Protein is the foundational macro-nutrient you need to properly recover from your workouts. But with so many protein options on the market what is the right protein? A quick search for protein supplements will have you presented with several options; whey, casein, and pea protein have all taken off major options. How to choose which is right for you?

Protein is for Building Strength

Strength is the foundation of success and health in rock climbing. If you want to build strength then you need to fuel your muscles for recovery. But in order for your muscles to recover optimally you need to optimize your nutrition. It’s important to take the right amount of protein, the right type of protein, at the right time.

How much protein should I take?

An inactive adult needs 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight (source Harvard Health). For a 150 lbs (68kg) climber this totals 55 grams of protein per day. For an active climber pulling hard on holds and weights the body likely needs 1.3 grams of protein per kg of body weight. This increases the total daily intake for a 150 lbs climber to 88.5 grams.
It’s likely that you aren’t consuming enough protein in your diet.

It’s likely that you aren’t consuming enough protein in your diet.

After all 88.5 grams of protein is equivalent to consuming:
15 eggs, or
11 cups of milk, or
3.5 cups of cottage cheese, or
5.5 cups of cooked beans.

That is a lot of protein to eat! Getting enough protein in your diet can be very difficult. For this reason many climbers and athletes take a protein supplement.

What type of protein should I take? Whey, Casein, or Pea Protein?

Whey: the King of Proteins

Whey is the most commonly supplemented protein, and for good reason. Whey is a complete protein, meaning it contains all the required amino acids, and absorbs quickly into the body. This quick absorption rate makes Whey an excellent choice for supplementing immediately after a workout.

Just 1 or 2 scoops of whey protein can make huge progress in meeting your daily protein requirement.

Casein: for All-Night Muscle Recovery

While Whey is absorbed and processed very quickly by the body, casein absorbs much more slowly. For this reason many athletes supplement with casein before bed to support recovery and strength building throughout the night.

Casein can even help prevent your body from breaking down its own protein during times of low energy. For this reason Casein can be a great daytime supplement for those on a weight loss plan who want to avoid losing muscle mass.

Pea: Protein for Variety and Special Diets

Pea protein, while not as complete of a protein as whey, pea protein is a great protein supplement for those with diet restriction due to allergies or those following a vegan diet. Pea protein is free of peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish, shellfish, cow’s milk, wheat and soy.

Pea protein is a fantastic addition to the kitchen of any hard working athlete who wants to diversify their cooking and protein consumption away from too much dependency on a simple whey shake. Pea is a great resource for adding both protein and flavor to many meals.

Interestingly, pea protein has a slower absorption rate than whey but a faster absorption rate than casein.

So when do I take my protein?

When to take protein is actually quite simple. Take fast absorbing protein immediately after workouts and slower absorbing protein throughout the day or before bedtime. For this reason whey remains king of the proteins for hard working climbers looking for what to take after a workout. For daytime and nighttime supplements, the slower absorption rate of pea and casein proteins are ideal. Whey is simply absorbed too quickly to supply the body with the protein it needs throughout the day or night.

Other Considerations

Supplements are highly concentrated forms of food. Because of this it is important to select brands who focus on purity of their product. You don’t want pollutants concentrated into your supplements along with the protein.

Naked Nutrition is a brand with a clear message on this point.

“Naked Whey is sourced from small California dairy farms. Our cows are grass-fed year-round, and raised without growth hormones like rBGH or rBST.“

“Naked Casein has only one ingredient: Micellar casein sourced from US farms.”

“Naked Pea has only one ingredient: Pea protein extracted from yellow split peas grown on US and Canadian farms. .. Naked Pea is free of additives and artificial sweeteners.”

Due to the focus on purity and excellent testing of their products, I recommend you look at Naked Nutrition for supplementing your diet to meet your protein needs.

Tips on Taking your Protein

If you have struggled getting into a regular routine taking protein shakes, then try some of these tips to make the experience of taking protein a bit more enjoyable and healthy!

Foamy Shake Syndrome

If you have blended whey or protein into milk, then you have likely encountered the problem of foam. While the most popular way to take whey or casein is in a shake, this blending often results in a cup full of foam. To reduce foam, trying stirring in the protein powder as the last ingredient very slowly. This can be a trial in patience, so another alternative is to try blending your shake before your workout so that the foam settles out by the time you need it.

Add your own flavor!

If you find the fake vanilla or chocolate flavoring undesirable, you're not alone. You can add your own flavoring while even improving the nutritional value.

Sweetening with honey instead of sugar. Unlike sugar, honey comes with an extra boost of antioxidants, minerals and enzymes.

Add flavor with pumpkin spice and turmeric powder. Cinnamon is often credited with improving blood sugar levels. Turmeric is often cited in lists of superfoods.

Blend other superfoods into your shake. A small amount of kale, colorful berries, and chia seeds will load your pure protein with other vitamins, minerals, and oils your body needs.