The Best Protein Powder for Hardcore Gains

I’m sure you came here for one reason and one reason only… to find out what the best protein powder for hardcore gains is.  Well, I have the answer for you.  Ready?  It’s the one you’re willing to purchase.  Not what you were expecting, eh?  But, it’s true.  Look, I’m going to explain to you why the one you are buying right now is probably the best one for you and why you shouldn’t be as concerned about the protein powder you use (to an extent).

Why do we use protein powder?

The best protein powder for hardcore gains is the one your disposable income is able to purchase on a monthly basis.  Let’s not get things twisted, though.  You don’t NEED a “the best protein powder” in order to achieve “hardcore gains.”  We use protein powder to help us fill a void as well as a form of convenience.  It’s not some mandatory piece of the equation that you can’t experience hardcore gains without.  The fact of the matter is, protein powder can be looked at as an extra meal during the day.

The bigger picture is your nutrition and what you are putting in your body.  The same way that a protein shake won’t make you fat… it won’t single-handedly bring you hardcore gains either.  At the end of the day, it’s a cumulation of what you ate all day long.  If you eat junk all day and drink a protein shake it’s not really going to do you much good nor is it going to be the cause of your weight gain (or rather body fat gain).

But if you eat smart, train hard, and use protein powder as a supplement, it can help.  The key word in that is SUPPLEMENT.  Protein powder is not meant to replace real whole food meals in your diet.  So, don’t think you can stop eating real food and just go on a protein shake diet where that’s the only thing you consume on a daily basis.

We use protein powder to help us with our recovery from intense bouts of exercise – specifically weight training.  When we lift weights, we break down the muscle fibers to allow them the opportunity to grow back bigger and stronger assuming other factors are solid such as your rest and your nutrition.  There’s not truly one thing that creates hardcore gains, it’s a combination of many.

Post-workout is the most ideal time to use a protein powder[1].  A liquid form of protein following a workout can be more quickly absorbed and utilized by the body versus a whole food meal that would need to be broken down into a usable form.  Therefore, if you were to ask when the best time would be to utilize what you could call the best protein powder, the answer would be post-workout to quickly shuttle the nutrients out to the muscles to start the rebuilding process.

Convenience is a huge factor, yet a crutch to so many.  I’m not going to lie, it’s much easier and less time consuming to make a protein shake using a quality protein powder than it is to make a steak or chicken breast dinner.  Less time, less hassle, less preparation, less clean up, and potentially MORE protein.  In as little as 6-8 ounces of liquid, you could take in 20+ grams of protein and consume the entire thing in a matter of seconds.  Talk about efficiency! 

Along with convenience, which I mentioned above, a protein powder is great for filling protein requirement voids in our nutrition – but it shouldn’t be regularly.  Let’s assume you’re a 225-pound male who is into bodybuilding and wants to continue adding size.  Many bodybuilders are taking in around one gram of protein per pound of body weight.  That equates to a lot of protein needing to be consumed.  If they don’t have time to eat an extra meal during the day due to their busy schedule, that’s the perfect opportunity to fill the void by using a protein powder.  Obviously, hitting your protein requirements each day can help you achieve the “hardcore gains” you’re working so hard to attain.

Take a peek at your nutrition

This is an area you should be focusing on the most.  I’m going to keep it 100 with you.  Not one single of “the best protein powder” on the market is going to give you hardcore gains.  It’s just not possible.  It’s a very small piece of what it takes to put on quality lean muscle gains.

As you know, your caloric intake and the ratio of macronutrients you consume will determine your progress and success (or failure).  If you have a solid nutrition plan in place, you’re setting yourself up to add the quality mass you want.  But, first and foremost, you need to look at the whole food sources you are consuming for protein.

Other than using what you consider to be the best protein powder post-workout, look to see if you should be taking in another meal during the day to hit your daily macro numbers.  If so and you don’t have time for another meal or you simply don’t have a meal accessible and you’re in a jam, mix up the protein powder in water and you’re good to go.

What should you look for in the best protein powder for hardcore gains?

There are a few key pieces you should look for in order to purchase the best protein powder for hardcore gains or whatever your goals may be.

  1. Quality and Type

What type of protein do you need can depend on your goals.  If you want a slow-digesting protein, look for a casein.  If you want a fast-digesting protein look for an isolate or hydrolyzed protein source.  Want something in the middle?  A whey concentrate will do the trick. 

If I were to give you a recommendation as to what to purchase if you are just starting out and looking for the best protein powder for hardcore gains, I would start with a whey concentrate and see how you respond.  You can always move up to an isolate or hydrolyzed option if you find the concentrate does not suit your needs or it doesn’t agree with your system (some protein powders may give you digestion issues, gas, and bloating – each individual is different).

As with any type of purchase, generally the higher the quality of the product the more money it will cost you.  For that reason, it’s also good to know if what you are buying is worth the money – which leads us to our second point.

  • Value

Are you actually getting what you “think” you’re getting?  You can do a quick calculation to figure out the percentage of protein per serving in your tub.  To do this, simply fill in the pieces to the equation below and solve:

(Grams of protein per serving x 100) / Serving size in grams

The higher the percentage, the better the value.  For instance, if you plugged in a powder and you got 50%, then you know that half of what you’re taking isn’t protein and could be fillers.  On the other hand, if you did the math and the number was 75%, that would provide you with a much better value and yield making it more worth your money. 

  • Mixability

How easily does the protein mix in liquid?  Unfortunately, this point as well as the next you won’t know the answer until you actually purchase the product.  When you dump the protein powder into a shaker bottle, does it easily dissolve after a few shakes or does it clump up leaving you with nothing more than utter frustration? 

When you put it in a glass and stir it with a spoon, does everything dissolve?  Figure out how you plan on making your shakes and check the mixability.  There’s honestly nothing worse than drinking a protein powder that is full of clumps that never dissolved that you now end up chewing (nasty) or swallowing them whole.

  • Taste

This is a biggie for everyone and we are going to button things up with this point.  If you don’t like a flavor, you’re less likely to continue using it.  If you’re new to supplements, that then also makes you question if ALL products taste that way.  Find a brand and flavor you enjoy and stick with it.  Try new things if you want, but know that in the end, you’re rolling the dice just to find out if you like/dislike the product/flavor. 

References:

  1. Aragon, A. A., Schoenfeld, B. J. (2013). Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 10:5.