Protein Shakes & muscle building - What to look for in Whey Protein Shakes vs Vegan Protein?

Aktualisiert: Mai 12



Proteins are the building blocks of life. Not only our muscles, but the brain, skin, hair and heart are all made up of the building blocks of proteins, amino acids. There are a total of 20 proteinogenic (protein-building) amino acids, which are more or less essential for our muscle building and our well-being (1). A distinction is made between essential, semi-essential and non-essential amino acids. The essential amino acids must be supplied to our body from external sources, as it cannot produce them itself.

Protein biosynthesis can only take place if the body receives food that has a complete amino acid profile. This is essential for cell healing and cell formation. If one has a goal of muscle building, it is essential to look into protein intake in more detail. This article explores important considerations when it comes to protein shakes, and how they can help to build muscle.

How much protein is needed to build muscle?

Opinions differ on how much protein is needed in grams per kilogram of body weight. You need to ask yourself what your main goal is in terms of training, as protein intake differs greatly from whether you are (or want to be) a recreational athlete, track and field athlete or professional bodybuilder. When doing strength training with the aim muscle building (hypertrophy training), it makes sense to increase protein intake to between 1.5g and 1.8g protein per kilogram body weight per day.

Small calculation example: Let's assume you weigh 100kg and want to build lean muscle mass, then a value of 1.8g protein multiplied by your body weight comes up with a daily protein intake of 180g (2). Scientific studies have shown that the lower your body fat percentage, the more protein you should consume to protect muscle mass. It has been found that ambitious bodybuilders in a longer high protein dietary phase show higher muscle protection, a higher degree of satiation and due to the thermal effect, even whilst consuming excess calories due to high protein intake, little to no fat mass was gained overall. (3)

A high protein diet can be a challenge in everyday life for many athletes, which makes protein shakes a real helper, as one shake (with a portion of 25g protein powder) already contains 20-30g protein.


Opinions differ on how much protein is needed in grams per kilogram of body weight. You need to ask yourself what your main goal is in terms of traning, as protein intake differs greatly from whether you are (or want to be) a recreational athlete, track and field athlete or professional bodybuilder. When doing strength training with the aim muscle building (hypertrophy training), it makes sense to increase protein intake to between 1.5g and 1.8g protein per kilogram body weight per day.

Small calculation example: Let's assume you weigh 100kg and want to build lean muscle mass, then a value of 1.8g protein multiplied by your body weight comes up with a daily protein intake of 180g (2). Scientific studies have shown that the lower your body fat percentage, the more protein you should consume to protect muscle mass. It has been found that ambitious bodybuilders in a longer high protein dietary phase show higher muscle protection, a higher degree of satiation and due to the thermal effect, even whilst consuming excess calories due to high protein intake, little to no fat mass was gained overall. (3)

A high protein diet can be a challenge in everyday life for many athletes, which makes protein shakes a real helper, as one shake (with a portion of 25g protein powder) already contains 20-30g protein.


Should Protein Shakes be taken with water or with milk?


Again, it all depends on what your goal is. If you want to lose weight, it is recommended to mix the protein powder with water. If it is important to you to supply your body with as much protein as possible and as little fat as possible, it is recommended to use low-fat milk (1.5% fat content) or water. If you want to gain weight, it makes sense to use whole milk (3.5% fat content). Let's assume you make a shake with Whey Protein and use a portion of 25g and 300ml of water or milk, then your macronutrient balance would look like this:


According to recommendations, a protein intake of 20-30g per serving should be the targeted amount to enable sufficient protein biosynthesis (4). In the table above, it is clearly shown that a big difference in terms of calories is made when you mix a protein shake with water instead of milk. Milk is advantageous in that you can boost your protein intake up to 31.5 grams in one shake while still using just a single Scoop Protein Powder. If you are on a low carbohydrate diet, you should stay away from it, as milk has a naturally high lactose content. Of course there are also vegetable milk substitutes, such as almond, soy or rice milk, which are suitable for making a delicious vegan protein shake. Vegan protein can have a sandy or grainy aftertaste. Many vegan athletes supplement with vegan protein powder by making protein smoothies, e.g. with frozen fruit and vegetable milk or through making vegan baked goods/desserts.


When should you consume a protein shake? Pre- or post-workout?

Scientifically, there are no significant studies that prove that "protein timing" has a real effect on muscle building. It is recommended that you build up your protein intake around your workout, which means that you should consume protein, e.g. in the form of a protein shake, about 1-2 hours before and after your workout (5). Thus, the two main take-away points from previous studies are:

A) It definitely does not hurt to consume protein shakes around training times and in the best case scenario, the right timing will lead to an increase in muscle mass. In the worst case, timing will have no marked effect on the protein supplementation (i.e. even without taking it around training times, you will still eventually gain the muscle mass if you are training and eating right.)

B) The things that make a significant difference are: how much protein you consume overall throughout the day, what the biological value of the protein is and how complete the amino acid profile of the meal you eat is. The biological value is a measure of how efficiently proteins from food can be converted into the body's own protein. Whole eggs serve as a reference value for this, as it can be100% converted into protein by the body. This is discussed in more detail in the next section.

Since the consumption of protein has a satiating effect, a regenerative function and a thermal function (the body needs energy to break down a protein into its components), it makes a lot of sense to consume several protein shakes during the day (or have several protein rich meals) as long as you are not fasting.


Plant Based Protein Shakes - the difference to animal product protein shakes and what you need to know.


As mentioned in previous sections, the deciding factors of how valuable the protein is, are how complete the amino acid profile is and whether it contains all the essential amino acids. The percentage of a protein that the body can convert into the body's own protein depends on the biological value of the product (6). When research on the biological value of a product was started, it was discovered that whole eggs can be converted 100% by the body into its own protein. As a result, whole eggs became a reference value. Subsequently, other animal and vegetable protein sources were also assigned a value that describes how valuable the protein is for the body (2):







When whey protein was introduced to the market, it was found that it had an even higher biological value than a whole egg, which explains its value (higher than 100).

Does this automatically mean that vegetable protein is of lower quality than an animal protein? Not at all! This can be combatted by combing different protein rich plant foods Vegetable proteins alone usually do not reach the biological value of an animal protein, but the combination of a vegetable protein source with another vegetable product results in a complete amino acid profile with a biological value above 100!

For example, the MyProtein "Vegan Protein Blend" contains a pea protein isolate, which is cleverly combined with field bean isolate to cover a complete amino acid profile. The "Soy Protein Isolate" is naturally blessed with a complete amino acid profile and has a peak value of 90g protein to 100g protein powder. The "Brown Rice Protein" also performs above average with 78g protein per 100g and is in combination with soy, beans or nuts your perfect vegetable companion for muscle building.


What should you look for in a vegan protein powder?



In addition to nutritional values, taste and solubility are a crucial factor for many athletes. According to consumers, vegan protein shakes can have a slightly sandy or grainy aftertaste and lag behind the creaminess and solubility of a whey protein, especially if you are used to the taste of a whey protein shake. As far as solubility is concerned, all My-Protein Shakes score points with excellent solubility in water and in milk or vegetable milk substitute products. There is probably no arguing about taste! If you are on a diet, you can make sure that your protein shake has a low sugar content. If you are in a build-up phase or do high-speed sports, you should add carbohydrates to you post-training protein shake to repelenish glycogen stores. In general, it’s always necessary to replenish your glycogen stores with carbohydrates after exercise, unless you are on a "ketogenic diet". "Vegan Recovery Blend" offers a perfect mix of carbohydrates and the complete amino acid profile to repair damaged muscle fibers as quickly as possible. Since vegans need to supplement some micronutrients, e.g. various B- or D- vitamins, it is a good idea to buy or make vegan protein shakes that cover missing micronutrients.


Possible side effects of protein shakes

The benefits of protein shakes in terms of muscle building have been thoruoughly reinforced throughout this article. Protein is the building block of all life and we need it for building all cells and for our health. However, protein shakes are not always viewed in such a positive light.

Some users claim that Whey Protein Shakes can cause stomach and/or digestive problems and acne. In addition, professional bodybuilders claim that milk proteins of all kinds can cause water retention under the skin, which can cause muscle definition to suffer during a competition phase. There are numerous studies for and against all claims, but none of these studies are considered to have a high level of reliability or validity, as other variables in the test subjects were not measured i.e. their stress level, the cause of the stress and the quality of their sleep. Stress and poor sleep quality can also have major affects on skin, hair, cell structure and gastrointestinal health, so it is not currently possible to formulate a clear scientific explanation to this claim. There is a possibility that lactose or milk protein has a negative effect on the body or has an inflammatory effect (promoting inflammation) and therefore the recommendation applies:

Try it out on yourself and observe how you feel, how your gastrointestinal tract reacts, whether your skin gets better or worse and whether other side effects occur or not.

Take Home Message


In summary, in order to achieve optimal muscle gain, you need more dietary protein than someone who does not do any sport. It is up to each individual athlete or coach to decide which form of protein to use. Protein Shakes are simply an efficient means to generate a protein intake of approx. 1.5g - 1.8g times body weight. Whether you use water, milk or vegetable milk alternatives is entirely up to you and depends on your goals and your daily calorie balance.

If you are someone who prefers to avoid animal products, our vegan protein shakes offer a super alternative to promote effective muscle building. When choosing your dietary protein, just make sure that the amino acid profile is complete and that the right combination of foods is used.

Listen to your body to observe exactly which changes occur what you need for growth and then nothing can stand in the way of your sporting goals!

Whey Isolate recommendation












My current vegan protein blend









References:


(1) Jeremy M. Berg et al. (2018): Stryer Biochemie. 8. Version. Springer Spektrum, Berlin / Heidelberg

(2) ELMADFA, Ibrahim (2009): Ernährungslehre. 2. Auflage. Stuttgart: Eugen Ulmer

(3)HELMS, R. ERIC et al. (2013): A Systematic Review of Dietary Protein During Caloric Restriction in Resistance Trained Lean Athletes: A Case for Higher Intakes: URL: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257350851_A_Systematic_Review_of_Dietary_Protein_During_Caloric_Restriction_in_Resistance_Trained_Lean_Athletes_A_Case_for_Higher_Intakes

(4)Deutz NE, et al. Clin Nutr. (2013): Is there a maximal anabolic response to protein intake with a meal?: URL: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/23260197/

(5) CONTRERAS, BRET (2014): Why You Don’t Really Need A Post-Workout Protein Shake: https://bretcontreras.com/why-you-dont-really-need-a-post-workout-protein-shake/

(6) Jay R. Hoffman, Michael J. Falvo: Protein – Which is Best. In: Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. 3, Nr. 3, 2004, S. 118–30.

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