugar drink. Just spike your insulin and your muscle loss should be minimal or none at all.

Can we make up the lost muscle from a lost meal?

Generally speaking, I don’t think its the end of the world if someone misses a meal while bulking as long as they make it up very soon with extra calories. For example, if you missed a 300 calorie meal the evening of your weight training day, but then make up the meal with an extra 300 calories that night or the breakfast the following day you should be ok. If you didn’t make up the meal then you probably won’t be at a calorie surplus. It’s impossible to gain significant muscle without a calorie surplus, so its important you make up the calorie difference to keep you at a surplus.

If you wait too long to make up the meal its a lost cause I believe. For example, lets say you miss breakfast and it was within a 24 hour window of your weight training workout. If you miss the meal and don’t make it up during the 24 hour window when your body is primed then you can’t grow muscle because the window has passed. To sum it up, when you miss a meal, make sure you make it up within 24 hours of your post weight training workout by adding more calories to meals equal to the lost meal.

How Much Protein Can We Digest In One Meal?

All bodybuilders have experienced protein gas and other side effects, when we first started a high protein diet. Protein is harder to digest than carbohydrates. Many bodybuilders believe in a certain amount the body can only digest in a given meal. The standard numbers that gets thrown around, is usually 30 or 50 grams. This is why bodybuilders break up their meals into roughly 6 a day. This allows a steady supply of aminos throughout the day, while minimizing protein waste and side effects from excess protein.

The idea of 30 to 50 grams comes from some obscure scientific studies. Most of the studies are done on sedentary individuals with no protein diet experience. I wouldn’t find any studies convincing, unless it was done on experienced bodybuilders(or athletes) on a high protein diet before the study. Our protein digestion, will depend on our genetics, and diet and training experience.

A person just starting a high protein diet won’t be able to digest very much protein. After a few weeks, the side effects will get much better with the same high protein diet. This is because their body has adapted, by increasing stomach enzymes to break it down easier. Everytime you increase your calories and protein intake, your body will adapt a little more. In other words, just like training, your body will adapt it’s digestion to what you eat. Everybodies genetics will be different too. How much you can digest will also depend on your sex. Not everyone will digest protein at the same level naturally.

I believe that a 3rd factor could be weight training. Excercise probably causes physiological changes in the digestion, as the body will demand protein to heal muscles. So unless a study is done on someone who is an active athlete, who has been on a high protein diet for many weeks or months, the study won’t mean much. Even if we could pinpoint the number as said earlier, there still will be differences in each individual due to genetics and their sex.

How can we tell if we aren’t digesting it all?

If you notice side effects, but you haven’t recently increased your protein intake, then it’s too high per meal. Side effects of your protein not digesting properly could include; very bad gas, diarrhea, or nausea.

What can I do to help protein digestion?

You could take a protein digestion enzymes bromelain with each meal meal, or break up the protein into less amounts into more meals.

Post Workout Nutrition

The post-workout meal is one of the most important meals of the week. After your workout, a lot of different hormones are released in response to your vigorous workout. What nutrients you give your body postworkout, will be important in causing a cascade of hormone reactions, to set the tone for the rest of the day. Traditionally bodybuilders consume high protein and carbohydrates immediately post workout, but lets see what science says on the issue.

Post Workout Nutrition Research Studies:

While the conerstone of post-workout nutrition, traditionally has been a high carb drink immediately after a workout, many bodybuilders now advocate protein added also. A study (Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2005 Apr;288(4):E645-53. Epub 2004 Nov 23) showed increased protein synthesis from amino acid plus carbs over the carb only. Another study (J Appl Physiol. 2004 Feb;96(2):674-8. Epub 2003 Oct 31) also found net positive body protein balance, was better with amino acids than carbs post workout. A study published in Diabetes. 1999 May;48(5):949-57, showed insulin had 3 times greater effect on amino acid transport.  Researchers concluded that low amino acid availability, could limit the insulin’s effect on muscle protein synthesis after exercise.

There is some conflicting results, on the factor of protein added to carbs, on glycogen synthesis and recovery. I believe one reason why there is some conflicting results can be found in research study published in Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jul;72(1):106-11. In the study glycogen synthesis was increased from either, protein + carbs drink or simply increasing the carb intake, compared to the normal carb drink group. The protein plus carbs and the higher carb group, had a higher insulin response than the normal carb group. In other words, adding protein and aminos to a post workout drink, just may be a expensive form of glucose(once it’s converted in the body). Therefore, the amount of carbs to cause a adequate insulin spike, is the main factor in glycogen synthesis and recovery. I should also add that, glycogen recovery is of little importance to bodybuilders. Our main focus, is post workout nutrition’s effect on protein synthesis and anabolic hormone production.

Carbohydrates are important post workout because of the hormonal changes they cause with insulin. IGF-1 releases when growth hormone and insulin are high. After a workout your insulin will be low, but your growth hormone levels should be high. By having a carb drink post workout, you will spike your insulin and cause the release of IGF-1 as a result. IGF-1 is extremely important in muscle growth. Another reason carbs are important is in controlling cortisol. Cortisol starts producing heavily near the end of a workout and we know cortisol production is blunted by spikes in insulin, which high carb intake causes.

A study in J Appl Physiol. 1998 Oct;85(4):1544-55 showed differences in hormonal changes for days, between the placebo and those supplementing carbs and protein for pre and post workout meals. In this study, growth hormone and testosterone were elevated immediately post workout. On day one, growth hormone increased more for the supplemented group. Cortisol production post workout was blunted by the supplement group. IGF-1 was also increased for the supplement group on days 2 and 3. This study shows that what you eat before and after workout, can effect your hormonal response for multiple days.

What should I eat for my post-workout meal?

You should have carbohydrates and protein as soon as possible post-workout, preferably in a liquid form. These days, many bodybuilders are now advocating low glycemic carbs after workout. These bodybuilders believe the massive high glycemic carbs post workout, leads long term to increased insulin tolerance(decreased insulin sensitivity). Maintaining insulin sensitivity long term, is crucial because it leads to more muscle gains, fat loss, and reduced risk for diabetes. Many bodybuilders have reported no reduced gains, resulting from a switch to low glycemic carbs postworkout.

Omega-3 Fats Increase Fat Loss

Omega-3 Fats are extremely beneficial for health and bodybuilding reasons. New research shows there may be yet another reason to take omega-3. One study was done on obese individuals and a very low calorie diet. The group who supplemented with Omega-3 (unfortunately not listed in amount) lost 3 more lbs then their counterparts. They also had lower inflammatory hormone Fibrinogen and lower hip circumference.

The study was only over 3 weeks with obese individuals, so 3 lbs is significant difference between the two groups. This isn’t the only study, as there are a few other studies that point to a connection, even with leaner people. This shows that not only is omega-3 beneficial in aiding fat loss during cutting, but it might also help against fat gain during bulking. I know I’ve seen other studies where monounsaturated fat and omega 3 fats helps reduce visceral fat compared to saturated fats. Visceral fat is a nasty fat that is stored inside your organs and also your abdomen and causes most of the health problems. Saturated fats tend to increase insulin tolerance and it seems like visceral fat may be stored due to higher insulin tolerance. That may explain also why older people also tend to store more of their fat as visceral.

Homemade MRP (Weight gainer) Recipes

Bodybuilders can make their own homemade weight gainers at home for a cheaper price. Plus they will taste a lot better too and without all the other junk added in them. You can customize below in a variety of ways based on if you are cutting or bulking. The main 3 things is the protein, carbohydrate, and fat content.

1) Protein. You can either have 1-2 scoops of protein powder or 1 scoop of protein powder and 1 cup of milk or 2 cups of milk. If you are cutting, you should go with only the scoops of protein powder.

2) Carbohydrates. You can either have maltodextrin, grinded up oatmeal, or 1 to 2 fat free yogurts. Maltodextrin is high glycemic so should be avoided if possible, to help avoid insulin tolerance long term. If you are cutting you should go with oatmeal.

3) Fat. Fat is optional in your homemade MRP and could be either flaxseed oil or natural peanut butter. If you are having maltodextrin, then you should add a tablespoon or two of flaxseed oil to slow it’s digestion.

Pre-Workout Nutrition

Your pre-workout meal may be the most important meal of the week.

Importance of Pre-Workout nutrition:

According to studies, what you eat before your workout has a big role in protein synthesis and fat burning for hours after your workout. Pre-workout nutrition helps set off the cascade of hormone reactions, setting the tone for the rest of the day.

According to studies, the pre-workout meal seems to be more important than your post-workout meal for effecting protein synthesis and fat loss post-workout. Getting adequate carbohydrates pre-workout improves endurance and strength for your workouts.

When should I eat for my pre-workout meal?

You should have a “liquid” meal 45 minutes to one hour before workout. Full solid meals should be roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 and 1/2 hours before working out.

What should I eat for my pre-workout meal?

You should have a high carbohydrate and high protein meal. The nutrient profile should be similiar to breakfast for protein and carbohydrates, except less fat. Fat should generally be avoided pre-workout, as that will slow down digestion too much.

Pre-workout supplements:

Some of the possible pre-workout supplements you may want to take to improve gains and performance in the gym are; Caffeine or ephedrine, NO2, Creatine, BCAAs, and Vitamin C.

Water & Bodybuilding

With our high calorie high protein active lifestyle, it is no surprise water should be at the top of our list of importance.

Why Bodybuilders need a lot of water:

High protein diets require a lot of water. The extra water is needed to reduce stress on kidneys and liver. Bodybuilders who take creatine will require even more water intake. Another reason is hydrated muscle cells are more anabolic. Adequate water also aids in fat loss, digestion, and nutrient uptake. Drinking plenty of water will also cause you to retain less water, making you look more “ripped”.

How much water do bodybuilders need?

8 glasses a day is what is recommended to the general public. However, bodybuilders require much more water due to our diet and active lifestyle. How much water you require will depend on your weight, what supplements or drugs you are taking, and if it’s a rest or workout day. The general recommendation for bodybuilders, should be at least 0.7 ounces per lb of bodyweight.

Bodybuilding & Fiber

Bodybuilders need fiber more than any other group with our massive calorie and protein requirements.

Importance of fiber in bodybuilding diets:

Bodybuilders eat a tremendous amount of protein. High protein diets usually lack “bulk” A.K.A fiber. Compound that with the fact that bodybuilders also eat more calories then the average person, means bodybuilders are going to require a lot of fiber. The lack of fiber in a high protein high calorie bodybuilding diet can lead to constipation, bloating, and higher risk of colon cancer.

Many bodybuilders find the need to supplement with fiber in their diet. Eating foods such as; oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat bread, vegetables, and fruits can help offset the need for supplementing
with extra fiber.

Insoluble vs Soluble Fiber:

Both are important for different reasons. Soluble fiber forms a gel over the stomach slowing down digestion, reducing insulin spikes. Soluble fiber also helps lower blood cholesterol levels. Insoluble fibers main purpose is to form the bulk needed to pass your food quickly through the digestive tract.

How much fiber should bodybuilders have?

Due to our diets being different from the mainstream public, we have different requirements. In general you should aim for at least 10 grams per every 1000 calories.

Bodybuilding: Meat vs. Vegitarian Protein

Vegetarianism and Bodybuilding do really not mix. The most important part of a bodybuilder’s diet is high protein. There is no way you can get enough protein in your diet through just vegetables. Sure, you can have a whey protein shake to help get the recommended amounts, but liquid protein is not as effective for gains as whole food protein sources.

Another thing to consider is the protein sources in vegetables are “incomplete”. Vegetable proteins don’t have the right ratios of amino acids that are optimal for human bodies. It takes about 1/ 3 more vegetable protein to equal effectively animal protein. Vegans, people who want to avoid anything that comes from a animal, should forget about bodybuilding. Vegans will drink soy protein because, unlike whey protein, it doesn’t come from a cow. However, soy Protein will increase your estrogen levels and is a very poor amino profile.


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