With so many nutritional options to fuel your fat-burning and muscle-building pursuits, we break down the digestion speeds that’ll help you do it best.

It is estimated the global protein supplement market will surpass $21 billion by 2025, showing how popular these products are. The protein supplement category offers a wide range of products from bone broth protein to beef isolate, and everything in between. When it comes to knowing which protein supplement is best for you, timing is an essential factor, which means that understanding how each type works in the body is imperative. To be an effective consumer, you need to learn the differences between some of the most commonly used proteins, and how to leverage them for better results from your training.

Fast digesting

Whey protein isolate is the benchmark of protein supplements due to its high bioavailability rating, meaning that your body can utilize the entire amino acid content very efficiently. Triggering high levels of muscle protein synthesis is an essential part of muscle recovery and growth, and whey protein isolate delivers this outcome. Whey protein isolate can travel through the digestive system and become active in the bloodstream within 60 minutes of consumption. To fully appreciate how fast this is, consider the fact that solid food with a similar protein content could take up to eight hours to be assimilated by the body. Although there are other fastdigesting protein varieties, nothing compares to whey protein isolate. However, consuming a non-GMO whey protein isolate which has added digestive enzymes can further enhance the speed of delivery, enabling the gut to process the nutritional content even faster. This addition can also alleviate any potential digestive issues, such as bloating.

There are two times of the day when consuming whey protein isolate is most optimal – upon waking and post-workout. When you wake up after fasting for 6-8 hours, your amino acid pools are depleted. Consuming a fast-digesting protein at this time is the perfect way to replenish these stores and help kick-start anabolism. On the other hand, the post-workout window has a few other factors to consider, such as muscle tissue damage and heightened cortisol levels due to training stress. At this time, there is a great need for amino acids to encourage muscle recovery; however, the gut’s ability to process food is somewhat limited due to the high cortisol levels in the system. Whey protein isolate’s ability to digest quickly lends itself perfectly to this situation. Drinking a whey protein isolate shake is a convenient way to get a solid source of protein when eating solid food is not an option, at any time of day. However, if you’re looking for the best time to consume your whey protein isolate, post-workout should top the list, followed by waking from your night’s sleep.

Slow digesting

In contrast to whey protein isolate, there are products, which digest at a very slow rate. Casein protein is the most popular slow digesting protein, especially a micellar casein isolate which has been cold processed with microfiltration to preserve its amino acid content. This variety of protein can provide a sustained supply of amino acids for up to seven hours, sometimes more, depending on the fiber and fat consumed at the same time. Casein does not have the same capacity to boost muscle protein synthesis like whey protein isolate, but it does help sustain it in an elevated state for longer.

The most common use of this type of protein supplement is before bed, due to the 6-8 hour fast most people experience. A casein protein can be the perfect way to help offset muscle catabolism during the night. Due to the fact that casein forms a gel-like consistency in the stomach, it can feel very filling, which is perfect for times when you’re dieting and trying to satisfy cravings. As an added bonus, chocolate and vanilla casein is a great way to create guilt-free puddings. Simply add a small amount of water and mix until blended into a puddinglike consistency. Other than before bedtime, another approach to utilize casein is if you’re using intermittent fasting as a dieting strategy. Consuming a micellar casein isolate before this window is a great idea, as it will slowly release amino acids to your muscles.

Take away build

Understanding how different types of protein powders are digested can help you identify which is more suited to your needs. If you’re looking to fully maximize your progress, it’s advisable to use a variety of protein supplements to address your needs at different times of day. As with all supplements, the best results rely on your ability to stick to an appropriate diet regimen and training schedule. This caveat is necessary because too many people regard supplements as magical potions that suddenly morph you into a superhuman. However, if you use protein supplements alongside a rock-solid plan, the benefits become noticeable.


Expert: Kris Gethin (@krisgethin. Followers: 362k) is a nutrition consultant, trainer, founder of the app HealthKik.