If you are on the way to a stronger and better self, there is no better companion than the protein powder to help you get there. Not only does it help you build muscle and become stronger in the process when combined with some sort of resistance training, but it can also improve your immune response, and there is a plethora of research proving its efficacy with little to no side-effects.
Crossfit is a very demanding training system which improves both strength and conditioning if done properly, so a high enough protein intake is paramount if you are looking to be successful in either of those two aspects.
Whey isolate would be a clear choice for Crossfit athletes as it’s much more absorbable and enters the bloodstream more quickly than whey concentrate. Combine that with the fact that isolate has a higher protein content by default (90%min as opposed to 35/80% of the protein in whey concentrate) and you will get a pretty clear picture as to why this type of protein works the best.
That being said, not all isolates were created equal, and today we will try to find a winner among four solid contestants.
First on our list is a Denver based company’s baby: Ascent Native Fuel Whey Protein Powder. This family-owned company claims that they use no additional flavors and that they don’t even buy protein in bulk from other companies (which is commonplace nowadays), but they rather buy organic milk and go through the whole process being in control over quality the whole time. If that is true (and I am not saying it’s not) that would be a game-changer. Not often can you see this kind of dedication and will to provide the absolute top-notch products to customers.
When you go through the numbers on the packaging, it is just a standard protein isolate specification. You can choose among 7 tastes and you can opt for lower fat (1g per serving) or a slightly higher fat (2g per serving) option. I understand that this falls under nitpicking even by my standards, but I just wanted to give you the whole picture.
Ascent is also basing most of their advertising on Crossfit and they are endorsed by many of the most famous names in the sport. This can all be just good marketing, but I like to think that they also lend an ear to the athletes when designing the product which can only make the formula better.
If there is one con regarding this protein it would be that they are a relatively small company (especially when compared to some of the other brands on our list), so the price per pound can be a bit higher. Also, if you really care that much about the taste (I am not one of those, but I don’t judge, God knows that one can grow tired of one and the same old chocolate), maybe 7 options aren’t enough for you. Other than that, this is a stand-up powder, I’d say.
Now this one is special. I do love Progenex as a company, but I will try to give you my honest and unbiased opinion, because my experience is just anecdotal evidence, after all.
People usually say that isolate is a worse option than concentrate when it comes to its immune system boosting properties, due to the process of filtration that removes almost all components that are not protein. However, Progenex uses enzymatic hydrolyzation which breaks down protein into its more digestible form (making it more readily available to the muscles) without destroying all the other good stuff that otherwise gets lost in the process.
That is one of the reasons I sometimes use this brand (I haven’t mentioned this before, I don’t stick to one brand of protein, from time to time I change it up, and see what’s cooking, and sometimes I just buy a brand because I like them, and I happened to have come across a bargain during a sale).
Again, there are no significant downsides to this brand and product, and you can’t really go wrong with it, but I do have to say that they only offer 4 different tastes (again, if taste is a factor for you).
More importantly, if money is an issue, and if you are trying to get more muscular on a budget, this might not be the best choice for you. Out of all four, this one is the most expensive, and you still get only 30 servings per bag. Please note that I am not saying that this beauty is not worth it, I am just saying that it may not be the best choice for everybody.
This protein wasn’t named the Gold Standard for no reason. It was called that from the beginning but it served as a kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy for the company. It became so popular that most people imagine a black tub with a red label as soon as someone says protein.
The pros of this protein powder are apparent from the get-go. It has a long tradition and it has gotten great feedback from the customers. Also, it has a wide variety of tastes (25, if I am not mistaken), and its mixability is a non-issue. Furthermore, it has added glutamine, and while its benefits are being re-researched by sports scientists around the globe, I am of the opinion that it cannot hurt to take it in, as it might help with muscle recovery and it showed no significant side effects.
Last but not least, it is by far the most affordable of these four, and it costs the least on a per-pound basis.
Even though not all of it is whey protein isolate, it is the first ingredient listed, and only then followed by ultra-filtered whey protein concentrate. Some might consider that a downside, but I actually think that a combination of slower-acting protein (if we can even call whey concentrate slower-acting) and a faster acting protein can have a synergistic effect, prolonging your anabolism.
As you can see, the main con can actually be viewed as an upside for this protein powder. If I really had to find a downside to this protein powder, I think that it would be lower protein content per serving (around 24g) than others on this list, but if you factor in the price even that doesn’t have to be a negative characteristic.
If the previous one was the golden standard for whey protein and the most recognizable protein powder around the world, this one would be its beta version or Golden Standard 2.0 if you will. Optimum Nutrition themselves have dubbed this the best protein powder they have ever developed.
As the name implies, it was hydrolyzed and broken down into readily available di-peptides and tri-peptides that our muscles can utilize in the shortest possible time. It comes in six flavors and it’s a bit less expensive than the first two on our list on a per-pound basis. All the good things said for the previous protein powder are still true here, with a few side notes.
There are two distinct advantages that this protein powder holds compared to its predecessor. One, it was hydrolyzed so the immune boosting compounds are better preserved even with no whey concentrate in the equation. Two: It has natural occurring, but also added BCAAs, especially leucine, which was proven to trigger protein synthesis.
If I had to list the downsides, I would have to insist on the fact (I know I am beginning to sound like a broken record), that they offer 6 tastes, and to be quite frank, most of them tend to have just a smidge of an acidic aftertaste, which is normal as the protein is almost completely broken down into its original amino acids which taste like cigarette butts soaked in, well, acid.
Of course, this is so minuscule that it’s barely worth mentioning, but I committed myself to give you the whole picture, and this is it.
I tried to give you my honest opinion about these protein powders and to find a winner in this very close race. You might have guessed that my favorite if I really had to choose, would be Optimum Nutrition Golden Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder.
The reason why is that this protein powder has the best of both worlds when it comes to its whey concentrate and whey isolate ratio so the crossfiters and other athletes can get the immediate anabolic response they need, combined with immune system boosting properties of lactoferrin that is found mostly in whey concentrate.
And while some people tend to overthink the whole isolate vs. concentrate conundrum, I think that for the most beginner, intermediate and even upper-intermediate lifters, it doesn’t even make that big of a difference.
On top of it all, Optimum Nutrition has a long tradition and a worldwide web of retailers, so the chances are you are going to be able to find it no matter where you travel. Again, not the least important, it’s the cheapest out of all four.
This question is less complicated than you might think. Let me tell you right off the bat: there is no such thing as an “anabolic window” or a certain time frame within which you have to take in protein in order to maximize your gains. If somebody tells you that you need to get your protein right after your workout session or your body might break down existing muscle, just walk away, please. Seriously, don’t even say goodbye.
I am kidding of course, and that would be too harsh, true, but I grew sick and tired of people promoting the myth that was debunked times and times again.
That being said, timing your macros can be important, and it will ultimately come down to your goals. If you are after muscle growth and an increase in strength, then your overall protein consumption will play a much larger role than the timing of the meal itself.
If you are into CrossFit, chances are that you are after both looks and performance, so the general rule would be (in my opinion, of course): around 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight, or lean body mass if you are obese, divided into three or four meals, and try to have a protein-rich meal (or a protein powder of course), within 3-4 hours around your workout (it can be before the workout as well) to promote anabolic state.
When people ask me about whey protein, I always remember a story my professor told me back at the university. Scientists were trying to find the best post-workout meal for professional athletes to cut the recovery time to a minimum. The formula that they found was basically chocolate milk. It has just the right ratio of carbs and protein, but they had to replace casein protein from milk with whey protein because of the speed at which we can utilize it upon consumption.
Since then, whey protein has taken place on almost every list of tried and tested supplements. As we have already established, not only does whey protein help with muscle recovery and muscle growth, but it also improves the immune system, bone density, and overall bone health.
Maybe the biggest benefit that protein supplements hold is its convenience. Sometimes it can be difficult to stay consistent with your protein consumption from day to day, but having the chance to simply chug down 30g of protein without cooking or preparing it for a longer period of time can really be a lifesaver.
If I had to put it simply – there are none. Or at least they are not the kind that most people have in mind when it comes to protein.
See, thanks to some older studies people are still afraid that increased protein intake can somehow damage their kidneys. That is simply not true, and most of those research papers that spread that fear found deteriorations in kidney function exclusively in people with pre-existing kidney conditions.
With otherwise healthy individuals increased protein intake (that went even up to 2.8kg per kg of body weight) did nothing to endanger kidneys in any way. The worst that can happen is some minor bloating or another sort of GI discomfort.
If you are an active person, or even an elderly person looking to retain as much muscle as possible, let alone a professional athlete or a crossfiter, you can only benefit from increasing your protein intake. The most convenient way to do so is by grabbing a tub of your favorite powder.
Hey! My name is Paul Sheldon. I live in Nashville, TN and I love all things related to sports. Naturally I love workking out and I do it every day. If you want to talk feel freee to hit me a message or if you happen to be in Nashville we can get a coffee, I know a great place. Peace!