Protein 101

Protein 101

A guide to navigating the world of protein supplements.

 By Taylor Smith |

If you’ve been to the gym, you’ve probably heard a personal trainer or a friend say that you’ve got to drink a protein shake after your workout. Judging by the way manypeople talk about the importance of protein, it seemsalmost as essential as the weights themselves.

That’s a little dramatic, of course, but a good supplement can go a long way toward helping you reach your fitness goals. Simply put, there’s some substance to all the hype surrounding protein supplements. It helps promote healthy weight gain (lean muscle) and helps muscles recover after a hard workout.

Anyone who’s been to the gym or walked into a health and nutrition store knows that, when it comes to protein, there are an almost overwhelming number of options from which to choose. So, what kind do you choose? Whey, soy, casein, egg? They all have their pros and cons, so here are a few helpful tips to help you navigate the world of protein supplements.

Healthy Magazine Protein Guide

Picking the right protein is more than just figuring out what kind of protein you need. Once you know what kind you want, you’ve got to find one that you like and that tastes good. There are plenty of options, so don’t be afraid to try a few. Here are a few of our favorites.

  • Optimum Nutrition (ON) Gold Standard Whey. As far as whey goes, we think this one tastes the best, mixes the best, and has a relatively low amount of artificial sweeteners. It comes in a variety of flavors, but the plain chocolate is hard to beat.
  • MusclePharm Combat Blend: This whey-casein blend is great mixture of both worlds. Complete with benefits from fast-acting whey and slow release casein, this protein helps feed your muscles over the short and long term.
  • Optimum Nutrition (ON) Soy Protein: ON has a wide range of soy protein flavors that mix well and provide you with a great non-dairy protein alternative. If you’re looking for some of the benefits of soy or looking to avoid complications with dairy, this is a great choice.


This is, by far, the most popular kind of protein supplement on the market today. Why? Because it is proven to promote lean muscle growth and fat loss, on top of supporting good cardiovascular health and strong metabolism. It absorbs quickly and it used rapidly by the body, so it’s the ideal post-workout supplement. After a hard workout, the body craves nutrients and fuel to recover, replenish, and rebuild the muscles. The only real draw back to whey protein is it can be hard to digest for people who are lactose intolerant.


Casein, or sometimes just called milk protein, is derived from milk and has some qualities that differ from whey protein. Where whey is quickly absorbed by the body, casein is a slow-release protein. This means that casein breaks down slowly and provides a steady stream of muscle fuel. Whey protein is better at augmenting protein synthesis (the process by which your muscles make use of the protein) but its effects are short-lived. Casein, on the other hand keeps protein levels high for a longer period of time. Ideally they should be used together, but whey is cheaper and more abundant, so casein is often neglected.


Among the vegetable proteins, soy is the most popular. This kind of protein is similar in nature to whey protein, but also has its pros and cons. Soy offers some health benefits like isoflavones that act as antioxidants, heart benefits, and soy has been used by women going through menopause because it naturally aides the body’s production of estrogen. It does have a strong taste, however, that some find unpleasant. It’s a great option for people who are sensitive to dairy products.

Ultimately, protein derived from whole food sources is preferred to any kind of supplement. However, used as an added source of additional protein, supplements can help you lose weight or gain lean muscle mass. The key is to use them wisely and pick the right kind to meet your needs.

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