Compared to the average gym goer, bodybuilders need more protein. For one thing, they carry more muscle mass, which requires regular amino acid intake in order to prevent muscle breakdown (catabolism). Of course, as a bodybuilder you don’t just want to maintain the mass that you’ve got, you want to increase it. And that takes even more protein.
To get all of that protein into your muscle cells, you need to do more than just take in lots of protein – you need to take in lots of high-quality protein. That means having high bioavailability, low fat, lactose and carbohydrate conduct and the purest protein possible. In this article, we identify the 5 best protein powders for bodybuilding. We’ll also provide some key tips to help you get the most muscle building benefit from your protein.
Best Type of Protein Powder for Bodybuilders
When it comes to packing on lean mass, bodybuilders need a protein powder that will provide them with the highest quantity and quality of amino acids possible. According to the research, that means taking both whey and casein protein. They are also the best for stimulating protein synthesis.
Whey protein digests more quickly in the body, making it ideal as a post workout supplement that will fast track amino acids to your stressed and damaged muscle cells. It will rapidly spike protein synthesis for a short duration. In contrast, casein is a slow digesting protein. It will provide the constant supply amino acids over an extended period of time. This makes it ideal to be taken in the evening before you go to bed, so that it can slowly release amino acids throughout the night time. It is during the night while you are sleeping, that your body does the majority of his repair and rebuilding work.
Whey protein contains more of the amino acid leucine, which is the most important of the BCAA’s. It has also been shown to be better at increasing protein synthesis than casein protein. So, if you have to choose between the two, go for whey. The purest form of whey protein is whey isolate. This formulation has removed the fat, lactose and carbohydrate to provide you with a higher protein account.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Protein Powder
When to Take your Protein Powder
Having identified the best type of protein powder for bodybuilders, we next need to work out when is the best time to take it. For many years, it was believed that there was an anabolic window of between 20 and 30 minutes straight after your workout when you have to get your protein in. The belief was that your muscles are crying out for amino acids at that time in order to repair the muscle stress that has occurred during your workout. However, recent studies have debunked this myth.
The renewed understanding is that, provided that you had a pre-workout meal that contains a decent amount of protein, there is no need to rush to take in more protein immediately after your workout. Of course, if you go into the workout in a fasted state (such as when intermittent fasting), then you will want to take in a decent amount of protein within the hour after your workout.
The consensus from the research is that there is no need to worry about timing your protein intake around your workouts. So long as you are regularly taking protein with each of your meals (you should be getting 20 to 30 g of protein at each feeding), then you will be getting sufficient protein to repair and rebuild from your workout. That being said, however, there is nothing wrong with taking a post workout protein shake – it’s just that it is not essential.
As we mentioned in the previous section, you should get into the habit of taking a casein protein powder shake before going to bed. This will provide you with a steady supply of amino acids throughout the night and help to boost your body’s natural release of testosterone and hGH. You should take 40 g of casein protein each evening.
How Much Protein to Take
There has been a lot of debate about how much protein bodybuilders should take each day in order to maximise their muscle growth potential. The current consensus, based on research, is that taking 20 to 25 g of whey protein powder as part of a shake is about ideal to stimulate muscle growth. However, a recent study from 2016 suggests that a higher dosage may be more beneficial. In this study, participants who took 40 g of whey protein powder in their shake had greater muscle gains than a group who took just 20 g. Therefore, we recommend taking anywhere between 20 and 40 g per dosage.
So, how often should you take a protein shake throughout the day. This depends on what your total daily protein requirement is. You should always prioritise whole foods over protein supplements. Concentrate on getting your protein from eggs, chicken, beef, and fish.
You should aim to take in between 0.73 and 1 g of protein per pound of body weight. So, if you are working at the higher end of this scale and you weigh 180 pounds, you will be wanting to take in 180 g of protein per day. You should look to take about 120 g of that through whole food sources. That leaves 60 g to come from your protein shakes, which would equate to 2 shakes at a dosage of 30 g of protein per shake.
You do not want to take in too much protein. Excess protein can be metabolised into glucose and either used for energy or stored as excess body fat. That’s the last thing that any serious bodybuilder wants.
What to Take Your Protein With
When it comes to the question of what to take your protein powder with, the research indicates that protein synthesis is not slowed down by any other additives that are contained in the shake. What this means is that you can add whatever you like in order to increase the flavour of your protein shake. To increase the protein count, you can have it with milk. However, if you are lactose intolerant, you will want to use non-dairy milk. The highest protein count non-dairy milk is goat’s milk.
Feel free to also add fruit such as banana strawberries, peaches or blueberries. You may also wish to throw in a tablespoon of flaxseed or cinnamon.
If you are in a bulking phase, it would probably be wise to take your protein powder with dairy milk, if you are tolerable to this. As well as the additional protein, dairy milk will give you an extra hundred calories per serving. However, if you are in a cutting phase leading up to competition, you are better advised to take your protein powder with water or almond milk. This will help you to save around 100 cal per serving.
How Protein Builds Muscle
When you work out, you are damaging your muscle cells. This causes micro tears in your muscles that needs to be repaired. The amino acids that you get from protein are the material that is used for that repair work. When you consume protein, your body breaks it down into its constituent amino acid parts. They then form into new proteins that are transported to your muscle cells in order to repair the micro tears that have occurred as a result of your training.
The damage that is taking place to your muscle fibres also stimulates what are called satellite cells. These satellite cells flood the damaged area where they multiply and fuse onto the damaged muscle fibres. In this way they repair the tears, making the muscle bigger and stronger.
This muscle repair strengthening and building process will only take place if you have a sufficient amount of the amino acids to create the proteins that are the building blocks of this whole process. In fact, you want enough protein coming into your system that there are actually excess amino acids that can be used to further muscle growth.
If you do not provide your body with a sufficient amount of protein, the damaged cells will not be able to fully repair your muscles and, as a result of that, you will end up weaker and smaller than you were before you worked out. In fact, in the absence of protein, your muscles are likely to start kept catabolising, or eating away at themselves.
5 Best Protein Powders for Bodybuilders
Best Overall Protein for Bodybuilders
Best Whey Isolate
Evlution Nutrition 100% Isolate Protein delivers the purest, most quality form of whey protein on the market today. This product is made from 100% pure wheyprotein isolate, meaning that it absorbs faster and is more bioavailable than anything else out there. It will provide you with all of the essential amino acids that your muscles need after your workout to repair, rebuild and get stronger.
Evlution Nutrition 100% Isolate Protein gets straight into the muscle cell in order to drive muscle protein synthesis and prevent the breakdown that has been occurring since your workout. When you take this product after your workout, you will also be enhancing blood flow to the muscles, so that oxygen and nutrients are fast-tracked to the area. As well as building more muscle, this product will help you to recover more quickly.
Each serving of Evlution Nutrition 100% Isolate Protein provides you with 25 g of whey isolate protein, 6 g of BCAA’s and 12 g of essential amino acids. There are absolutely no added sugars and no fillers in this product. It is also gluten-free, GMP certified and made in the USA. If you’re serious about building muscle, boosting performance and fast tracking recovery, then you need the best protein on the market. We are confident that Evlution Nutrition 100% Isolate Protein is that product and so recommend it as our number one best whey protein isolate product on today’s market.
- 100% whey isolate
- 25 g pure protein per serving
- 6 g BCAA’s
- 12 g essential amino acids
- no added sugars or fillers
- Quite expensive
Best Hydrolyzed Whey
Dymatize ISO100 Hydrolyzed Whey Protein Isolate provides you with an exceptionally faster digesting and high absorbing form of whey protein isolate that has been minutely broken down to get into your muscle cells more quickly. It has also had the sugars, carbs and lactose removed from the whey concentrate. That means that you are left with nothing but pure protein.
Dymatize ISO100 Hydrolyzed Whey Protein Isolate is 86% protein by weight. Each serving provides you with 25 g of hydrolysed whey protein isolate, along with 5.5 g of BCAA’s, 2.7 g of leucine and 1 g of sugar. The total caloric content per serving is 110 calories. This product is made using a crossflow microfiltration multi step purification process. This ensures that all of the muscle building protein is preserved while the carbs, fat lactose and cholesterol are taken out. The hydrolyzation process ensures that this is the fastest absorbing protein you will ever take.
Dymatize ISO100 Hydrolyzed Whey Protein Isolate is available in 12 delicious flavours including the recently released chocolate peanut butter and peanut butter. User reviewers rave about the flavours and are also impressed with the mixability of this protein powder.
- Superfast absorbing
- Pure protein
- 5.5 g BCAA’s
- 2.7 g leucine
- Delicious flavours
- 1 g of carbs per serving
Best Protein Powder Blend
- whey protein isolate
- micellar casein
- milk protein isolate
- egg white protein
Every serving of Pro Jym Protein Powder delivers 24 g of total protein, broken down as follows:
- whey protein isolate – 7.5 g
- micellar casein – 7 g
- milk protein isolate – 7 g
- egg white protein – 2.5 g
This four-way combination provides you with all of the protein ammunition that you need to replenish, rebuild and restore your muscles over the long-term. The beauty of combining a blend of different protein types is that each type has a different rate of absorption into the body. Ranging from the very fast absorption rate of whey protein to the very slow absorption rate of casein. This ensures that your muscles get a steady supply of amino acids over a complete 24-hour period.
Recent research highlights that when you take a mix of proteins at different absorption rates, total muscle protein synthesis remains higher for longer and there is greater muscle protein retention. As a result, Pro Jym Protein Powder provides you with an all day protein source. The whey protein isolate content makes it a smart choice for use in the mornings and immediately after your workout, while the 7 g of micellar casein makes it ideal to take prior to retiring at night.
Pro Jym Protein Powder comes in a range of amazing flavours including Rocky Road and Chocolate Peanut Butter. It does not contain any proprietary blends and there is absolutely no protein spiking in this product. Neither will you find any cheap fillers in it.
- Blend of four protein types
- Delicious flavours
- No protein spiking
- No fillers
- Not the greatest mixability
Bodybuilding.com Signature 100% Whey Isolate provides a fast releasing amino acid blend that is ideal for taking post-workout. This product is a mix between two forms of whey protein; hydrolyzed whey protein isolate and whey protein isolate. You get 14 g of the former and 11 g of the latter, for a total of 25 g of protein per serving.
The broken down peptides in hydrolysed protein isolate are able to be digested more readily than the standard long chain amino acids in conventional whey protein. The problem with many hydrolyzed whey protein isolate products, however, is that they produce a very bitter taste. By combining hydrolyzed isolate with whey protein isolate, this product overcomes the problem to produce a pleasant tasting end product.
All products in the Bodybuilding.com Signature range, including this one, provide total transparency in terms of the ingredient profile. You won’t find any proprietary blends, fillers or artificial additives. Bodybuilding.com have also established a reputation for clinically dosing their ingredients rather than shortchanging the buyer with a minimal amount.
- 25 g of protein per serving
- 14 g hydrolyzed whey protein isolate
- 11 g whey protein isolate
- Clinically dosed
- No artificial additives
- 1 g of sugar per serving
Optimum Nutrition Platinum Hydrowhey is a hydrolysed form of whey protein that is broken down into minute units to enable rapid absorption into the muscle cell. The formulation has been further boosted with the addition of Actitor peptides, a revolutionary formulation from Optimum Nutrition designed to drive the amino acids into the cells even faster.
This product also contains digestive enzymes and micronized branched-chain amino acids. It all adds up to one of the fastest, most bioavailable whey proteins on the market right now. The hydrolyzation process also ensures that the product contains no excess fat, cholesterol or lactose.
Each serving of Optimum Nutrition Platinum Hydrowhey provides you with 30 g of pure hydrolyzed protein. That makes this product the highest protein count per serving on this review page. The formula has been instantized so that it mixes better, even if all you have is a spoon.
- 100% hydrolysed whey protein
- 30 g protein per serve
- Nearly 9 g of BCAA’s
- Digestive enzymes
- Extremely flexible
- Contains 5 mg cholesterol