You probably know that protein helps build and repair muscle, but do you know why it works? Do you know the best type of protein for you and the best way to utilise it? Read on to find out how to work protein powder into your routine to maximise your muscle growth and meet your goals.
Why is protein powder good for muscle growth?
When thinking about building muscle, two conditions must be met: challenging your muscles through exercise (such as weightlifting) and taking in enough calories and protein to repair and grow the muscle tissue.1
Lifting weights causes tiny microtears in the muscle tissue, and consuming protein (which breaks down into amino acids), repairs those tears.
Our muscles are constantly in a state of breaking down and being re-built; having enough protein in your diet is crucial to have the rebuilding (anabolism) outweigh the breaking down (catabolism).
Protein powder is the perfect source of fuel for muscle growth for several reasons. Firstly, it’s convenient. Protein powder travels easily (you can keep it in your gym bag or at your workplace), it’s easy to use (as simple as mixing with water), and many kinds provide all of the essential amino acids your body needs to rebuild muscle.
When you need to fuel your body quickly after a workout and for the next 24 hours to contribute to muscle growth, protein powder is an easy option to fit into any lifestyle.
In addition to helping with muscle growth after a tough workout, protein also helps prevent the loss of muscle mass — whether due to a low calorie intake or ageing.1 For this reason, even on your rest days your muscles can benefit from protein powder in your diet.
Types of Protein Powder
Whey protein is the most common protein powder on the market and for good reason. It comes in lots of flavours, varieties, and levels of processing and the body absorbs it relatively quickly. The most common form is whey concentrate, which is the least refined version.
Impact Whey Protein is a great whey concentrate that comes in over 40 flavours. It packs 21g of protein per serving for only 103 calories. It’s tasty on its own or perfect for adding to a smoothie to make a heartier shake.
Whey isolate is a further refined protein powder that packs more protein per serving and zero fat and almost no carbs.
Impact Whey Isolate has 23g of protein per serving for only 93 calories, making it a great option for those who want to watch their calorie intake while maintaining or building muscle. It also comes in a variety of flavours.
Hydrolysed whey protein is refined even further — and broken down into smaller chains of amino acids, making it easier for the body to absorb quickly. It contains 24 grams of protein per serving for 113 calories and is ideal for moments when you need to recover quickly from your workout.
Similar to whey isolate, there is a higher level of refinement which might make it slightly more expensive than whey concentrate.
Whey blends are one way to get the best of all three types of whey — the quick absorption of hydrolysed whey, the refinement of isolate, and the continued absorption of whey concentrate.
Casein is another milk-based protein powder that absorbs differently. Casein is a slow-absorbing protein, which helps contribute to the 24hrs that your muscles use to absorb available amino acids.1
While whey protein is great for drinking as you leave the gym, casein is the perfect complement to help your muscles continue to recover for a longer period of time.
Athletes often use casein in a protein shake at night and let it work its magic while they sleep. Myprotein’s Slow Release Casein provides 25 grams of protein for 105 calories. If you’ve never used casein before, give it a try at the end of the day and watch how your muscles respond.
Soy & Other Plant-Based Proteins
Soy is one of the most common protein sources for those who avoid eating animal products (vegetarians and vegans), and it makes a tasty protein powder.
Soybeans have a very high level of protein and Myprotein’s Soy Protein Isolate powder is low in fat and sugar, giving a healthy dose of protein for vegetarian and vegan athletes. With 27 grams of protein per serving, it competes with the high protein content of many whey supplements for only 116 calories.
Other plant-based protein powders include brown rice, pea, hemp, and fava bean varieties. Plant based protein blends, like Vegan Protein Blend, take the power of several plant-based proteins and combine them to provide all the body’s essential amino acids in one powder.
Choosing a blend is a great way to make sure you’re giving your muscles the proper building blocks (and amino acids) that are proven to build muscle, while still sticking to your plant-based diet plan. One serving of the Vegan Protein Blend provides 22 grams of protein at 110 calories and an affordable price.
Best Vegan Protein Powder for Muscle Growth
Typically, when we think of protein, we think of meats, chicken, and other animal products. However, there are many powerful vegan protein powders on the market. If you’re looking for one as useful as Impact Whey, Soy Protein Isolate is your best choice.
There are many reasons that soy protein is so popular and widely used. Soybeans are one of the highest concentrations of plant-based protein available, making them an excellent source for vegan protein powder.
Soybeans naturally have some fat and carb content, but Soy Protein Isolate is low fat and low sugar, giving you just the protein boost you need to help your muscles grow.
Take Home Message
When you want to build muscle, you must fuel your body properly. Getting adequate nutrition from healthy foods is the first step but pushing your muscles in your workouts and then giving them enough protein to recover are the key elements for growth. If you’re in the market for protein powder, there are lots of good options based on your goals and dietary preferences.
Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you're concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.
1. Devries, M. C., & Phillips, S. M. (2015). Supplemental protein in support of muscle mass and health: advantage whey. Journal of food science, 80(S1), A8-A15.
Claire is a Registered Dietitian through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a board-certified Health and Wellness Coach through the International Consortium for Health and Wellness Coaching. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master’s degree in Clinical Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Pittsburgh.
Talking and writing about food and fitness is at the heart of Claire’s ethos as she loves to use her experience to help others meet their health and wellness goals.
Claire is also a certified indoor cycling instructor and loves the mental and physical boost she gets from regular runs and yoga classes. When she’s not keeping fit herself, she’s cheering on her hometown’s sports teams in Pittsburgh, or cooking for her family in the kitchen.
Find out more about Claire’s experience here.