If you’re new to the workout lifestyle, you will hear the words protein thrown left and right. Even at the gym, your trainer may recommend you some proteins to maximize your workout. Everybody requires something different to fit their specific body needs at different phases of workout. However, now that you have been given some recommendation, what do you do? You go to the store, ask the salesperson for “A protein for cutting”. Then the salesperson hands you 2 tubs of protein. As you glance through the nutritional information, one has the words HCA, l-carnitine. The other has the word creatine and l-glutamine. Those jargons… what do they all mean? You ask the salesperson and you get this look…
If this happened to you, then this article will help you address some of the more common words/phrases you will see on product labels and will hopefully give you a better understanding on how to choose the correct supplement for your workout.
Soy protein – Protein that is extracted from soybean
Whey protein – Protein extracted from whey (The liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained. It is a by-product of the manufacture of cheese)
Casein protein – Protein derived from milk. Similar to whey but is digested much more slowly. Suitable for consumption before sleep. Those who are allergic to milk cannot consume this.
Protein Concentrate – Has less protein gram per gram compared to isolate. Typically 70-80% protein, 20% other compounds such as carbs,fats and other nutrients.
Protein Isolate – When a protein concentrate is subjected to a 2nd filtration process, it produce a more pure protein content. They are then called “isolates”. Typically has 90% or more protein. Minimal carbs and almost no fat.
Protein Hydrolysate – Hydrolysates are concentrates or isolates that have been hydrolyzed. Hydrolyzing breaks down some of the protein by exposing them to heat, acid or enzymes. This makes the protein taste a little more bitter but allows more rapid absorption into the body. However it is worth noting that concentrates and isolates are already fast-digesting, so a hydrolysate, which is only marginally faster absorbing might not be worth the taste tradeoff and extra cost.
Ion Exchange – One method to produce protein isolate. Ion exchange procedure produces the highest amount of pure protein.
Micro/Cross Filtered – Another method to produce protein isolate. The process is similar to reverse osmosis in the water purification industry.
Bulking – Fat loss and muscle gain only occurs together if you are a total beginner. For the medium and advanced gym goers, you need to split it up into 2 phases. Bulking generally refers to gaining muscle. During this stage, you stuff your body with as much energy and muscle building nutrients as possible. Looking good is not the main consideration. It is common to see people put on a lot of weight to the point of looking fat. But don’t let that fool you. These people are a muscle powerhouse. The human body is strongest at this period. This condition is similar to a bear – unbelievable strong, full of muscles and fat hence earning the nickname bearmode. That fat looking sumo wrestler or weight lifter in the olympics may actually be more fit than you think!
Cutting – aka losing fat. When it comes to making those muscles stand out, you need to cut the fat but keep the muscles. During these times, controlling your diet is more important than ever. The cutting phase is 80% diet, 20% workout. At this stage, you should consume proteins that specialize in maintaining muscle mass while assisting with fat burning.
Anabolic – Means “to build up”. To us, it means to build muscles. The term “anabolic cooking” means cooking food that promotes muscle growth. Anabolic steroids means steroids that help muscle growth. Anabolic solution means a solution that promotes muscle growth etc.
Catabolic – The opposite of anabolic, which is breaking down muscles. When the body is in need of energy, it is easier to break down muscle compared to fat. If you overwork your body or do not sufficiently supply your body with the necessary energy during/after workout, the body will go catabolic – possibly destroying muscle in order to provide energy. This of course is unwanted which is why it’s important to sufficiently supply your body with the right supplements.
Thermogenics – These are fat burners. The supplements have a direct affect on the body’s ability to burn fat. Mainly increases metabolism rate. Some of the more common thermogenic ingredients are: green tea extract, guarana, HCA, caffeine. But do remember, nothing beats proper diet and exercise. If you still consume more calories than you can burn, you will get fat.
Amino Acids – Proteins are absorbed into the body in the form of amino acids (about 33%) and small peptides (about 67%). They are then selectively put together for different uses such as muscle and connective tissue development, enzyme and hormone formation etc. Amino acids can be categorized as essential and non essential. Essential amino acids cannot be produced, and therefore must be obtained from diet. Non essential amino acids can be synthesized from the body. There are 9 essential amino acids – Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Valine.
BCAA – Of all the essential amino acids, 3 of them – leucine, isoleucine and valine are grouped together and called “branched chain amino acid”. They are the three most important amino acids in the manufacture, maintenance and repair of muscle tissue. Together they form one third of muscle tissue and are able to be utilised during intensive exercise as a fuel source. Especially helpful for maintaining muscle mass while on a calorie deficit diet. Dieting can be catabolic. The leaner you become, the more the body tries to store fat. Usually the body will turn to the most ready and easy source which is muscles. BCAA helps stimulate protein synthesis and reduces the rate of protein breakdown.
L-Glutamine – The most common non-essential amino acid found in muscles and also the primary transporter of nitrogen to cells. Glutamine plays a key role in protein synthesis. Supplementing glutamine can minimize muscle catabolism and improve protein metabolism. However it is worth noting that the body usually does not produce enough glutamine for heavy workouts. Thus having an extra dose from dietary intakes helps greatly.
Creatine – Creatine acts as a performance enhancer offering athletes more power and strength for high intensity workouts. It also enhances your body’s ability to retain water and synthesize protein within the muscle fibers, which increases your muscle mass and increases your muscles ability to perform physical work (It somewhat does what steroids do but is not a banned substance because it is naturally occurring in human bodies). Most supplements are often compared to creatine because creatine is simply so good at what it’s supposed to do. However if you’re not planning on bulking up or requiring serious muscle performance, you will most likely be able to get on with minimal use of creatine.
L-Carnitine – L-carnitine is most popularly marketed as a thermogenic. But what it really is, is a fatty acid transporter. It facilitates burning of fatty acids for metabolic energy. You may find carnitine as an ingredient on proteins that aid the cutting phase but it is not solely used for cutting. It is also used to metabolize carbs and BCAA, lactate clearance and ammonia detoxification.
HCA – A thermogenic. Hydroxycitric Acid is a fruit extract from Malabar Tamarinds and some species of the Garcinia genus native to South India and Southeast Asia. Inhibits the conversion of starch and sugar into fat. HCA also affects levels of serotonin giving you a better appetite.
Guarana – A thermogenic. Naturally concentrated source of caffeine from a plant native to the Amazon basin. Guarana inhibits the neurotransmitter adenosine, which in turn increases dopamine and norepinephrine production.
Caffeine – A thermogenic. Yes this is the same caffeine found in coffee that keeps you alert.
Green tea extract – A thermogenic. Green tea extract contains several catechin compounds, the most important of which is Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG). Human and animal studies have shown that green tea increases fat oxidation via an acute increase in thermogensis and by a more long-term increase in ?-oxidation in the liver. Human studies have shown that green tea compounds and caffeine significantly increase 24 hr energy expenditure (calories burnt at rest).
Carbohydrates – An essential ingredient when it comes to building muscle and gaining weight. They’re the primary energy source used by the body, and are very important in any weight-gaining programme. If you need energy, carbs are the way to go. Protein is inefficient as a quick energy supplement. Carbohydrates are also important because they raise the body’s insulin levels when you eat them. Insulin is considered an anabolic hormone because it transports carbs to the muscle cells and also drives the amino acids from the protein sources you eat into the muscle cells to promote new growth. Best to consume carbs pre-workout and protein post workout.
Fat – They are bad under certain conditions but not entirely bad. If you are overweight, fat content in your protein is the least of your concerns. The emphasis should be on working out to build muscles, not purely slimming down. Don’t go crazy over “no-fat” or “low-fat” protein. As long as you don’t go crazy over saturated fats then you are fine. Consuming omega-3 fatty acids on the other hand are good. So if you can supplement them in your diet, all the best.
Now that you know all these terms, you should never feel lost again when choosing protein. And if someone ever recommends you a protein with creatine and glutamine for cutting, then you can give them the death stare.