Muscles are built in the gym, the iron fortress, the Parthenon of plates; however, they are also built in the kitchen. All of the hard work you’re putting into building a better physique won’t mean much if your muscles aren’t receiving the proper nutrition.
The main macronutrient involved in muscle building is protein. As you work out, your muscles become stressed – this is the stimuli that tells the body that they need to grow to handle the load. This stress on the muscles create very small tears in the muscle (“microtears”), which need to be repaired before the muscle can grow bigger and stronger – protein is the main facilitator of this process.
Although it’s been well established that protein is extremely important to the muscle building process, where are we supposed to get it from? Getting all of the protein you need from food is an extremely difficult endeavor, especially if you have a busy schedule. Even if you’re eating 3 or 4 protein-packed meals per day, you’ll likely not hit your daily protein intake if you’re lifting heavy and trying to pack on mass.
The helping hand that most lifters rely on to hit this macro requirement is protein supplements. A popular question among newer athletes is the decision between powders and ready-made shakes. But which is better? This article will dive into the key differences between each protein form to show you which method is more effective for muscle growth, comparing the two most popular choices in each category: whey vs Muscle Milk.
Protein Quality & Amount
Whey proteins are available in a few different varieties – concentrate, isolate and hydrolysate – and each has a different quality. Whey concentrate is the least pure in terms of protein concentration (usually around 70-80%) and isolate is the highest in purity (usually around 90% or above). Whey hydrolysate is pre-digested whey, which is absorbed by your body more readily.
A typical serving of a whey isolate powder will have around 25g of the highest-purity protein.
Muscle Milk contains a blend of several different kinds of protein. Whey concentrate, whey hydrolysate and a type of protein called casein, which breaks down slowly, can all be found in Muscle Milk. This is great for diversity and a protein that breaks down at different points, but it also equates to a protein that’s not as saturated with amino acids as a high-quality whey isolate powder.
A typical serving of Muscle Milk (14oz shake) will have around 20-25g of protein, similar to the typical whey powder, but as mentioned above the purity of this protein is much lower.
Whey proteins are effective at what they do because they are generally very low in fats and carbohydrates. This keeps the calorie count low so that it can be used frequently, and multiple scoops are a possibility for those that are really looking to jack up their protein intake. Carbohydrates can be higher in certain supplements that are heavily flavored because of the sugars contained within. The tidiness of many protein powders and lack of filler makes them extremely versatile so that people with any kind of fitness goal can make efficient use of them.
A 14oz Muscle Milk protein shake contains about 100 more calories per serving than a whey protein powder, making it a significantly heavier supplement. Muscle Milk also contains more fat and carbohydrates than whey protein powder, which is probably why it is such a widely consumed and popular supplement – because it is heavily flavored.
Although extra calories can definitely serve their purpose for someone in the bulking phase of their season, it takes away a bit of the versatility that can be offered by Muscle Milk, because it can’t serve the dual purpose many whey protein powders serve as being a protein that can be used in a weight loss regimen.
One of the best things about whey protein is that it can be used in more ways than just as a shake mixed with water. Whey can be mixed with whole, 2%, skim, almond or soy milk for drinking, and it can be used in several other ways as well. For example, cooking with whey protein is becoming pretty popular, as it can be used to produce high-protein snacks for a boost throughout the day.
The only drawback to mixing powder supplements is that certain supplements can have a questionable taste to them. With that said, if you find a powder that gets generally good taste ratings, like Optimum Nutrition, then you can blast your protein snack with your favorite flavor without a worry.
While Muscle Milk certainly has its uses as a higher calorie protein shake, it doesn’t offer a whole lot in the way of versatility. You buy it, you drink it – that’s pretty much it.
Whey protein is the pretty clear victor over Muscle Milk. Although Muscle Milk contains roughly the same amount of protein, and derives them from a few different sources to spread out absorption, it is simply not as useful a supplement as whey protein. If you’re trying to lose weight, Muscle Milk has over 100 more calories than most whey protein powders.
If you’re trying to gain weight, the protein contained in Muscle Milk isn’t of the high quality that exists in most dependable whey protein powders. If you’re looking to supplement your protein intake and are on the fence between Muscle Milk and a whey supplement, whey is going to be the one to go with in pretty much any circumstance, so go load up on some whey and put the Muscle Milk back on the shelf.
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