Protein pills, protein powders… do a simple search on the web and you’ll discover that your options are endless. But which is the better muscle support system? Which can offer you real and credible results?
And that is the question. When you get past all the pros, the cons and the benefits – what is the actual difference between them?
In this post, we plan to delve into the world of protein tablets and show you the best ways to harness their ingredients.
What are protein supplement pills?
Protein capsules are a great way to boost protein synthesis and muscle recovery. They are essentially a type of dietary supplement that can raise your existing protein intake and ensure you are receiving all the essential amino acids you need to encourage natural muscle development.
Now, the amount you need to take varies from source to source, but on average you will need to consume 0.36g of protein (per day) for every pound of body weight.
But that is not all…
Protein supplements are only effective when combined with regular exercise.
Think about it…
Muscle growth occurs with the natural tearing of muscle fibers when you lift weights. It is as these fibers heal i.e. you recover from your workout, that your muscle mass increases. This is why any method of supporting protein synthesis is essential.
By providing your body with these 9 essential amino acids; your body can use it to create its very own protein and build muscle tissue. And this is fantastic news for bodybuilders, because the amount of physical exercise you put your body through, means you need a much higher intake of protein than the average person. Protein pills can provide you with this extra protein.
Here’s the science:
During digestion protein is broken down by dietary enzymes called proteases. The faster protein is broken down, the quicker they can be converted into amino acids to help repair muscle tissue and encourage muscle growth. At the same time, this additional protein can help you to raise your immune system and keep you fitter, stronger and healthier during fitness cycles.
What are sources of protein to produce these pills?
Would you believe that the average protein pills contains only 2g of protein – at most?! This is significantly less than protein powders, where – depending on the size of the scoop – you can get around 20-25g of protein.
When you compare them, there is really no competition as you’d need to consume a lot of protein supplement pills to be anywhere close to the level of protein found in powders.
But what type of protein is actually used in these pills? What are the best protein pills made of?
This can vary depending on the manufacturer, but most use either casein or whey. True, there are others you can try – beef, chicken, milk, eggs or liver – but these just aren’t as popular, leaving casein and whey to take the lead. In fact, given a choice whey protein pills win hands down amongst athletes.
This is because whilst both can be digested and absorbed into the body easily enough, whey appears in your bloodstream faster. Whey also appears to have a stronger anabolic effect on muscle growth as it has got more of the essential amino acid leucine.
Either way, if you are struggling to choose a protein pill, we suggest picking one that uses only a high quality source of protein, and that has been paired with other essential vitamins and minerals. This will give your body optimal opportunities to make muscle.
How to use protein pills and for what
The one thing to remember here is that protein pills are NOT a replacement for meals. Sure they can supply you with all the essential amino acids that you need to encourage protein synthesis and muscle development, but they cannot succeed on their own. You need food. Nutrition. Energy.
That is why you should always take protein pills alongside meals to maximize your energy levels.
For optimum results, you should take them at least 2 hours before you work out. This will give your body enough time to digest and utilize the protein within these pills, so you feel energized and ready to perform. Alternatively, you can take them straight after a workout to speed up muscle recovery and repair.
Similarly, it is important to remember that they aren’t dietary supplements and shouldn’t be used for weight loss.
Sure, protein pills can assist with exercise and yes, they can provide your body with the additional fuel it needs to workout harder, but this is not simultaneous with weight loss.
You still have to work out and exercise hard in order to get the weight loss results you’re craving. If anything, the goal of protein pills is to increase your mass.
What is the difference between protein pills and powders?
This is the big question: how do these two competing products differ?
The biggest difference between protein pills and powders has to be the amount of protein they actually provide you with.
For protein pills, they typically only give you 2g of protein per pill. This is drastically less than protein powders, where in one scoop you can receive at least 20g of protein. Even plant based protein powders can offer you a higher percentage of protein. Pea protein for example contains 21g of protein for every 28g.
Now, before you start popping protein pills by the dozen, there is a dosage limit to how many you can have within a 24 hour period. So taking 10 pills in one serving is simply not feasible when you’ve got to repeat this 3 times a day.
Don’t do it. It’s not worth it. Plus there is more to consider.
- Protein shakes contain extra calories which can assist with weight gain during bulking – protein pills cannot offer you these extra calories.
- Protein shakes can be used as a meal replacement – alongside helping you to feel fuller; when mixed with milk, water or fruit juices, they can also successfully be swapped out for a meal. Protein pills cannot be used as a meal alternative.
- Protein pills are more convenient to take – you can take them anywhere; multiple times a day, and there is no preparation involved. Protein powders require a lot of prep time and containers to transport them. Not only do you have to scoop out the exact amount; mix it with a liquid and then drink it; if you’re out all day, you will be carrying all of this prep with you (which is heavier than you think).
- Protein powders are messy – and we’re not just talking about your attempts to prep it. Put it in your backpack, suitcase, etc. whilst you’re out and about, and there is a high chance it will spill all over your bag (no thanks).
- When you compare flavors, protein pills win every time. You can simply throw them to the back of your throat, swallow, and you’re all done. Many protein powders come with a horrible after taste (if they are unflavored).
- They are basically the same product but in different quantities. It’s true! They use the exact same types of protein, but present them to you differently – one as a powder, and one as a pill.
- Your body will handle them exactly the same – the capsule casings on protein pills dissolve almost as soon as they enter your mouth, meaning they are released into your body in the same way as protein powders.
- Both can easily be integrated into your bodybuilding cycle AND at different stages of your cycle too. For instance, protein powders are better for bulking as they contain extra calories that can help you to put on weight.
- Both encourage positive health benefits, including: lowered blood pressure; reduced inflammation; improved diabetes and immunity; raised antioxidant properties/defences and falls in bad cholesterol levels.
- Protein powders can help you to feel fuller for longer and can be used as a meal replacement (good for controlling calories and your appetite).
- Protein pills offer you less protein than eating protein enriched foods. Eggs, milk, chicken, and fish – they all contain more protein than protein pills (and with none of the negative side effects).
- Taken in too high a dosage, protein supplement pills can overload your liver and cause lasting damage e.g. with whey protein you should never take more than 30g in one sitting.
- Excessive use of pills and powders can lead to digestive problems, liver and kidney problems, nausea, pain, bloating, cramping and diarrhea.
- Our bodies can only utilize a limited amount of protein at one time. This means, consume too much protein in one sitting, and this excess protein will become pretty useless.
- Most bodybuilders already consume enough protein in their diet, meaning adding pills or supplements to your cycle won’t always necessarily help you to gain more muscle.
When to take protein when you workout
See what we mean?
When you strip it all away, what you have got are two products that can benefit you in different ways.
Want something that is convenient and easy to use? Take a protein pill. You can easily pop these into your mouth; complete your weightlifting cycle, and watch as the gains appear.
If on the other hand, you want a higher injection of protein in one dosage, then protein powders win hands down. In one scoop you can experience 20 times the amount of protein than one pill – how can it compete?
And that is our point – protein pills sadly won’t make a dent on the amount of protein you need.
For that reason, if you want real and genuine results, then the best thing you can do for your body is to: eat plenty of meats, eggs and milk in small portions across the day (0.8kg-1.2kg per day per kg of bodyweight) and ensure that you get the most out of your workout.
Protein pills? Protein powders? All they really are just a nice added bonus to your plans.