Some proteins more equal than others?

I’ve been training at the gym recently, and various people have suggested that I try to eat more protein to help grow muscle. A protein powder would seem to be the logical solution.

However, I don’t know which protein powder is good. Various magazines and websites exist, but they all seem to be shills for particular brands, and thus unreliable. Can you tell me what kind of thing I should be looking for? Bear in mind that I’m in Australia, and so we might not have the same products here.

I Am Not A Body-Builder, but for what it’s worth, here’s my advice:

  1. You don’t actually need all that much extra protein to gain muscle mass. If you could train hard enough to add 50 kilos of solid muscle in a year, you would only be gaining about 137 grams of muscle a day. Most people on a western diet eat 2-3 times as much protein as they need for daily maintanence, so getting enough protein shouldn’t be a problem.

  2. However you may be trying to lower your overall body fat index; in that case you may be on some version of a high-protein/ low carb diet. Generally, almost any whey-based or soy-based protein supplement will work. Both of those are sources of complete protein, meaning that they contain all the amino acids necessary for human nutrition. A generic whey or soy supplement is much cheaper than the fancy stuff. Check the labels carefully if you want to stay low-carb.

  3. The fancy stuff, and this is where you start spending money, are protein supplements with any of a myriad added nutrients that various people swear by. Vitamins, minerals and any of a host of micronutrients that some people claim improve overall health, promote fat burning, or accellerate muscle growth. Most of these fall under the heading of “probably safe, but of unproven effectiveness”.

Whey protein isolate is considered the highest quality protein available in terms of the body’s ability to utilize it. It is extremely low in carbohydrate, high in protein and contains virtually no fat. It has also been shown to possess immune-boosting capabilities by increasing the body’s cellular levels of glutathione, an important anti-oxidant.
I eat eggs.

For the most part, protein powders and bars are crap. Stick to actual food, and maybe use a little powder. I’d recommend a whey/casein split over straight whey because whey digests very quickly, and that may prevent it from being fully utilized. But it’s still good for you.

As far as how much protein you need, Lumpy is right: you don’t really need that much. However, that doesn’t mean that it won’t benefit you to eat more. After all, proteins are the raw building blocks of muscle.

I ate Coleman beef (filets) and a smoothie with 2 eggs after every workout. Seemed to do me just right for protein. Choose whey over soy when you can – soy protein can contain high amounts of estrogen. Also, remember to hydrate. I failed to hydrate after a particularly grueling workout, and gave blood the next day. A month later I got a letter from the blood bank that said “YOU MIGHT HAVE AN INCURABLE LIVER FAILURE (or maybe you were working out and not drinking enough water).” Scared the piss out of me. Then I was really dehydrated.