When to Take Whey Protein

Regular reader Patrik sent us this question today (thanks, Patrik):

Q: I’ve been training for about 7 months now and I’m seeing some results. I’ve decided to start taking whey protein, so I’ve ordered a product you reviewed on your site recently. My questions is this: when should I take whey protein for best results, and how much do I need to take per day?

A: Simply put: when to take whey protein isn’t nearly as important as getting enough protein every day – whether that comes from whey protein products or from other quality sources like milk, meat, eggs or fish. As a matter of fact, much of the reason why I use a whey protein powder every day is the fact that it’s so convenient: I can have it practically whenever I want; to mix up a protein drink with a shaker or a spoon and a glass of milk doesn’t even take me five minutes! And because I’m a fairly busy guy, I’d definitely get less protein every day if it wasn’t for the convenience of easy to make (or RTD) protein drinks.

That said, your question of when to have your protein drinks is definitely valid. And here’s a couple of pointers:

  • Have a large whey protein drink mixed with carbs right after your workout. If you’re only consuming one protein drink a day, you should have it within an hour or so of your workout for that day. This is the time when a fast acting protein like whey protein is most needed. My post workout shake usually consists of some skim milk, 40 grams of whey protein powder, 5 grams of creatine, with anywhere from 40-100 grams of added carbs to replenish glycogen stores etc. I also add in some other stuff from time to time, like Eas’ Betagen for example.
  • If you’re having two protein drinks a day, you may want to have a small one right before your workout. This can have a muscle sparing effect, partly due to the branched chain amino acids that whey protein contains. If it’s not convenient to have a protein drink at this time for whatever reason, you can use a branched chain amino acid supplement in tablet form instead – many do, and it serves the same purpose.
  • I often have a protein drink for breakfast, especially if I’m looking to lose some body fat. A protein drink mixed with a little milk and water using a high quality protein powder gives me a high protein, low carb meal that keeps me satiated for a long time even though the calories consumed are low. This has really helped med shed off those extra pounds when I’ve needed to.
  • If you for any reason want to use a protein supplement at night before you go to bed, consider using a more slow acting protein like casein instead of whey. Casein is fantastic for muscle growth, and probably a better alternative when you’ve got eight or nine hours of quality sleep ahead of you and you want to maximize your muscle growth during the fast that this long sleep period actually is.

You should not need more than three whey protein drinks per day. Remember: the majority of your protein needs should come from whole food sources – supplements are just that: supplements.

I hope this helps you out, Patrik, and feel free to send us a question again at any time!

How to Increase Testosterone Levels Naturally

There is no hormone known to man that gets more attention than testosterone, and for good reason. Research has shown that your testosterone levels can have an immense impact on your health, longevity, athletic performance, muscle mass, body composition and quality of life. Simply put: If your testosterone levels are not right, there will be consequences, and they can sometimes be severe – even life threatening. And here comes the spooky part: Low testosterone levels are now common. Men are simply not as manly as they used to be. Exactly why this is the case is subject to investigation, but some causes have been identified, and we’ll discuss them here. We’ll look at how you can increase testosterone levels naturally, something that should be of interest to all athletes, and bodybuilders in particular.

I’ve tried to make this article the most comprehensive of its kind in order to give you the best guide possible on how to increase testosterone levels naturally – and safely. To make it an easy read, I’ve used bullet points throughout, and refrained from getting too deep into the scientific basis of things – because we’ll get into that in later articles anyway. This article is meant to be a guide that you can start using straight away – not some theoretical discussion that could leave you with more questions than answers and unable to take action. See it as a comprehensive list of tips if you like.  And note: Most readers of this blog are men, but while an article like this is going to cater mostly to a male audience, most of the tips here can be used by women too. Just don’t expect the same results. Anyway, let’s get started on how to increase your testosterone levels:

  • You need to stress less. Stress is a major testosterone killer. Decide to kill stress today by identifying all the crap that is stressing you out on a regular basis and dealing with it now. Get on top of things. Eliminate stuff that really isn’t contributing to your life but only taking up time and energy. Learn relaxation techniques and methods to combat stress  (The Sedona Method is highly recommended). Start taking care of yourself in new ways, like getting a massage every friday afternoon, or going swimming on Sundays. Learn to truly wind down.
  • Get enough sleep. This could be mentioned as part of “stressing less” but since sleep is so important it deserves a mention of its own. Sleep is absolutely crucial to testosterone production. Learn how to sleep well, and sleep for as long as you need. Personally, unless I’m catching an early flight or something, I never rely on an alarm clock. I simply get up when I’ve finished sleeping – which is what we should all do.
  • Get plenty of zinc. If you don’t get enough zinc, you won’t have enough testosterone. It’s as simple as that. Personally, I err on the side of caution with this one and consume a little more zinc than I think I need – usually in the form of a ZMA supplement.
  • Take it easy on the alcohol. They say alcoholics never go bald. Guess why: Too much alcohol can have a seriously detrimental effect on your testosterone levels, and when there’s not a lot of testosterone circulating in the alcoholic’s body, even less is going to convert into dihydrotestosterone, which the thing that tends to go after people’s scalps. Drink enough and you’ll be less of a man than you can be (but hey, it might help you keep a full head of hair!).
  • Have sex. One of the easiest and most fun way to make sure your testosterone levels are up to scratch is to have sex. Studies have even shown that just the expectation of sex can boost testosterone.
  • Increase your EFA (essential fatty acids) intake. Get your flax seed oil, fish oil, avocados, nuts and seeds and oily fish like wild salmon on a regular basis. These substances are named “essential” for a reason – if you don’t get enough of them you could be in trouble, and not just with regards to your testosterone levels.
  • Eat coconuts. There isn’t much scientific evidence supporting a link between coconut consumption and increased testosterone levels [yet], but do consider the fact that coconuts have been known to replenish male sexual energy in many different cultures around the world. This could be due to nothing more than the high fat content, but I’ve personally experienced what I would call, well, interesting effects from eating lots of coconut, and would not hesitate to recommend anyone do the same if they were looking to boost their testosterone levels.
  • Do the right stuff in the gym: Use  big compound exercises (which I consider to be the most important exercises for bodybuilders), use heavy resistance (85%-95% of your 1RM), use a moderate to high volume (no 1 set to failure stuff here),  and fairly short rest intervals (even as little as one minute or less). And train hard.
  • Lay off the soy. Soy can increase estrogen levels, which in essense is what you want if you’re aiming to become more womanlike. Increased estrogen will also decrease testosterone. Personally, I don’t think anyone  should eat a whole lot of soy as I don’t consider soy to be very healthy at all, but men have an extra reason to stay far away from the stuff – especially men who are looking to optimize their testosterone levels.
  • Don’t get fat. Large deposits of body fat is another enemy of testosterone, just like low testosterone can result in higher body fat. In other words, do not get fat as this could send you right into a vicious cycle where your fat decreases your testosterone levels, which in turn adds more fat and so on. Stay relatively lean all year round, and if your body fat percentage gets much higher than 15% start doing something about it.
  • Get your magnesium. Some studies show increased testosterone from magnesium supplementation alone. Make sure you get plenty of the stuff, and not just from supplements: Your primary source should be foods like green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds and unrefined grains.
  • Make sure you get enough vitamin D. Vitamin D is currently the big star of the vitamin world, and deservedly so. Getting enough vitamin D is vital to several aspects of your health, including your testosterone levels. Personally, while I make sure I never get sunburned, I do try to have a bit of a tan all year round so that I maintain adequate vitamin D levels. I also use a supplement, and increase dosages if the weather is bad or the winter is long.
  • Consider using a testosterone boosting supplement. Tribulus (or a supplement like Universal Nutrition’s Animal Stak, which contains tribulus along with other testosterone boosting compounds) can be beneficial for some people. Don’t expect miracles, though, and don’t use a supplement like that for months on end with no break, as this could have detrimental long term effects on endogenous testosterone production.
  • Be a Winner. Studies have repeatedly shown that winning increases testosterone levels. After a fight, the winning boxer will experience a boost in testosterone, while his defeated opponent experiences a drop. And don’t think you have to get into super manly stuff like boxing to get this effect; the same thing even applies to chess players. You don’t even need to compete yourself: one study showed that British soccer supporters had elevated testosterone levels after attending a soccer match that their team won.

So there you have it. These are some of  the keys to increase and maintain an optimal (read: high) testosterone level that will not only ensure you get better muscular gains, but could even improve your health, general well being and quality of life. Use them responsibly! ;)

PF (Proteinfabrikken) Oxygen Protein Bar Review

I’m not a big user of protein bars, but after I did a review of the popular ISS Oh Yeah Bars, I figured I had an excuse to try out some of the other tasty protein snack products on the market, and so here I am with another review of a protein bar. First out is the PF (Proteinfabrikken) Oxygen Protein Bar.

This product tastes great. Even though the Oh Yeah Bars are super popular worldwide for their taste, I’d have to say that I prefer the taste of this one – quite a bit, in fact. I tried the Strawberry/Banana flavor, and instantly fell for the awesome taste. Real candy doesn’t taste better than this, in my opinion. Right after my first bite of this thing I knew it would not be the last time I purchased this product. It really is one of the better protein supplements I’ve tasted in a while.

One could argue that a product like this is merely a protein fortified candy bar, and one might even be right. As opposed to relying on a high quality whey protein powder, for your extra protein needs, supplementing with a protein bar will naturally come with more sugars and fat in most cases, and this is no exception. An Oxygen Protein Bar weights 50 grams and gives you 14 grams of protein, 24 grams of carbs, but only 4.1 grams of fat – as opposed to the Oh Yeah Bar which at nearly (27g) twice the protein comes with more than 4 times the fat.

With a typical quality protein powder, you’re bound to get a nutritional value that is markedly different from this. One can expect 1 or 2 grams of carbohydrates for ever 10 grams of protein, and usually even less fat. Does that mean you should stay away from protein bars? I don’t think so. Instead, you’re probably best off not using them on a regular basis except for right after a workout, when you’ll actually be helped by the extra carbs they contain.

This product is not yet for sale in all parts of the world, but PF’s distribution network is growing fast, so if you’re after a superb tasting protein bar product see if you can get your hands on a twelve pack of these.