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Top 10 Things You Need to Know About Protein Supplements

Protein supplements generally seem like a pretty straightforward product at first, leading many to forget that they are technically “supplements.” The truth is, however, that a lot goes into these common features of the fitness world – plenty of things that you should be aware of and probably aren't. So, in an effort to keep you informed, here (in no particular order) are 10 things you need to know about protein supplements.  1. Consider the source -  Protein supplements can be made from a huge number of sources – whey, casein, peas, rice, and eggs just to name a few – but these sources are not always interchangeable. Whey, for instance, is absorbed and put to use much faster than casein which makes it a much more popular choice for post-workout recovery. Various sources also have different amino acid profiles – and thus are higher or lower quality. Other factors that could (and should) influence your choice include lactose intolerance, food allergies, or whether you are a vegetarian or vegan. 2. Make sure the source is the only source -  Products simply labeled “protein powder” can contain protein from a dizzying array of sources.  These should probably be avoided, especially if you have any dietary restrictions. But even protein supplements that are more specifically called “whey” or “casein” or anything else, can be stuffed with other things. Check the ingredients to be sure you are actually getting the protein that you're looking for. 3. Don't trust the numbers -  Due to pretty lenient laws regarding food labeling, the numbers stamped onto your jug of protein powder are seldom worthy of your trust. For instance, products that advertise themselves to be 100 percent hydrolyzed whey actually mean something extremely different. A protein cannot possibly be fully hydrolyzed (meaning that it's broken down) this would not even hold together as a powder. What that number really means is that jug contains only hydrolyzed whey. In reality the powder is usually about 2 to 5 percent hydrolyzed. 4. Added aminos mean low quality -  As mentioned, a protein's “quality” is measured by its amino acid profile – both quantity and bioavailability. Occasionally, a protein powder is taken from such low quality sources and so heavily processed that, by the time it's in the jug it's really got nothing to offer. And thus the industry practice of “protein spiking” was born. Low-cost amino acids are essentially backloaded into a protein powder as a filler. And since these are not technically another protein source, the manufacturer can still claim that their product is “100 percent whatever.” 5. Added aminos can come from... unsavory places -  In some cases, “added aminos” are really just amino acids that were originally removed from the protein source during processing to be thrown back in later. This is irritating enough, but sometimes those amino acids come to you through even worse processes. The cheapest and fastest way to product amino acids is via keratin synthesis – a substance that is found abundantly in hair, nails, claws and fur. When an animal pelt is deemed unfit for use as clothing, it can still be used to produce amino acids. 6. Timing probably isn't everything -  On a lighter note: Do not fear alarmists who still cling to the anabolic window theory. For a long time, lifters believed that if you did not provide your muscles with sufficient protein within 30 minutes of exercising you would not only lose any benefits of your workout but that your body would cannibalize the muscle you do have. This is simply untrue. While there is some slight evidence to show that a protein supplement (generally whey is used in the trials) taken after workout can improve protein synthesis and muscle recovery, the difference is minor and unpredictable. And your muscles won't eat themselves. A much more important factor to consider is to make sure that you are always getting enough protein throughout the day. 7. They are supplements -  We often forget that, by definition, supplements are something added. In this case, they should be added to an already quality diet. If the rest of your diet is garbage or you aren't working out, protein supplements aren't going to magically give you the body that you want. 8. Avoid added flavors -  Protein powders, left to their own devices, have virtually no flavor. So, in an effort to make them more appetizing, all manor of flavorings are added. Unfortunately, these flavorings can come from some pretty nasty and strange places – places that companies are not required to disclose. 9. Avoid dyes -  Again, protein powder is naturally colorless but this is not really an attractive look. To get around this, companies use a host of chemicals – which have been linked to a number of adverse side effects, including behavioral problems in children. 10. Get creative -  Finally, remember that you have options with how you use your protein supplement. Of course, they can simply be tossed into water or milk and chugged for a quick dose but there are so many other uses. The internet is full of recipes on how to make favorite foods more nutritionally sound by using protein powder in cooking and baking. Read More: How Cheap Protein Supplements Can Affect Your Goals Why Artificial Sweeteners are Bad for Protein Supplements Why Hydrogenated Ingredients in Protein Powders Are Bad

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