Lil Miss Fitness Freak

"And though she be but little, she is fierce"

Friday Fitness Questions


Hey Friends,

Update, lets all pretend it’s Friday mmmmmkay 😉 

So I wanted to do a lil Friday thing (lets see if it sticks! Hope so!) where I answer a few common fitness related questions that I used to get in my comments section back when I was a real blogger (ie. was able to post more then once a week…promise that is my goal for this summer, not because I feel I have to, but because I want to and miss you guys!).

Anywho, so hopefully these will be useful to many, and although some of them may some simple and common knowledge, I did get these questions a lot so they are new information to many. Feel free to post any questions in the comments below on each of these posts and I will make sure to answer you in a following post!

Also, if you have different opinions and research also comment away! I’m always up for learning more.

So lets get started shall we?

1. Do I need protein powder if I’m lifting weights? If so, what is the best kind to get?

Part 1: No you don’t.

Even the most “hardcore athletes” don’t need to use protein supplements. In most cases they simply choose it for convince OR because it is what they can digest easily after their training. I personally tend to fall into the second of those two. I found that when I was eating whole foods, it took my too long to feel the effects (due to having to break it down too much I suppose and release the nutrients) after my workouts and I tended to get sleepy and stay sleepy. After switching to having my current post workout meal (organic brown rice cakes + protein powder ‘icing’ + banana + coconut oil), I feel the effects right away and feel more awake, even after those tough leg day sessions where I’m slightly shakey post-workout.

Most tend to think that they need to down protein shakes post workout because that is what all of the bodybuilders do, but there is really nothing in the literature that says that is best over whole foods, from what I have found. Yes, whey is arguably one of the best sources of protein in terms of bioavailability to the body (in other words, percentage of the protein you absorb) and thus is very quick to be used as the powder and and easily digestible form enables quick absorption, but in terms of growth and repair, it’s not going to get you better or faster results per say then something like eggs or meat.

I say per say because I’m not sure if you would see different results comparing a  post workout recovery meal of whey vs. a whole food one of less bioavailable sources like plant-based proteins that also may not cover all of the essential amino acids. You also just need to ensure you’re getting enough protein in general!

If greater muscle synthesis is what you’re after, research shows that the essential amino acids (the 15 AA that need to be ingested as they are not made in the body) are what you should be leaning towards. A study by Paddon-Jones et al (2006) that looked at the difference in muscle synthesis in elderly and young individuals taking either a whey or essential amino acid supplement and found that the supplement showed greater synthesis then the whey. To be brief, they concluded that it appears that the addition of the other amino acids did not appear to stimulate greater synthesis.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is the fact that although you see people chugging straight protein, carbohydrates appear to be important for greater effects (I have seen some conflicting observations BUT the majority talks about a benefit). A study by Tang et al (2007) concluded that even a minimal dose of whey (10g) with the help of a carbohydrate source (21g) created a 2 fold increase in muscle protein synthesis in young men post-exercise.

Note the ratio of carbs to protein….2:1 friends. Don’t forget about your carbies

 Further evidence of the important role of carbohydrates came from the 2006 study by Bird, Tarpenning and Marino. They reported a synergistic effect of post-exercise carbohydrate and essential amino acid supplementation pairing on muscle protein synthesis. Specifically, the anabolic affect on muscle was greater when paired together rather then taken independently. So once again, it’s the essential aminos that appear to be important for muscle growth, but it also appears that carbohydrates help aid in that process.

 This article by Volek (2004) provides a great overview of the literature if you’re interested further OR if you want a more easy read, here’s an article by Eirik from Organic Fitness (not a journal article but includes research in the article) talking about how quantity of protein is more important then timing and how a protein shake is not necessary.

So overall, eating a whole food protein vs. whey doesn’t seem to make a difference in terms of recovery and growth post-workout. So everyone out there who are lifting and exercising because they simply enjoy it or are just trying to keep active in their daily lives, a meal of whole foods would be just fine. If you want to get specific, are an avid bodybuilder/athlete and are looking to gain the most from your post-workout nutrition, then the literature suggests to look more so at those essential amino acids (particular interest on Leucine ratio?) for a greater anabolic affect.

Also in general, don’t forget about those carbs. They are important not only for replenishing those glycogen stores, but also appear to aid in the process of muscle synthesis.

Before I get some comments regarding glycogen replenishing, intensity or the workout is an important factor here. If you eat a pre-workout meal that is rich is carbohydrates and you’re workout is not at an intensity high enough to burn through them all, then this is not an emergency, but I still feel that it’s important to get some good, complex carbs in post workout for energy levels. 

Part 2: Best kind to get?

This is purely coming from experience and also my opinion. If you’re out to get a whey powder, I would ensure to check for a few things:

~How many other ingredients are in it? Too many fillers, preservatives, artificial crap and sweeteners are just a recipe for an aggravated tummy and are just not necessary. Keep as natural as possible. If it’s sweetened, go for stevia.

~Do they list a proprietary protein blend? Be cautious because for some reason they are not telling you their blend and it could be that they are using ingredients of lower quality.

~Go for grass-fed, antibiotic free sources of whey if possible. I feel the same kind of way about milk products if you choose to eat those.

~Whey isolate vs. whey concentrate? The isolate will be more expensive because it’s a higher percentage of protein. Basically, the concentrate may have a slightly larger proportion of carbohydrates and fat (mostly coming from lactose). Some may even go as far as saying that concentrate is more of a ‘whole foods’ supplement, but I don’t think it’s that big of a deal unless you are looking for the purest form you can get your hands on. See this article for some more info.

~Other useful ingredients? If they are going to add things, they mind as well be beneficial. I think that all proteins should have enzymes in them to aid with digestion. Lactase is obviously the most important in this case as it helps break down the milk protein, lactose. Glutamine is sometimes added and has been reported (mixed results still however) the help with muscle repair and gut health in some studies. Also, more recently, anti-inflammatory ingredients likes turmeric and other herbs are starting to be added to some proteins but they aren’t required for it to be effective from a protein aspect, but just a little bit of an added bonus.

What do you think?

Do you have a post workout shake?

Favourite flavour of whey is you use it?



Bird, S.,  Tarpenning, K., Marino, F. (2006). Independent and combined effects of liquid carbohydrate/essential amino acid ingestion on hormonal and muscular adaptations following resistance training in untrained men. Eur J Appl Physiol, 97, 225–238. doi: 10.1007/s00421-005-0127-z

Paddon-Jones, D., Sheffield-Moore, M.,  Katsanos, C., Zhang, X, Wolfe, R. (2006). Differential stimulation of muscle protein synthesis in elderly humans following isocaloric ingestion of amino acids or whey protein. Experimental Gerontology, 41, 215-219

 Tang, J., Manolakos, J., Kujbida, G., Lysecki, P., Moore, D., Phillips, S. (2007). Minimal whey protein with carbohydrate stimulates muscle protein synthesis following resistance exercise in trained young men. Applied Physiology Nutrition and Metabolism, 32(6), 1132-8. doi: 10.1139/H07-076



4 thoughts on “Friday Fitness Questions

  1. I’ve actually read a lot recently (and many bodybuilders/lifters I follow) use a plant based protein because casein/whey are really bad in high doses for the body. Casein is actually directly linked to certain types of cancer and animal products actually increase inflammation. The blend of plant based protein powder are really great now (not say etc) and contain complete protein. I find they are higher in carbohydrate which is better for post exercise as well.
    I agree though, not necessary at all, but delicious if you get a good flavor 😉

    • that’s interesting. I do see the number of vegetarian proteins being used but I have found that people ‘choke them down’ because they are under the belief that vegetarian = healthier, which is not true necessarily. I would have to do some deeper digging but the idea that milk proteins are linked to cancers is always going to be out there because dairy in general is seen to be highly inflammatory and has been controversial with cancer risk over the more recent years. I will say that in this sense, I would say that going for a grassfed, antibiotic free form of whey and casein would mitigate some of that risk as I truly believe that much of those risks may be simply due to our dairy practices these days. I still have other thoughts on the inflammatory component but thats a difference argument.

      I definitely agree with you that the vegetarian/vegan proteins are getting better, but to from my experience I still have very few people who can actually stand to drink them and many bodybuilders won’t want the excess carbs (because we live in a carb-fearing society) and/or gluten that is often found in their blends. Yes they are also made to be complete proteins, which is great, but that still doesn’t help the less bioavailability of the protein to the body. A higher percentage of protein will be absorbed from animal sources most of the time over a plant based because of the way they are made up.

      Thanks for your comments Ellie, I always appreciate your stance on my posts. You bring up some interesting conversations! 🙂 🙂

      PS I totally agree that it’s a great treat. I love my post workout whey icing on my rice cakes. Not only does it digest quickly and well for me, but it’s a great lil treat after a long weights session 🙂

      • Thanks for your reply. In my experience, Vega, Orgain and Plant Fusion are DELICIOUS! I think they are the highest quality and as long as you’re not only eating protein powder, they are great to add to help recovery. I actually had a horrible time digesting whey (before I was vegan) and only solved my gut issues (leaky gut, bloating etc) after I stopped eating animal products. This was not the reason I went vegan, but an excellent byproduct!

      • I definitely have to agree with you that you have to ensure you’re not just using protein powder. Many people may make it a meal replacement for a few meals/snacks throughout the day thinking it’s going to help with weight but that is the wrong way to go about it. I’m so glad that switching over helped your tummy, I have my fair share of tummy issues and things I have to take out of my diet so I know the struggles. Glad you found one that you like 🙂

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