Every week when I post my meal plans, I get a lot of questions about supplements: how they benefit my workout, and how to choose between a sea of different brands. Here, I’m going to go over the two supplements I’m currently taking: protein and BCAAs and how they help my workouts!
According to research, bodybuilders, and other fitness professionals, drinking protein during or after you train can help to create faster gains, i.e. improvements in strength and muscle development. This can also help with recovery. Probably the most popular supplement out there is whey protein, which is derived from milk protein. The protein in cow’s milk is 20% whey protein and 80% casein protein.
People love whey protein because it digests quickly and builds lean muscle, meaning that if you drink it around the time of your workout, you can get the benefits right away around the time that you work out out those muscles. Thus, in my opinion the best time to take it is either before or after your workout.
However, if you are vegan or lactose intolerant, whey protein is not for you. One suggestion from a vegan friends is pea protein as a dietary supplement. Pea protein is a safe alternative for people with allergies to dairy, those who are lactose intolerant, vegetarians, or people soy allergies. Plant proteins have some of every essential amino acid. However, one primary difference between whey and pea powders is that whey is a “complete” protein, meaning that it contains all essential amino acids, and pea is an incomplete protein. It’s a great place to start but it’s not appropriate to use as the primary source of protein in your diet (source: Livestrong). People taking pea protein may have to take additional supplements or get additional protein sources from food.
BCAAs stand for branched chain amino acids, and the these help to not only facilitate muscle growth, but they also help to provide fuel for your body. On days that my workouts are very intense, such as lots of HIIT or cardio-intense intervals, they are very beneficial. We can get a lot of these BCAAs from certain foods, such as chicken breast, beef, salmon, eggs, and quinoa, however on super intense workout days, I like to incorporate a BCAA supplement into my training around the time of my workout. A trainer told me that BCAAs help to promote muscle growth, repair your body, and reduce muscle soreness. So I started taking them after HIIT and did notice I was less tired and less sore. If you’re curious, it’s definitely worth a try!