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In the world of fitness, a common question is whether both types of protein supplement deliver the same results.
have long formed opinions about ready to drink (RTD) protein and protein powders, but as the market develops and advancements are made there are constant improvements to both options. It’s important to keep reading labels, researching your supplements and updating your mental database on what is best for your health, strength and longevity. This means knowing what you need, how much of it and when to give it to your body.
The primary difference between RTD and powder proteins is the liquid. A powdered protein is exactly what it says. It may be in individually proportioned packets or in a large plastic tub with a scoop. Either way you need to supply your liquid of choice. The most readily available is water, but nutrient value can be augmented with nut milks, yogurts or fruit juices. It has taken the name self-made protein as it can easily be added to smoothie bowls, baked items, snacks and desserts. A ready to drink protein is exactly what it sounds like and is nearly always premixed with water.
In the world of fitness, a common question is whether both types of protein supplement deliver the same results. Protein is protein. If the RTD and the powder protein both say 20 grams, then your body is getting 20 grams of protein. Both are equally effective amino acids for digestion and muscle development. The difference is not found in the protein. It is found in the other ingredients. It’s important to look at the difference in carbohydrates and sugar. Most grab and go protein shakes are higher in carbs and sugars as well as an assortment of vitamins and minerals depending on what the manufacturer decided was best for fitness. This can be extremely convenient for individuals who want things designed and proportioned for optimal results. It is still necessary to research the brand, read the ingredient label and have a basic understanding of what the body needs to reach fitness goals. For this reason, many professional competitors stay true to self-made protein in order to have a more finite control over everything that enters their bodies. For all of the fitness enthusiasts outside of professional competitions, a ready to drink protein shake is a great option.
For building and maintaining muscle, the body needs a higher intake of carbohydrates and protein before and during a workout. The average would be around 50 grams of carbs before a workout and 1 gram per kilo of bodyweight sipped during a workout. This is only for mass building and long-endurance weight sessions.
If the carbohydrates are higher in the pre-mixed protein, then it is a better option for pre-workout. Drink it on the way to the gym. Carbohydrates are instantly converted into sugar by the muscles to create a fast-burning energy allowing them to produce intense contractions during exercise and movement. This fact does not constitute a need for an entire plate of pasta. When the body runs out of carbs, it begins to convert fat into fuel. A moderate carb bump before a workout will have instant benefits, but too many carbs can cause unwanted weight gain. It is important to know your body’s needs.
Carbohydrates are directly converted to sugar and stored as fat if not used by the muscles during a workout. If exercising to lose weight, it is better to cut the carbs down by half or even two thirds. It is important to determine how many carbohydrates your body needs daily and increase those for long workouts and heavy weight sessions. The best way to gauge your carb levels is to monitor your fatigue during the day. Carbohydrates not only fuel the muscles during a workout, they also affect insulin which elevates tryptophan in the brain in turn releasing serotonin. This will give you a spike of energy that can be burned through movement, but if the body does not use the energy, the result is a chemical crash that causes fatigue.
Have a powdered option for after the workout so tired muscles get an instant influx of fiber restoring aminos to aid in recovery. Most powdered options are 90% protein, giving the body a targeted supplement to aid in healing without adding to fat storage.
There is no need to drink protein supplements of any form throughout your day. Before and after a strenuous workout is sufficient and one or the other if the workout is moderate or light. Try drinking them before a low-impact workout for a week, then try drinking them after for a week. Choose your timing based on physical performance, recovery rate and the body’s natural responses. If you are not following a workout routine of some sort, then a protein supplement is only necessary if you are using it as a replacement for whole food proteins in your daily diet.
Too much protein is either converted to fat or expelled by the body in unpleasant ways. It can cause diarrhea, bloating, gas and general discomfort.
Most labels on grab and go protein, “self-made” protein and supplements in general are filled with words that most consumers don’t understand and may not even be able to pronounce. This does not instill much faith in the product. To choose the right protein, you must first choose the right brand. Select labels with clear, whole-food ingredients that are fully understood. Unfortunately, most of the industry is lightly regulated with very few checks and balances. Do some research on the company as well. Ask the right questions. Where are the ingredients sourced? Are the manufactured in places that may be cross-contaminated? Are they tested by independent third parties? Do they eliminate inflammatory by-products and allergen heavy ingredients? Are they organically sourced? Free of GMOs?
Ready to drink protein vs powdered protein is not the relevant question. What’s in the protein blend is the question. Find the right brand, find the right delivery and then consume it with the knowledge of what the body needs and when it needs it. This is the formula to protein supplement success.
Laura Manning, MPH, RDN, CDN The Low FODMAP diet is getting some well-deserved attention these days.