For those looking to build muscle, bodybuilders – both amateur and professional – serve as a sort of gold standard, the pinnacle of the physique a person can achieve with the right kind of diet and exercise. While this level of progress undoubtedly has much to do with the kind of workout routine a person engages in, the other side of the equation – nutrition – matters just as much. It’s well-known that large amounts of protein are essential to the diets of bodybuilders and athletes, and this nutrient can come from both food sources and supplements. If you’re looking to emulate a bodybuilder and pack on as much lean muscle as you can, you might be wondering, “What kinds of protein do bodybuilders use?” To find out, keep reading as the team at aminoVITAL® -- makers of amino acid supplements for bodybuilders – provide some answers.
Common Kinds of Food Bodybuilders Eat for Protein
Before diving into the question of which protein supplements are favored by bodybuilders, let’s first look at the food-based sources of protein many of these Adonises prefer. In the opinion of many a nutritionist, getting your nutrients from food is overwhelmingly preferable to getting them from supplements – though, in many cases, supplements provide a much-needed boost of a specific nutrient without the added calories that generally come with food. So, what do bodybuilders eat for protein? Let’s take a look.
Though once thought to actually be unhealthy, eggs are now understood to be a great source of a wide variety of nutrients, including protein. In fact, egg whites are almost entirely protein, while the entire egg can provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats – all of which are beneficial to bodybuilders.
If you ask an average person what kind of food provides the most protein, they’d almost certainly say meat. Of course, some types of meat are high in saturated fats, which should be avoided, but lean meats (such as chicken breast) can provide bodybuilders and other fitness fanatics with significant protein, minus the health risks of, say, a greasy burger.
While animal products may be the most-cited source of complete protein – meaning protein that contains all nine essential amino acids – many types of grains work as well. For instance, quinoa can offer bodybuilders eight grams of complete protein per cup, not to mention fiber, iron, and other important nutrients. Oats, too, contain all the essential amino acids, though they’re a little low in lysine.
You may not associate this sweet and creamy dish with big, tough bodybuilders, but yogurt is actually quite high in protein, with almost 70% of its calories coming from this one nutrient. Just six ounces of yogurt has around 17 grams of complete protein, so considering adding it to a shake or as a dessert after dinner.
Popular Protein Supplements Used by Bodybuilders
Virtually everyone who’s serious about working out and building muscle uses some type of supplement, with protein-based varieties being the most common. Today, the supplement market is flooded with different types of protein, from the much-loved whey protein to lesser-known types like pea or hemp protein. While the preferences of each bodybuilder can vary based on factors like personal preference, dietary restrictions, and individual fitness goals, some of these supplements are noticeably more popular with bodybuilders than others. The following are some of the top choices for protein powder:
- Whey is the most common option, and it’s been subject to the greatest body of research.
- Soy protein is popular among vegetarians because it’s one of the few plant-based sources of complete protein.
- Like whey, casein comes from milk, but it takes longer to digest, so it’s often taken before bed to deliver protein to the muscles overnight.
- Pea protein is another good option for vegetarians and those with food sensitivities, as it offers lots of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and is hypoallergenic.
Whole Protein vs. Amino Acids for Bodybuilders
Now that we’ve covered some of the sources of protein beloved by bodybuilders, it’s time to ask a question: Are these the best options for building lean muscle? After all, a single scoop of protein powder typically carries well over a hundred calories, and many brands contain significant amounts of sugar, too. On the other hand, amino acid supplements tend to be much leaner – the Action mid-workout mix from aminoVITAL® has only 15 calories and no sugar whatsoever – and they kick in faster because they require less digestion. However, when it comes to results, how do amino acids stack up to protein?
Very well, as it turns out. The BCAAs in amino acid-based fitness supplements can provide many of the same benefits as any source of whole protein. The first of these compounds, leucine, is notable for its ability to stimulate muscle growth, while the other two, isoleucine and valine, improve endurance and protect the muscles from exercise-induced damage. When taken together, these amino acids can offer even more benefits, such as an ability to fight fatigue during long workouts, and they can even be used as a quick source of fuel when the body’s glycogen stores run out.