Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Protein Shakes Recommendations

Q: JH said... 
Hey Alvin,

Great blog site- good for you!! I have a question from my 17 year old step-son: His basketball coach told them to drink protein shakes after practice. I saw your posts referring to casein protein. Can you recommend a good brand to buy? I know not all supplements are made the same.

A: AP FIT says...
Hi JH,

Thank you for your question and my regards to your step-son for looking to get educated. What a lot of people seem to forget when it comes to nutrition and supplements is that these products are going to be used and consumed by your body, therefore research is absolutely critical. While I can say that you are definitely right "not all supplements are made the same" at the same time, "not all people are made the same". What I mean by that is that while I may think that "this" is the best product in the fitness world versus "that" other product in the end it comes down to a personal preference for your son. I will however give you a breakdown on what my favorite products are.

  First, we have to understand that not everyone has the same goals. If your boy wants to lose weight he needs to stay away from protein-heavy drinks that contain a lot of carbohydrates such as weight gaining shakes and meal replacements (MRP's). Popular weight gaining shakes for males are Cytogainer by Cytosport, Optimum Nutrition Pro-Complex Gainer, True-Mass by BSN and Real Gains by Universal Nutrition. I can honestly vouch for Cytogainer and the ON Pro-Complex Gainer. Great Products! These type of shakes are very high in calories, proteins and carbohydrates and are typically used for big weight gains in a small period of time. The best way to use these products is to take them for a month or two and then return to more tradiotional shakes like whey protein shakes. This will prevent you from gaining unwanted fat from the heavy caloric surplus these shakes provide.

If the goal is to get lean but still build muscle then he needs to use products that contain fast acting proteins such as whey protein throughout his day. Popular whey protein products are ON Hydro Whey, Muscle Milk (powder), EAS Myoplex (powder and premade bottles), AST VP2 Whey Isolate and ON Gold Standard Whey. I have used all of the products above and after much trial and error I have found a home with the ON (Optimum Nutrition) products. Optimum Nutrition makes great quality products for a reasonable price compared to the majority of companies around.

If I had to rate them overall I would say:
  1. ON Hydro Whey
  2. ON Gold Standard Whey
  3. AST VP2 Whey Isolate
  4. EAS Myoplex
  5. Muscle Milk
These products are very popular and readily available almost at any supplement shop in town. Some are even so commercial that places like Wal-Mart, Target and grocery stores have them in stock (EAS and Muscle Milk I am looking at you). Speaking of places like Wal-mart and Target you will notice that when you check out their supplements section you will see that they will offer an "equivalent" for a much lesser price. This takes us full circle, "not all supplements are made the same". These companies have joined in the "fitness fad" to make a quick buck providing a generic-poor quality product. While the price is nice your body and health are more important than your wallet. Stay away from these generic-cheap products. If you are really shopping on a budget Vitamin Shoppe make their own line of products and they are decent, much better than Wal-Mart's or Target's, but do keep in mind that you get what you pay for. The Vitamin Shoppe brand products mix poorly and more often than not have pretty bad taste.

Your son should consume these products as much as three times a day but not beyond that. Ideally he would have a protein shake with every snack that also contains a healthy dose of carbohydrates. For more information on eating schedules and what the right foods to eat are please see my article "The Foods You Should Be Eating", where I have outlined a list of good foods and what a person's "daily eating" should look like.

If he works out or in this case, plays basketball he should consume his serving of whey protein with water and a small piece of fruit preferably one with sugar. The reason why sugar is needed after a workout is because as we workout we release insulin but proteins are absorbed much quicker by the body if insulin is present. Sugary fruits like grapes or bananas are ideal for insulin production when the body is depleted after a workout. With a nutritionally balanced post-workout shake/meal the body recovers faster and builds muscle more efficiently since after a workout your body is at its hungriest for nutrients. This is the reason why the coach told him to drink a shake afterwards (even if the message was not completely accurately delivered).

Another thing he should look into is casein protein. For a refresher on that and its uses check out my article "Casein Protein and You".

I hope this helps JH! Thank you for being a supporter and don't forget to check back often and let me know how your son is doing!

P.S. - I apologize for the novel-esque lengthy answer on this one. It was a great question that deserved a great answer!

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