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7 Protein Supplements You Need Once Your Sweat Sesh Is Finished

  • Ascent Protein

    Ascent Protein Native Fuel Whey

    Native whey protein is filtered directly from cow's milk instead of being extracted from cheese like standard whey. The result: A less-processed powder with 17 percent more leucine (more on that below). Plus, Ascent's Native Fuel avoids the bleaching process that whey typically undergoes in order to change its color from a yellow-orange hue to white. Why's it matter? A study published in the Journal of Dairy Science found that bleaching whey protein can alter its flavor, which is why it ends up tasting more like cardboard. Last time we checked, cardboard wasn't so hot a smoothie ingredient. 

    Now for that leucine. It's a key compound for athetes, as research has shown the essential amino acid (EAA) enhances protein synthesis after training. In order to build muscle, you want more protein synthesis than breakdown after exercise. A 2008 American Journal of Physiology—Endocrinology and Metabolism study found that taking an EAA and carbohydrate supplement an hour after 10 sets of 10-rep machine leg extensions enhanced muscle protein synthesis when compared to no supplementation after doing the same amount of work. Endurance athletes benefit too: A 2011 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study had its participants take EAA during 60 minutes of moderate cycling, and those who took more leucine got a bigger protein synthesis boost when the workout wrapped than those who took less. 

    What to buy: Ascent Native Fuel Whey, $35 for 2 lbs, ascentprotein.com

  • MuscleTech

    MuscleTech All-in-One 100% Whey + Greens

    Have you ever cooked too much protein and carbs and not enough veggies, leaving you with green-less meals? Or perhaps no protein powder has been able to curb your "4:00 p.m. it's almost time to go home or to the gym" hunger pang. MuscleTech's All-in-One Whey+Greens may serve your macronutrient needs.

    A 43-gram scoop has 25 grams of whey protein isolate, plus extracts from spinach, broccoli florets, and kale. The vanilla flavor's earthy taste comes as no surprise, since it has all those veggies plus 4.35 grams of flax. It also packs in fiber and probiotics, making it an ideal base for a fruit and nut butter smoothie. 

    What to buy: MuscleTech All-in-One 100% Whey + Greens, $42 for 2 lbs, amazon.com

  • Cellucor

    Cellucor Casein

    Whey proteins account for 20 percent of the total protein in milk, while casein is about 80 percent. This means casein takes hours longer to digest—it's the perfect before-bed protein for athletes looking to gain muscle and avoid midnight-zombie junk-food binges. And at 25 grams of protein and 125 calories per scoop, it's really not a bad deal when you mix with 8 to 10 ounces of cold water. 

    There's no real performance decrease from using casein over whey—utilizing both to your advantage is ideal. According to a 2013 Journal of Sports Science and Medicine study, both proteins produced similar strength, power, and agility gains in a group of female basketball players who were studied through eight weeks of weight lifting. The women lost similar amounts of body fat from both types of protein. 

    What to buy: Cellucor's COR-Performance Casein, $45 for 2.3 lbs, cellucor.com

  • Les Mills

    Les Mills Good Protein

    Les Mills, known for its Bodypump fitness class, makes a protein powder supplement with just six ingredients: Milk protein concentrate (whey and casein), cocoa powder/vanilla bean extract, guar gum, stevia leaf extract, natural flavors, and sea salt. The blend is ethically sourced from the milk of New Zealand grass-fed cows, and it boasts impressive macros: 26.3 grams of protein, 2.7 grams of carbs, and 1.1 grams of fat per scoop. Not too shabby.

    What to buy: Les Mills Good Protein, $39 for 0.92 lbs, lesmills.com

  • BSN

    BSN Syntha-6 Edge

    With flavors like graham cracker, strawberry, and cinnamon bun, you definitely won't get bored on flavors. The protein in Syntha-6 Edge runs the gamut too—it includes whey protein isolate and concentrate, hydrolyzed whey protein (the fastest absorbing whey), micellar casein (the slowest digesting casein available), and milk protein concentrate. 

    What to buy: BSN Syntha-6 Edge, $32 for 2 lbs; gobsn.com

  • Glukos

    Glukos Protein Powder

    Glukos started off in the sports nutrition space making energy powders, gummies, tablets, and gels made with glucose. Their latest offerings have been protein bars and powders, and the powder is a simple one made with whey protein isolate and concentrate, natural flavors, glucose, stevia, and sea salt. Translation: You won't find sucrose, artificial sweeteners, or colors here.

    Another bonus: Glucose helps transport whey protein to muscles for faster, more effective recovery. So if you take it within an hour of finishing your workout, you may find that you're actually more energized than exhausted. #Winning

    What to buy: Glukos Protein Powder, $25 for 16.48 oz; glukosenergy.com

  • Sunwarrior

    Sunwarrior Illumin8

    An organic plant-based powder, Sunwarrior Ilumin8 provides nutrients from a large variety of sources. Protein comes from peas, brown rice, chia, quinoa, flax, and sprouts. Illumin8 also contains probiotics, digestive enzymes such as bromelain and lipase, and vitamins D3 and B12. If it grows in the ground and/or has health benefits, there's a good chance it's in this supplement.

    Now, this type of protein powder is one of those cases where the macros don't matter as much as what the calories are actually providing. There are 160 calories, 20 grams of protein, 5 grams of sugar, and 13 grams of carbs in one scoop. Those carbs come from gluten-free sources like amaranth, garbanzo, and lentil sprouts. With ingredients like guava and ground coconut, the 5 grams of sugar shouldn't raise a red flag.

    What to buy: Sunwarrior Illumin8, $65 for 25 servings; sunwarrior.com

 

Mark Barroso

Mark Barroso is an editor and writer who has contributed to Muscle & Fitness, Men's Fitness, M&F Hers, FLEX and Spartan Race. Mark's writing topics are very broad: from athlete interviews and gear reviews to research roundups and nutrition tips, Mark covers it all.  More →
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