Protein powders, what are the differences?

Protein supplements always get a lot of publicity, as there are many different suppliers looking to sell you 100s of different types of protein powder. As an Old Munki protein is one of the main supplements I use and I’m sure most active athletes will use too.  It can help promote a healthy weight and can help muscles recover after a good workout, which is important for me, to maintain my lean muscle mass.  But when it comes to supplementation, which type of protein is best? I am hoping the following explanations will help you navigate the sea of different protein supplements out there.

So why is protein important?

Protein is a macronutrient found in many different foods meats, dairy products, nuts, and beans, to name a few. It’s comprised of amino acids, which are the building blocks of lean muscle tissue amongst other things. Obviously it is better to get our protein from natural food sources, protein supplements can make it easier to get those aminos on-the-go. But something you need to remember is that not all protein supplements are created equal and that is what I am going to look at, the positives and negatives of the different protein supplements.

Two of the terms you will come across in the descriptions  of different Protein supplements is Concentrate and Isolate. I think a quick explanation of these terms will help. So protein powder is derived from various natural food sources and it is “concentrated” by removing the non-protein parts. The result: a powder that’s 70-85 percent pure protein (with the remain 15-30 percent consisting mostly of carbohydrates and fat). Taking the concentration process a step further, “isolation” removes a much higher percentage of non-protein content. The additional processing yields a premium protein that is up to 95 percent pure. So the two terms will give you an indication of the percentage of pure protein your supplement will provide.

Comparison Time

Whey Protein

As I already said this is the most popular protein supplement on the market today.

The positives to whey protein is that it has been shown to promote lean muscle growth and fat loss, as well as support cardiovascular health and a healthy metabolism. Whey is quickly absorbed by the body, this makes it very useful for post-workout recovery.

There are some negatives with whey too. The sugar found in milk known as lactose, is a common allergen, you may have heard the term lactose intolerant before. This intolerance can make whey indigestible for some. There are many flavoured versions of whey protein, but it may be worth checking what what the flavourings consist of, as you don’t want to be consuming stealth processed carbohydrates or some less-than-desirable artificial sweeteners and chemicals.

Casein Protein

Casein is another type of protein powder that comes from cow juice. Casein is produced using a separation process applied to liquid milk that can concentrate or isolate the milk protein from the carbs and fats.

The positives of Casein protein powder are similar to the benefits of whey protein, but with a slower release rate. Because casein digests over a long period of time, research has found it’s the best type of protein to have before bed, which will help with your night time recovery.

Because casein is a by-product of milk, it has the same potential allergenic issue like whey. It’s best to use as a post-workout supplement because it’s absorbed so slowly. After exercise the body needs a quick hit of nutrients to replenish and rebuild, which is why whey or a combination of the two, is probably better for this purpose. Casein also tends to be more expensive than whey and can contains artificial ingredients to help make it more palatable.

Egg Protein

Egg protein as the name suggests comes from eggs! It is a complete protein made by separating out the yolks and dehydrating the egg whites into a powder.

The positives of egg protein are that aside from just protein, egg protein powders are rich in vitamins and minerals that can help support a healthy diet.  It is also easily digestible like whey protein, so is good for a post work out recovery drink.

The negatives are once again the allergy issues.  Allergies to eggs are common, similar to milk (lactose) allergies. Egg protein can also be one of the most expensive protein supplements available.

Soy Protein

Soy beans are one of the few plant protein sources that offer all of the essential amino acids. The protein can be either concentrated or isolated after the soy beans have been hulled and dried into soy flour.

The positives of protein from the soy bean are that it may help improve the body’s immune function and promote bone health. Soy may also help prevent cardiovascular disease and reduce the risk of certain cancers.

On the negative side soy has come under heavy scrutiny because it is often genetically modified in an effort to produce greater crop yields. Some research has also singled out soy due to its effects on hormone levels. Many foods are already full of soy due to its extremely low-cost protein. This has led some to question whether adding even more dietary soy (via protein supplements) is a wise choice, especially for men.

Rice Protein

Although mainly thought of as a carbohydrate only, brown rice is becoming a standard source for vegetarian protein powder.

For the positives brown rice protein is considered a good source of complex carbohydrates, vitamin B, and fiber. It’s also hypoallergenic, meaning it’s easily digestible with virtually no chance of an allergic reaction and therefore almost entirely used by the body.

The negative of rice protein is that unlike soy as a plant-based option it’s deficient in some amino acids and therefore should not comprise your main source of dietary protein.

Hemp Protein

Hemp protein is derived from the seeds of the hemp plant that’s gained popularity in recent years. It has nothing to do with

There are a number of positives for hemp protein. Hemp has been shown to improve metabolism, brain function, and circulation. With a similar profile to egg, it contains all the essential amino acids making hemp protein the most complete source of protein in the plant kingdom. The vegan-friendly supplement is also extremely hypoallergenic, high in fibre which makes it excellent for digestion. Also it is free from estrogen mimickers so it does not present the same hormone issues as soya.

The negative to hemp is that similar to egg it is an expensive protein powder. Since hemp is only harvested in mass quantities in select countries due to its association with cannabis, it is often the most expensive protein powder available.

Pea Protein

Pea protein comes from the yellow split pea,  making it a popular choice for vegetarians and vegans alike.

The positives of pea protein are those of the other plant-based proteins and the body is able to process the vast majority of each serving. Due to it being highly satiating protein it can help promote weight loss.

The negative is that despite pea protein often being considered a complete protein because it can contain the spectrum of essential amino acids, it remains deficient in certain amino acids and should not be used as a primary source of dietary protein.

These are the basic protein groups.  Some suppliers will mix them and flavour them to different degrees, but when it comes to protein powders there really is something for everyone. It is also worth noting that the amount of protein required by the body depends on a person’s activity level, physical size, and gender. Testing various sources and quantities of protein can help determine a mix that works best.

I personally mix up both hemp and whey proteins because of their differences.  I tend to use hemp in my pre training shake and whey as part of my recovery drink as it absorbs quicker.

Also protein powders can be used for more things than just shakes, there is a big thing now for protein baking.  Substituting flour for protein powder.  The baking side of it is a post I’ll leave to Mrs Munki as she makes awesome pancakes amongst other things with it.

I hope this clarifies some issues for you, as it was just a very basic run through.  But just remember protein powder is a food supplement and should not replace whole foods entirely.

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Supplementary recovery support for the Old Munki Part 2

I wrote an original post a while ago about the supplements I started taking for the recovery of my shoulder operation.  You can find part one here.  So I thought it was time to give an update as to the usefulness of the various powders and potions I have been taking.

So lets start with HMB (Beta hydroxy beta methyl butyrate) this is supposed to slow down muscle breakdown.  We I did experience some muscle wastage on my shoulder.  Not as bad as previously, but number 2 wasn’t immobilised for as long as the first one. Decision on whether it worked? Possibly but as I can’t be conclusive, I doubt I’ll be splashing my banana money on any more.

Collagen tablets, well these definitely didn’t work.  These were supposed to help my skin as well as my shoulder joint.  No changes to the old munki skin. Plus when I went periods not taking them, I didn’t notice any improvement when I started retaking them.  So I’ll finish off my current supply, but I’m not getting anymore.

Krill oil, actually this did ease the pain in my shoulder.  However no more than the Fish Oil capsules I got from Costco. So yes they did work, but for the price there are cheaper alternatives that are just as effective.  I am keeping up with the fish oils, they are reasonably priced and do have an effect.

Glucosamine Sulphate I have not been taking this for a while and I can’t tell any difference to when I was taking it.  So once again as far as the noticeable effects go, this was a poor result.  As a consequence I will not be buying any more.  Even Arthritis Research UK says ” It’s been tested in many trials, but the evidence for its effectiveness is mixed.”

Coconut Oil is one of the few I will be continuing with.  I think this worked well with the fish oil as it did seem to ease the “pain” in my shoulder.  I am aware that coconut oil is supposed to be good for overall body inflammation and it did live up to the hype. Plau out of all of the supplements tested it was the cheapest.

I have kept up with with my clean paleo style diet.  I have the odd cheats here and there as I’m only a munki after all.  I do think this played a big part in my recovery too. As on the cheat days the next day my joints, especially my shoulders felt sore.  I do not think this was psychosomatic, as there was other physical occurrences that shows how a bad diet can affect me negatively.

So in conclusion the oils have worked pretty well and eating a mainly clean diet.  The additional powders and pills had no effect and I would definitely not advocate.

Now I am able to get back in the gym, but unfortunately not on the mat yet I have started to try something new and I’ll explain that in my next post.  If I don’t split it up this will become a mega (boring) post.

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Supplementary recovery support for the Old Munki.

So as an Old Munki going through some fun shoulder surgery, I have lined up some additional dietary supplements.  A number of these are generally pretty good for all round health for munkis old and young alike.  But a number of them that I will be taking during my recovery have been recommended to me, by someone else who has been through the same surgery but appeared to recover a lot quicker than I did from my first operation.

So the first supplement I have that I have been taking for a while is Vitamin D.  We produce Vitamin D naturally from our skin being exposed to sunlight.  However as I live in Manchester in the UK, producing adequate Vitamin D from sun exposure is highly unlikely. Vitamin D has several important functions. For example, it helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body and supports the immune the system. This is just for general wellness and not actually specific to my recovery.  I have to admit I have felt better since I have started taking this a number of months ago and would definitely recommend it.

So now on to the more specific supplements. I’ll start with HMB or Beta-Hydroxy Beta-methylbutyrate (yeah thats why its called HMB) is a byproduct of the normal breakdown of the amino acid Leucine. HMB is produced in our body from the proteins in our diet and is also consumed in small amounts from the foods we eat. Foods like catfish and alfalfa (yeah I eat a lot of those) contain small amounts of HMB.  The main reasons for taking this are that HMB is supposed to prevent muscle catabolism and speeds up tissue repair.  Obviously having been stitched back together speeding up tissue repair would be a benefit. But also as I’m not exercising, last time the shoulder that had been operated on looked like I’d borrowed it from Mr Bean, after the six weeks in the sling.  So hopefully I can reduce this impact this time around.

Now onto Glucosamine Sulphate.  Glucosamine is a naturally occurring element in the body that plays a crucial role in building of cartilage.  It is needed by cartilage because it plays a role into the incorporation of sulfur into cartilage, which is required to make and repair it.  Strong evidence does exist from many trials that can indicate that glucosamine sulfate can play a role in treating osteoarthritis,  yeah the “raging arthritis” I have. Generally, the findings from these studies show that perhaps glucosamine provides benefits for individuals with osteoarthritis in the form of reduction of pain, at the moment for me this isn’t an issue.  But it also helps improve mobility and function, that one however is a big plus for me at this time.

Next is Krill Oil. This oil comes from krill, tiny shrimp-like creatures that live in very cold ocean waters. A study found that krill oil, like omega-3s in general, could improve osteoarthritis symptoms such as pain, stiffness, and functional impairment. Once again it seems like a winner, in getting this Old Munki’s shoulders functioning as good as possible.

Oh I also have some collagen tablets. The claim that collagen can stimulate the growth of new cartilage in joints is borne out by recent medical studies which say that patients with arthritic or damaged joints showed improvement in mobility and pain relief when taking the supplement.  I thought this may help with the repair to the damage to the joints that has already taken place.  I know I could make bone broth and have that instead, but that is a lot of messing about and I have to find some suitable bones on a weekly basis. So for now the tablets are the way forward. Also a side effect is they might also improve my wrinkly old munki skin too. Bonus!

The final supplement is Coconut Oil.  Once again this is not a specific supplement for the operation, but one that I take generally.  Coconut oil is one of those saturated fats that is actually good for you.  It is a medium chain fatty acid which means your body can digest it easily.  It supports you immune system and cellular health.

I also intend to stick to my clean diet (paleo) throughout the recovery.  Hopefully all of these little extras will boost the overall recovery process for me. I am aware that for every report stating the positive influence a supplement can have there will be another that will state it has no impact at all.  However if they do help ME in anyway with the initial speed of recovery from the operation and get me back on the mat quicker.  Also if the help with my longer term physical condition, including the “raging arthritis” I’ll take it.  So to see if they work I’ll try them for myself and base continuing use on my own experiences and probably cycling of the non oil supplements.

Two and a half weeks into the recovery and the additional supplements and I have very little pain in my shoulder post operation. Comparing this to how I recovered last year.  Also based on the amount of pain relief medicine and the number of warnings about the pain, the anaesthesiologist gave me.  I am really surprised by this, so I can only put this down to my diet and supplements.  Oh and the quality of the surgeon.  I have also been to see the physiotherapist this morning to see how I’m healing and they have told me to start easing out of the sling and have given me some “exercises” to do.  I’m really pleased with how this is going this time around.

If you have any specific questions about the supplements I’ve used or the operation I’ve been through, feel free to ask them.

Krill Oil & Inflammation – An interesting blog post by Dr M. Eades

Coconut Oil Benefits – An article by Dr J. Mercola

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Resolutions sometimes they end up out of focus

So as 2013 starts and the excess of the festive season has now passed a lot of people start to consider new year resolutions.  As all the research shows despite everyones best intentions these eventually fail.  So instead of setting yourself targets too high, how about changing some little things that are still going to have a big positive impact on your health.

1.  Improved Sleep

On average we should get around 8 hours of good sleep a night.  This helps with your body’s recovery from training and day to day stresses. One way to help with sleep is to reduce the amount of light in the bedroom.  So this means no TV in the bedroom and blackout blinds to stop any ambient getting in through the windows. There is a nice little sleep profiler here from the BBC.

2. Diet

Now this does not mean dieting, it means cleaning up your existing diet.  If you look at what you eat honestly you will know what is junk  and what is really good fuel. So why put junk in your body if you want to get the best out of it?  I’m not advocating a specific fad diet here.  I have made it clear that my preferred way of eating is the paleo method. If you are interested in that here is the quick start guide. But simple changes can be easier, so work on limiting your junk intake may be preferable.

3. Have Fun

Make sure your training stays fun. Dr Ralph Smedley said “people learn most in moments of enjoyment”.  Fun is not so much something you say or do as an atmosphere or state of mind you create for yourself.  Don’t start pushing yourself into too much, which is one I’ve definitely been guilty of before now.  Starting the year with a bang and then physically fizzling out as I can’t manage the pace.  Keep it fun and you will keep going back, you’ll learn more and even take it on board.  Even if you start slow you can build up, which is probably healthier for you any way.

If you do decide to make any changes with the new year I hope they are successful!!

Keep munki-ing


The Stone Age (Paleo) Diet – No it’s not about taking ages to eat stones!

Diet in any sport is taken seriously and BJJ is not different what you put in, helps with what you get out. Whether you are competing or just enjoying the training diet is important.  So something I have had some positive personal experience with recently is the paleo diet.  I really don’t like calling something a diet, as this implies it’s a short term fix for weight loss.  Where as when you look at this way of eating its meant to be as much a part of your lifestyle as your training or anything else you would do to stay healthy.

Paleo/primal is not just a low carbohydrate diet it is a way of eating that is meant to be in tune with your physiology.  It’s based on the fact that human physiology has not really changed since the stone age.  So we are not meant to digest refined sugars, wheat, cereals and legumes.  There is individual research around aspects of the diet, along with a lot of anecdotal evidence from individuals on how it has benefitted them.  A good source of this is the Robb Wolf website, that can be found here.

So lets follow up with the question I always get asked, if I don’t eat bread, potatoes, pasta, milk and rice what do I eat?  Well funnily enough I have managed to find these exotic things called meat, vegetables, fruit (bananas hmmmm) and nuts.  I eat as much as I want when I feel hungry.  It is all about identifying a diet that suits you.  If you are doing a lot of training you are going to need more carbs, (sweet potatoes, yams, green vegetables, fruit), but this is just fuel for your training.  Your protein intake helps your body repair and feel full.  Also eating more naturally means you get all the micro nutrients too, vitamins, minerals, fibre etc, which help with recovery and the natural processes of your body.  Now before you start throwing banana skins at me in protest, this does not mean you can never eat chocolate, pizza, beer etc ever again.  It just means that you consider the impact of eating these things.  You know beer has an impact doh who hasn’t had a hangover, possible headaches and lethargy from chocolate (been there)to name a couple.  You’re all big munkis so you make the decisions on how it affects you and your training.

If you are competing or just enjoying your training you want to have plenty of energy to do it. You also need to recover from sessions quickly so you can get back there (especially when you are an old munki it’s the recovery thats the frustrating part!). This is where the fuel you put in keeps you engine running well. You can see on any Google or You Tube search on just “BJJ Diet” the number of articles and clips that come up and how important your food lifestyle is.  that is why after looking at various different ways of eating I thought this was the best option for this aging munki, to keep me fit and training into the future.

This wasn’t meant to be a massive explanation of paleo eating, but more of a starter to get you interested in a nice meaty main course. So I hope it has achieved my aim. I may be a convert, but I was convinced by researching the subject to understand it for myself.  To get you started on this I have put some links at the bottom of the post that can give you a lot more information and see if this is for you.  If you have any questions how it works for me, leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you.


Loren Cordain – Founder of the Paleo Diet

Robb Wolf – Massive font of knowledge

Primal Britain – A UK view on the subject

Modern Paleo Warfare – Some awesome food, from the UK and funny too!

Cuddle a kiwi to help you sleep

Ok so a lied a little in the title, you don’t actually cuddle the kiwi fruit you eat it.  But there has been a study that has proven that eating 100g of kiwi fruit (2 medium sized kiwi fruit) one hour before going to bed can help with sleep.  When you read the actual study it was only conducted on a small sample of people, but the science behind why the kiwi fruit works seems really sound.  Apparently kiwi fruit are melatonin boosters, which is the hormone that helps with sleep.  Handy if you’re in need of a good nights sleep.  They are also high in Magnesium which helps you relax.  This little green furry fruit are sounding pretty good right now, to an old munki that gets stressed at worked, over trains and has trouble getting a decent nights sleep.
So I thought I would give these little critters a try last week and they actually actually worked.  Who would have thought it.  I have tried the protocol and it really helped my sleep, I slept really deeply and soundly.  Alternatively I have not had them and sleep returned to my normal sketchy tossing and turning.  So as a self experiment the protocol does seem to work in real life.
So if you need some help in this area I would definitely recommend giving it a try.  It s something I would cycle though and not keep taking constantly.

The link to the pubmed article is here

Hhmmm yummy sleepy time!!!!