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Whey. I dumped another scoop of brown powder into the cup. I added water. I stirred. I drank it quickly as it tasted awful. I imagined myself with massive muscles.
A young bodybuilder, I thought whey was a magic potion. Whey helped me gain muscle. But regular heavy lifting, for 5 to 10 years, was the secret. It made me the muscle stud I am today.
The science. When I see a guy with big arms walk past, I know he did not get that muscle mass by accident. He drank whey protein. But how much each day? I try to discover his secrets.
Tip: Proven effective, whey helps people gain muscle mass faster than other forms of protein.
Recommended dosage: 3 to 6 scoops (20 g per scoop) per day. Scientific studies have used more with success. Scoops vary in size.
Amount. The best amount of whey protein depends on several factors. These include your activity level, body size and composition, and metabolism.
Tip: For weight lifters it is often advised to consume one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Ratio: This corresponds to 0.45 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. Taking this into account, I developed this table.
Pounds, kilograms and grams protein 100 pounds (45 kg) = 100 grams protein 110 pounds (50 kg) = 110 grams protein 120 pounds (54 kg) = 120 grams protein 130 pounds (59 kg) = 130 grams protein 140 pounds (64 kg) = 140 grams protein 150 pounds (68 kg) = 150 grams protein 160 pounds (73 kg) = 160 grams protein 170 pounds (77 kg) = 170 grams protein 180 pounds (82 kg) = 180 grams protein 190 pounds (86 kg) = 190 grams protein 200 pounds (91 kg) = 200 grams protein 210 pounds (95 kg) = 210 grams protein
Whey percentage. Next I figure out what percentage of the total grams of protein you need to consume to build muscle should be whey protein.
Estimate: About half of your daily protein could come from whey protein. This assumes a balanced diet.
Note: If your diet is already high in protein, as from eggs or milk, less whey can be used.
Servings. This table estimates the grams of whey protein based on weight. It converts that to servings. These estimates are useful for physically active people.
Scoops: The chart assumes one scoop of whey contains 20 grams of protein. Whey protein contains several grams of things other than protein.
Info: It is probably better to use a little more than necessary if you aim to gain muscle mass.
Chart of pounds and kilograms to whey protein scoops per day 100 pounds (45 kg) = 50 grams whey protein (3 scoops per day) 110 pounds (50 kg) = 55 grams whey protein (3 scoops per day) 120 pounds (54 kg) = 60 grams whey protein (3 scoops per day) 130 pounds (59 kg) = 65 grams whey protein (4 scoops per day) 140 pounds (64 kg) = 70 grams whey protein (4 scoops per day) 150 pounds (68 kg) = 75 grams whey protein (4 scoops per day) 160 pounds (73 kg) = 80 grams whey protein (4 scoops per day) 170 pounds (77 kg) = 85 grams whey protein (5 scoops per day) 180 pounds (82 kg) = 90 grams whey protein (5 scoops per day) 190 pounds (86 kg) = 95 grams whey protein (5 scoops per day) 200 pounds (91 kg) = 100 grams whey protein (5 scoops per day) 210 pounds (95 kg) = 105 grams whey protein (6 scoops per day)
Some comments. According to the science, this plan is not excessive. It should not be unhealthy in most bodybuilders. Studies have used even more with no known harmful results.
This plan. The plan uses only 0.5 grams of whey protein per pound of body weight per day. The studies indicate you can gain about 10 pounds in 10 weeks.
Result: The bodybuilders who used about this much whey protein in the study gained 11 pounds (5 kilograms) of lean mass over ten weeks.
Research. Science is important. Next I review the evidence. Whey protein (as in protein shakes) has been shown to increase muscle mass in medical studies.
Note: In a 10-week study, whey protein resulted in strength gains. 13 recreational bodybuilders in Australia we retested.
Groups: One group of bodybuilders used whey protein supplements. Another group used casein protein supplements.The effect of whey isolate and resistance training
Whey protein: Men gained 5 kg of lean mass (11 pounds). Men lost 1.5 of fat (3.3 pounds). Men became significantly stronger.
Casein protein: Men gained 0.8 kg of lean mass (1.7 pounds). Men gained 0.2 kg of fat (0.4 pounds).
Whey versus casein. The bodybuilders who used whey protein supplements gained almost ten more pounds of muscle weight. They also lost, rather than gained, fat.
Muscle gains. Over 80 percent of the muscle gains in the weightlifters were attributed to the whey. The protein supplements really helped these guys.
Analysis: In the lifters who gained 11 pounds of muscle because of whey, about 9.3 pounds of that were because of whey.
Bioavailable. Whey has a high level of bioavailability. Your body can easily absorb it. Whey is derived from milk. It is processed to be even easier to absorb.
Next: We look at the textbook Nutritional Sciences: From Fundamentals to Food—page 180.
If a food is a complete protein source and its protein is bioavailable, it is a high-quality protein source. In general, animal-derived foods are sources of high-quality protein, and foods containing incomplete proteins... are low-quality protein sources.Nutritional Sciences: From Fundamentals to Food
Animal source. Whey protein is an animal-derived food. It has high bioavailability. Whey, like eggs and milk, is good for jump-starting protein synthesis in your body.
Plants: Protein from plants is less effective unless you take steps to make it more bioavailable, as with amino acid supplements.
Health. I always want to know whether foods I eat are good for me. Is whey protein healthy? Will it cause me to turn green and diet a horrible death?
Moderation. Many foods are good for you in moderation. Whey protein is one of these foods. It is something you should not use in great excess.
Warning: Excess protein can cause problems if you have kidney disease. If this is a problem, a physician should be consulted.
Gain muscle. Whey protein helps us gain muscle mass. Having more muscle size is known to improve health. So whey protein, as a muscle-building supplement, leads to better health.
In research: Trainees using whey protein isolate gained more muscle mass than those using casein.
The [whey isolate] group achieved a significantly greater gain (P < 0.01) in lean mass than the [casein] group.... The effect of whey isolate and resistance training
Medical. Next, I point out some medical research regarding certain medical patients. These patients are unable to build muscle on normal diets.
Result: With a special diet including whey protein, these patients could build muscle.
In cancer patients, conventional nutritional supplementation is ineffective in stimulating muscle protein synthesis. This anabolic resistance can be overcome with a specially formulated nutritional supplement.Muscle protein synthesis
Safe. Whey protein is used to treat the effects of disease. It is also used to increase muscle mass in healthy people. It is well-known by physicians.
Usually: A moderate amount of whey protein is a safe choice. It is good for your body and health.
Soy protein. Is whey protein superior to soy protein for people lifting weights? It is known that soy can reduce testosterone levels.
But: One study found that this does not impact the results of a 3-month weight training program.
Evidence suggests an inverse relationship between soy protein intake and serum concentrations of male sex hormones.Effect of protein source and resistance training
In the study, 20 men were assigned to groups that supplemented with soy, whey protein or a combination of the two. The guys did 12 weeks of bodybuilding workouts.
Result: No differences in the amount of muscle gained were found for the groups. So whey has no magical effect.
This investigation shows that 12 week supplementation with soy protein does not decrease serum testosterone or inhibit lean body mass changes in subjects engaged in a resistance exercise program. Effect of protein source and resistance training
Evidence. Whey protein may not be much more effective than other protein sources in the short-term. Soy protein may not diminish your success.
Scoop. Protein powder containers come with scoops included. Scoops are often about one third of a cup. This depends on the brand.
Digging out the scoop. The protein scoop can be hard to dig out. I feel like I ought to wear gloves because otherwise I would contaminate the protein powder.
"Where is that thing?"
It must be somewhere down at the bottom.
"Great—there's now protein powder everywhere."
Scoop size. I thought I would list some information about protein scoop sizes. The current brand of whey protein is CytoSport Complete.
Note: This is the information it lists about its protein scoop on the Nutrition Facts.
CytoSport nutrition facts Serving Size 27g (approx 1 scoop) ... 1 scoop = 27 g
Experiment. I did a little experiment. I filled the protein scoop with water and poured it into a measuring cup. I found that the scoop is equal to exactly 1/3 cup.
Rounded scoops. There is an additional issue regarding protein scoops. Some brands, including Optimum Nutrition, specify rounded scoops.
Caution: The scoop is an inaccurate measurement. It cannot be converted to cups for that brand.
Scoop: A scoop, in these brands of protein powder, depends on the roundness of your serving. This is not scientifically rigorous.
Cost. Many bodybuilders are young. They do not have a lot of money to spend on supplements. I calculated how much the whey protein guidelines would cost.
10 pounds: At Amazon you can buy 10 pounds of high-quality whey protein for about $100. This contains 4535 grams of protein powder.
170 servings: Each serving contains 24 grams of protein and there are about 170 servings in a container.
So: At five scoops a day, this will last you for 34 days—around one month. This will cost about $3 per day (as of 2015).
Optimum Nutrition. There are many brands of protein available. If you are starting out, I recommend a smaller container (such as a 2-pound container).
100% Whey Gold Standard: This is a popular whey protein available in the United States. It mixes well and is smooth.
100% Any Whey Instantized Whey Protein: This whey product has no flavoring. It is a good supplement if you like to cook.
Platinum Hydro Whey: This whey product is further processed. Some users with lactose intolerance report it causes less discomfort.
CytoSport. Another manufacturer of whey protein is CytoSport. I particularly like the Muscle Milk product. The powdered form actually tastes good.
CytoSport Muscle Milk: I enjoy drinking CytoSport Muscle Milk. It is closer to a meal-replacement shake than whey protein.Muscle Milk
CytoSport Complete Whey Protein: This is another whey protein. It is whey protein concentrate, which means it is harder to mix.
Misc. Whey protein is a profitable business. For this reason you have lots of selection. In general the more you spend, the better the quality.
Twinlab 100% Whey Protein Fuel: This is another high-quality brand. The product is very similar to Optimum Nutrition whey.
Dymatize Nutrition Elite Whey Protein Powder: This protein has no aspartame. It is an isolate, not a concentrate, which makes it mix well.
Body Fortress Super Advanced Whey Protein: I have seen this product sold at Walmart stores. It is an average whey protein.
MRM All Natural Whey: One advantage to this product is that it has no artificial sweeteners. I have enjoyed MRM products in the past.
Jarrow Formulas Whey Protein: This is a whey concentrate. I found it is harder to mix. Its price is a benefit.
GNC Pro Performance AMP 100% Whey Protein: I like GNC whey protein. It is similar to Optimum Nutrition whey in its quality.
Heartburn. A whey protein shake can sometimes cause heartburn. This can be caused by the milk or a sweetener in the whey protein.Protein and Heartburn
Also: Sometimes bodybuilders consume too much food, and this causes abdominal pressure. This in turn causes heartburn.
So: Despite your desire for a larger body with more muscle mass, eating less food at a time is advisable.
Smell. When you start using protein shakes, you may encounter some problems. When I started, I found a nasty smell is common. Baking soda can remove this odor.Clean Protein CupsStore Protein Cups in Fridge
Tip: It sometimes helps to refrigerate protein shakes. This makes the shake last longer.
Heat. Never attempt to microwave or heat a protein shake. This never ends well. Whey protein will not mix in warm or hot water or milk.
And: When heated, whey protein will clump together. You will probably have to throw the mixture out.
So: Don't imagine that a whey protein shake is like hot chocolate. It is not. It is meant to improve your health, not taste good.
Fiber. A whey protein shake has no fiber in it. So if you are having a problem with diarrhea, do not expect whey protein to help matters.
Metamucil: This is a good supplement to use along with whey protein. It will help you form solid stools.
Beans: These contain lots of fiber. They are a good bodybuilding food and can be consumed along with whey.Beans
Oats: These are a great standby bodybuilding food. They help with bowel issues and also have some less bioavailable protein.
Supplements. One benefit to whey protein powders is that they contain branched-chain amino acids—BCAA. These are essential to building muscle.BCAA
Tip: If you consume enough whey protein, you will not need to take separate BCAA supplements.
Supplements list. Supplements help build muscle. For most lifters a multivitamin is sufficient. Creatine is perhaps the most effective supplement other than protein.Apple Cider VinegarArginineChocolateChromiumCLACreatineFenugreekFish OilGarlicGinsengGlutamineMultivitaminZinc
Casein. Another kind of protein for bodybuilders is casein. This is found in milk and cheese. I don't bother with this supplement.Casein
A muscle stud. I hope you achieve your goal of massive rock-hard muscles. As a boy this goal was unattainable for me. It took many years to make progress.
Except in movies, magic does not exist. Our world, and our bodies, is ruled by science. A perfect physique takes time—many years, at least five or ten.
The whey it is. Whey protein has been heavily researched. And it is heavily beneficial, not just to bodybuilders, but to people who have serious diseases.
An ideal amount. This depends on body weight, activity level and genetic factors. A balanced diet, with sufficient protein, is probably more important.