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Protein Supplements in India
Anyone who is a gym junkie and works out knows the importance of protein supplements. For the uninitiated, protein supplements are basically powdered form of protein and maybe used to replace meals for various purposes such as weight gain, weight loss, increase athletic performances etc. In India, the concept of protein supplements is still not very popular due to lack of sufficient information and a doubt of its price but the online world is slowly changing that. In India, with just a click of a button a vast option of information is available online with various details like price, who needs what kind of protein supplements and ways to consume it. Now, when you think about why hours of time spent in the gym is not showing the desired result, realize that its the lack of protein in your diet which is to be blamed. Protein supplements will not help you overcome any form of deficit but will also improve your athletic training, reduce your body fat ration and upgrade your athletic conditioning.
About Protein Supplements
Protein Supplements: Understanding Them Better For Great Health
Proteins are the building blocks for our body. Though we can get the needed proteins from our everyday diet, most of us who want to build more lean muscle mass need to also include protein supplements in to our diet. But before we do that, it is very important to understand what these protein supplements are, which are the best types and which one is best suited for us. It is also important to understand where protein comes from in every day diet and why protein is such an important component of a healthy diet.
After all, we all have heard ‘Give more attention to proteins, not carbohydrates’ to have a healthier body. But do you really know what that means? We will divide this guide in to 2 parts: Understanding the Basics of Protein & Introduction to Protein Supplements and then cover every possible topic that can come under each category with utmost detail. So if you want to know the secret to building a leaner, fitter, more muscular body – this article is everything you will ever need to know about Protein!
UNDERSTANDING THE BASICS OF PROTEIN
Protein & Its Importance
Let us begin this section by first understanding what protein is and why it is so deeply desired by our bodies. One of the 3 main macronutrients that form our diet, protein helps our body to grow, develop and repair. The other macronutrients are carbohydrates and fats. Proteins are nothing but amino acids that are held together by peptide links. These amino acids are also the best source of nitrogen in our bodies. For optimum muscle growth, muscle development and muscle repair, the body needs a healthy nitrogen balance.
However, protein has more roles than just muscle building and repairing. Its various functions in the body also include:
- Prevention of muscle tissues during low calorie diets.
- A source of energy when the body has fewer carbohydrates.
- Maintaining a healthy pH level of the blood.
- Maintaining optimum hormone levels in the body.
- It also regulates the fluid balances in the body.
- It also supports several chemical reactions that take place in the body.
- It aids the immune system to fight diseases.
So that is about the many roles proteins play in our body. But this article is mainly about protein and their role for building more muscle. So let us get back on the topic, and discuss what role protein plays on muscle growth.
The Role of Protein in Muscular Growth
Any gym instructor will tell you, “Increase your protein consumption and start on a weight resistance program to build more lean muscle”. But what does that really include? If you could only understand what processes inside your body result in muscle growth and how deeply protein is related to it, maybe you will understand these wise words from your gym instructor better.
In our bodies, muscle tissue is constantly being replaced or repaired. You spend 2 hours pumping weights in the gym, and you ate a high protein snack before your workout to aid your muscles to grow better. Good job! Protein is essential to build or grow muscles. But what about muscle recovery and repair? To maximize your body’s muscle repairing process, you need a healthy nitrogen balance in your body. You spent hours building muscle, but where is the point when that muscle is going to break down post workout because there isn’t enough protein to aid repair? Remember, protein is equally important for muscle repairing and rebuilding, as it is for muscle development and enhancement. Not to mention, not having enough protein in your body post workout will also affect your hormonal levels and the pH of your blood!
Since you are involved with extensive workouts for building more muscle, you have to understand that you will also have more muscle to repair too. This is the reason why your gym instructor is asking you to increase your protein intake. Muscle growth and muscle maintenance together are very taxing on the nitrogen balance within our body, which makes it important to eat protein at frequent intervals. A steady and healthy stream of amino acids will prevent muscle breakdown and maintain healthy nitrogen levels in your body.
The Role of Protein in Fat Loss
Now, let us come to another important role of protein. Many of you might have heard that proteins also help in losing weight. But how do they do that? Proteins are thermogenic in nature, which literally means that it takes a lot more energy for the body to digest proteins as compared to carbohydrates. This is why most fat loss diets are also high protein- low carbohydrate diets. Proteins will increase the metabolic processes in the body and require as much as 30% more calories to burn.
Not only that, protein will also mobilize fat deposits in the body, so that your body also burns of excess fat to generate energy. Eating lesser proteins means that your body is not drawing enough energy from fat, which results in fat being stored and the body breaking down muscle tissue to generate energy. This is the main reason behind feeling more tired of lethargic when eating a low protein diet.
The Role of Protein in Muscle Recovery
When you exercise, your muscles undergo two processes:
- The levels of glycogen in your muscles reduce
- Your muscles undergo wear and tear and need repair
It is only with a steady stream of amino acids that your body can maintain enough nitrogen levels to work on reversing both these processes simultaneously. With a high protein intake, your body goes in to repair mode almost as soon as you finish exercising, and the recovery and muscle maintenance process is quicker. With lower nitrogen levels in your body, this process is slower which results in a lot of muscle breakdown, negating all the hard work you have put in at the gym.
Why is Protein so Good for Health?
- Anabolism – Proteins aid in anabolism, which literally means building more muscle. Without enough proteins, your body can go in a catabolic state, where it breaks muscle tissues.
- Regulation of growth hormones – Your growth hormones are made of 190 amino acids. So when you eat more protein, you ensure your body has sufficient building blocks that impart better overall health. It increases metabolism, because the metabolic processes in the body are directly proportional to the growth hormones in your body. IGF-1 is made of 70 amino acids and lower levels of IGF-1 makes it impossible for your body to utilize all the growth hormone available.
- Lowering insulin levels – With sufficient protein in your body, the insulin levels in your bloodstream stay in check, which allows you to regulate your energy in a better way.
- Metabolism – We have harped upon this time and again. Sufficient proteins are necessary for boosting metabolism and drawing energy from fat reserves.
So now that you know what role protein plays in your muscle building, fat loss and muscle recovery, it is important you understand what food sources are best for natural forms of protein.
The Best Sources of Proteins
You can choose from a variety of foods to get sufficient protein in your diet. The best options are:
- Cheese and milk
- Red meats like lamb and pork
- Cottage cheese
It is also important to understand that there are 2 kinds of protein foods. One category is of foods that offer complete proteins and the other category offers incomplete proteins. Complete protein foods will include all the essential amino acids needed by your body. A good example is animal protein, one that comes from chicken, fish, eggs or lamb. Incomplete protein foods will lack in many essential amino acids and the best example is vegetables.
For vegetarians who get incomplete proteins, it is necessary to add protein supplements to their diet. Not only are they convenient to buy and ingest, they are also made with all essential amino acids that makes them a healthier alternative to eating more natural proteins because without animal proteins it is almost impossible to get all kinds of amino acids.
How Much Protein is Needed by the Body?
For adults, the recommended amount of protein is 0.8 grams for every kg of body weight. So if you weight 60 kg, you need 48grams of protein every day to stay healthy. However, if you exercise extensively and want to build more lean muscle, you need to double your protein intake.
So for a 1500 calorie diet, about 75 to 150 grams of protein are a must. Similarly, for a 3000 calorie diet, 150 to 300 grams of protein are recommended. Talk to your dietician and get a tailor made chart for your protein requirement.
Introduction to Protein Supplements
Now that we have a better understanding of protein and its role in our good health, let us talk in detail about protein supplements. These are a must for any athlete and bodybuilder, because natural sources of protein rarely meet with our daily protein requirements.
What are Protein Supplements?
Protein supplements are healthy proteins derived from a variety of protein sources to offer your body the needed daily protein intake that in complete in nature. There are protein bars, protein shakes, weight gainer and meal replacement shakes available and to understand which one will work the best for you, you need a more detailed understanding of protein supplements and their functions.
Most protein supplements are available in a variety of flavours to suit your palate. From fruit flavours to chocolate and cookie cream flavours, you will find that most health and fitness companies now offer you a variety of products that don’t only have proteins, but also the right balance of carbohydrates, nutrients, and are even fortified with fibre, minerals and vitamins.
What do the Common Terminologies related to Protein Supplements mean?
When you talk of protein supplements, you will find a few common terminologies mentioned everywhere. Sadly, a layman doesn’t understand these terminologies, like Isolates or BCAA supplements, and that makes it harder to choose the right protein supplement. Let us try and understand what these terminologies signify, so that choosing the right supplement becomes an easier process.
What are Amino Acids?
There are 20 standard amino acids, though over a 100 exist. These standard ones are also further branched out in non essential amino acids and essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are derived from food sources as they can’t be created by the body. The non essential amino acids can be synthesized and produced in the body itself.
What Are Branched Chain Amino Acids?
BCAA or branched chain amino acids are 3 essential amino acids – valine, leucine and isoleucine. Together, these 3 make for 1/3rd of our skeletal muscle and have a very important role in protein synthesis.
What Are Isolates?
Isolates are 90% pure proteins that have been purified chemically to remove everything apart from main protein from a source of food.
What Are Concentrates?
Concentrates are concentrated proteins that include 70% to 85% of pure protein that are combined with carbohydrates, fats and sometimes even why and lactose.
What Are Blends?
Blends carry proteins from various sources, making it more affordable than isolates. Usually they contain a blend of both slow digesting and fast digesting proteins that offer a time release formula.
What Are Weight Gainers?
These are special protein powders for athletes and body builders who need to gain weight rapidly. Also used by those who find it tough to gain weight, these are used as complete meals or in between meals to add more calories to the daily diet.
What Are Meal Replacements?
Meal Replacements are more than protein supplements. A perfect blend of protein, carbohydrates, fats and essential vitamins and minerals; these meal replacements are used to substitute an entire meal to get a proportionate amount of nutrition needed for a developing body.
What Are Muscle Recovery Supplements?
These supplements contain Creatine, multi-vitamins, glutamine, taurine and minerals to aid in muscle recovery post a workout.
What Are Slow Digesting And Fast Digesting Supplements?
Slow digesting supplements are more complex in nature, so the body takes longer to digest them and in turn offers a steady stream of proteins to the body. This keeps the nitrogen balance in check through a longer period of time. Fast digesting supplements like whey proteins act quickly to fuel the body with immediate sources of protein needed to either enhance a workout or repair muscles post a workout.
What Are Protein Bars?
These are quick snacks that are filled with the goodness of high quality protein and can be simply had at anytime of the day. Though it will not have as much protein as compared to protein shake, it will give you instant energy during periods when making a protein shake is not possible.
What are the Different Sources from which Protein Supplements are made?
Again, after you understand the most common terminologies in protein supplements, you also need to understand the 11 different sources from which protein supplements can be derived.
- Whey Proteins – Whey is a waste product of cheese and whey proteins come from milk. One of the most popular kinds of protein supplements, they have a higher BV rating as compared to other protein sources and are very rich in amino acids. Whey protein is a fast digesting protein, which means it is ideal for either pre-workout or post-workout. It is not very filing and is low on arginine and glutamine.
- Whey Isolates – A more expensive and purer form of whey proteins, whey isolates offers a higher quality of proteins and contains lesser lactose, lesser fats and lesser additives as compared to whey concentrates also. They offer 90% to 98% pure protein and are ideal for those who have a very high protein intake need, like body builders and athletes.
- Whey concentrates – More cost effective than whey isolates, these offer 70% to 80% pure proteins but will have more lactose and fat.
- Whey protein blends – These are a blend of whey isolates and whey concentrates and have a higher percentage of protein in them as compared to whey concentrates.
- Casein proteins – They are 80% of the proteins found in milk, and are slow digesting proteins that have a thick taste because they have 92% pure proteins in them. For weight gainers, casein protein is an important ingredient as it has a low BV but is more effective when it comes to building more muscle mass. Since caseins encourage the body to build muscle, they are better able to mobilize fat and carbohydrate sources in the body and encourage the body to burn these to derive energy. It includes a high concentration of glutamine, which is an important body building supplement.
- Egg albumin – Eggs are the kings of natural protein foods. This is because they have more number of essential amino acids as compared to non essential amino acids, and the maximum concentration of that is in the egg white. Egg albumin is derived from egg whites, making them the ideal alternative for those who are lactose intolerant and cannot use caseins or whey supplements.
- Soy protein – Though soy proteins are very effective, they don’t pack the power of casein supplements. A fats digesting protein, it can easily replace whey proteins but has an average profile for amino acids. It is not ideal for body builders but is sufficient for regular gym goers who are vegetarians and want to supplement their diets with a non-animal based protein source. You will find that you can also get Soy protein Isolate sin the market, which will have a higher Biological Value or BV.
- Goat milk protein – A super protein source that is both lactose free and also offer high bioavailability, goat milk protein is the most superior from of proteins. They beat even eggs that have a BV of 100, while the goat milk protein has a BV of 104 and has much more BCAAs in it.
- Wheat protein – For those who want a cholesterol free and lactose free alternative, wheat proteins are best because they are rich in amino acids, are easy to digest and high in glutamic acid. These are the best proteins for vegetarians.
- Pea protein – Some vegetarians are gluten intolerant too, and for them pea protein is the best option. Cholesterol free, lactose free and gluten free, this protein is also very high in amino acids.
- Complete milk proteins – These are dried milk proteins that are purified to remove carbohydrate and fats. They include a blend of casein proteins and whey proteins and are very healthy because they are fortified with nutrients, calcium, minerals and vitamins.
Benefits of Protein Supplements
Now that you understand the different kinds of protein supplements available and are better able to decide which one is best suited to your needs, let us talk about why you need these supplements at all. Isn’t protein derived from natural food enough? While we will talk about advantages of Protein supplements vs. Protein in natural form later in this article, right now let us concentrate on the benefits of adding protein supplements in your diet.
- The biggest advantage is that supplements require no preparation time. Since protein is naturally derived from sources like eggs, legumes, soy, meats and vegetables, they all need some cooking time. Alternatively, protein supplements give you a way to get the necessary protein dosage on the go.
- Also, the protein content in protein supplements is of a purer form. Today, inorganic farming and animal husbandry has resulted in polluted nutrients in natural foods. As opposed to that, protein supplements are made from the purest of proteins because they are derived through a variety of chemical process and undergo strict purification to offer you more protein content for smaller quantities.
- Since a protein supplement is available almost immediately in the form of a protein shake or a protein bar, you save time. This way, after a workout your muscles don’t breakdown while you cook yourself a chicken breast to get necessary proteins. You simply mix a shake and gulp it down, and its fats affecting proteins get to work instantly. Remember, muscle breakdown starts simultaneously as muscle growth stops; there is no time lag in between.
Who Are Protein Supplements Ideal For?
There are a variety of people who use protein supplements. In fact, any personal who is concerned about maintaining a healthy weight and does some regular exercise can derive the benefits from protein supplements.
- Dieters – Eating a low calorie diet can adversely affect the metabolism of the body. This is why dieters should include protein supplements in their diet to boost metabolism and get a plethora of essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from just a protein supplement. Meal replacement supplements are ideal for these people.
- Athletes – Athletes who train hard need to maintain a steady balance of nitrogen in their muscles. They need enough proteins to manage their energy needs and also to repair muscles and maintain a regular blood pH level.
- Body builders – Body builders cannot do with protein supplements. Their needs to pack on more muscle and lose more fat make protein supplements a must-have in their diet. They constantly need protein through the day for muscle development, muscle repair, muscle maintenance and also to mobilize all fat stores to make sure these are burned to generate more energy, instead of breakdown of muscle tissue.
- Underweight people – For those who are underweight and want to put on more muscle mass, protein supplements in the form of weight gainers are important. These people have such a fats metabolism that gaining weight becomes very difficult with just a regular diet. These weight gainers offer them vital calories that can help them meet with their weight gain goals.
Protein from Natural Food vs. Protein supplements
We come back to the discussion – Is it really important to take protein supplements? Can’t we meet our body’s protein needs through just food? Well, you can if you are sure that the food you eat is of the purest form and really offers as much protein as it should per serving. Let us see a few advantages of both protein supplements and protein intake through food.
Advantages of protein from natural food:
- You know exactly what you are eating. If you are lactose intolerant or gluten intolerant, you will simply avoid protein food from either of these sources.
- Some forms of protein like milk, cheese, cottage cheese, soy, vegetables and eggs are more affordable than expensive supplements.
- More versatility is offered, as you can combine different food group and different kinds of proteins to create a healthy meal.
- Some people can get digestive discomfort or gastric problems from protein supplements and prefer to take protein in natural form only.
- Animal proteins like beef, pork and lamb offer real muscle packing ability.
Advantages of protein supplements:
- They are easy to buy and easy to prepare
- They are more affordable than buying expensive lean cuts of meats or fish everyday to meet with daily protein intake
- They are fortified with other vitamins, minerals and nutrients to make them a more healthy combination
- They offer purer forms of proteins, which means even a small quantity or just a scoop of protein supplement is as good as eating 4 of more pieces of chicken. So you require less quantity because the quality is better, for the same results.
- Weight gainers are made of essential nutrients to put on lean muscle, as opposed to high calorie diets made at home that concentrate more on fats and carbohydrates as opposed to proteins
- There are many low calorie protein supplements available that can be added to yogurt and had for a satisfying dessert as well for those trying to lose weight.
- Most protein supplements have a higher biological value or BV than real food
So, we leave it to you whether you want to add protein supplements to your diet or not. As you can see, protein supplements have several advantages over protein derived from food, and the fact that today these have even become very affordable makes them a choice worth considering.
When Should I Take my Protein Supplement?
Now that you know why protein supplements ate important and how they work, let us come to another very important aspect. You might have chosen the right protein supplement for yourself, but you will not see maximum results unless you understand that protein timing is almost as important as protein supplement selection. Just drinking the right supplement is not enough; you also need to drink it at the right time for best results.
- With breakfast in the morning – When you wake up, your body has undergone hours of fasting. And is in dire need for proteins to jump start metabolism and also maintain nitrogen levels. Add protein supplements to your breakfast. The ideal way is to add a combination of both slow digesting and fast digesting proteins, and give your body the perfect chance to build muscle, repair muscle and maintain muscle.
- Before workout – Before you hit the gym, you need a slow digesting protein supplement that offers a time release formula for you to stay fuelled and charged during your workout.
- After workout – After you finish your exercise, you need a fast digesting as well as slow digesting protein supplement again. The fast digesting protein will balance the nitrogen levels and give you a head start for muscle repair. The slow digesting protein will send a steady stream of amino acids to your body so that it can repair and maintain muscles.
- At night – Before you sleep, you need to take casein protein supplement that is easy on your stomach and also keeps nitrogen levels balanced while you sleep. Since it is slow digesting, it will keep your body supplied with enough nitrogen while you rest and recuperate.
You can also have a protein supplement in between meals, like a protein bar to keep nitrogen levels maintained and to also avoid hunger pangs.