Getting Started


Below you will find common questions asked by those who are new to the scene of supplementation, in particular protein powder supplements.

Information, ideas and opinions expressed on this site should not be regarded as professional advice or the official opinion of suppslab.co.za or any of the brands or manufacturers represented herein and users are encouraged to consult professional advice before taking any course of action related to information, ideas or opinions expressed on this site.


What Are Supplements


Generally speaking, the supplements we are referring to are bodybuilding supplements which are primarily used by those involved in sporting activities as well as recreational bodybuilding and the like.

The most widely used supplements are those of protein powders, branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), creatine, testosterone boosters, vitamins, essential fatty acids and glutamine.

These are sold and used as either ‘pure’ or blended / stacked products.


What Is Protein Powder?


The protein powders referred to when this question is asked are those of products sold by various manufacturers as dry protein powders, in the form of Whey (derived from milk), Casein (derived from milk), Egg, Beef, Soy, Hemp, Rice and Pea protein or a blend of any of the above.

Most widely used are Whey, Casein and Beef protein powders.

They are generally supplied in the form of Concentrates, Isolates, Hydrolysates and Blends. (1)


Why is Protein Powder Used?


Protein powders are used mainly because of their high levels of essential amino acids (branched-chain amino acids), which aid in muscle recovery and growth.


What Are Amino Acids and BCAA's?


A large proportion of our cells, muscles and tissue is made up of amino acids, part of which give cells their structure. They also play a key roll in the transport and storage of nutrients. They are essential for repairing tissue in bones, skin, hair and muscles. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein.

Within the stomach and intestines, ingested protein is broken up into amino acids.

There are 20 amino acids that are made up of human proteins, designated as proteinogenic amino acids. These are usually listed as a typical amino acid profile in the nutritional information section of a protein product label.

Amino acids can be divided into three groups: essential, semi-essential and non-essential.

Essential amino acids are those that the body cannot produce by itself and therefore have to be supplied from external sources, primarily through ingestion. For humans, there are eight essential amino acids. These are:

  • Isoleucine**
  • Leucine**
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine**

** Branched-chain Amino Acids

Semi-essential amino acids are those acids that both can and cannot be produced by the human body, depending on developmental stage and health status of the individual. For humans, there are two semi-essential amino acids. These are:

  • Arginine
  • Histidine

Non-essential amino acids are acids that can be produced in the body / synthesized by the organism itself. For humans, there are ten non-essential amino acids. These are:

  • Alanine
  • Asparagine
  • Aspartic acid
  • Cysteine
  • Glutamine
  • Glutamic acid
  • Glycine
  • Proline
  • Serin
  • Tyrosine

Branched-chain amino acids are essential amino acids having a number of benefits on biological processes. They are metabolized in the muscle and have an anabolic effect (i.e. causing the muscle to grow). (2)


What is Whey Protein?


Whey protein powders are the most common and widely available protein supplements on the market today. Whey protein powders are derived from milk and are sold in the form of Concentrates, Isolates, Hydrolysates and Blends.

Whey protein powder is a mixture of globular proteins isolated from Whey, usually cold-filtered and dehydrated to form a powder. Whey is the liquid material created as a by-product of cheese production (Separating curds from whey) and contains proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.

Concentrates contains anywhere from 30 – 80% protein by weight (percentages may vary), the remaining percentage being made up of fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Concentrates contain significant amounts of lactose.

Isolates contain at least 90% protein by weight (percentages may vary). Whey Isolate is made from Whey Concentrate that undergoes further processing, usually cold-filtration.

Hydrolysates are Isolates which have been further processed, enzymatically predigested, thus making it the fastest form of absorbing protein.

Blends are powdered products that usually contain a mixture of Whey Concentrate and Whey Isolate in varying amounts but may also include other additives in certain instances.

Mass builders also fall into the Whey protein bracket, most being a mixture of Whey Concentrate with added carbohydrates and fat. This blend of protein is generally used as a weight/mass gainer (bulking). (3)

BELOW IS AN EXAMPLE OF HOW BPI's WHEY PROTEIN IS MANUFACTURED

What is Casein Protein?


Casein protein, derived from milk, is a slower digesting protein used in a similar manner to Whey Protein powders. It is widely accepted that this type of protein supplement be taken before bed because of its slower digesting properties.

Casein makes up around 80% of the protein in cows milk. It is found as a suspension of particles called micelles, which are separated from milk and dehydrated to form powder. (4)


What is Beef Protein?


Beef protein is a less common powdered protein supplement usually with added creatine and branched-chain amino acids to balance its amino acid profile. It is derived from hydrolyzer collagen or gelatin created from various animal by-products. It was not a very popular source of protein however is slowly becoming more popular in the supplement market as a fast absorbing protein. (5)


What other types of protein are available?


Other types of protrein available as a supplement are Egg, Soy, Hemp, Rice and Pea protein. These also take the form of powders. Egg and Soy protein powder may take the form of 'pure' protein powders, i.e. Not blended with other types, but are also commonly added to Whey protein to create a blend. Hemp, Rice and Pea protein arent usually found as a 'pure' stand alone powder but rather blended with other protein powders. Soy, Hemp, Rice and Pea proteins are usually blended for use by those who follow a Vegan diet.

Egg Protein:
Egg white is the common name for the clear liquid, also referred to as albumen, contained within an egg. The egg white consists approximately 10% protein and 90% water and contains almost zero fat and carbohydrates.The egg white makes up approximately 50% of the protein withn an egg. To produce egg protein powder, the egg white is usually filtered, heated to kill microbiological organisims, then dried. (6)

Soy Protein:
Soy protein is a protein that is isolated from soybeans. Usually made from soybean meal that is dehulled and defatted, which are then processed into concentrates (about 70% purity) and isolates (about 90% purity). This type of protein is a complete protein since it provides all of the essential amino acids for human nutrition. (7)

Hemp Protein:
Hemp protein is protein derived from hemp seeds. After the oil has been extracted from the seeds, the remaining seadmeal, which is high in protein relative to the seeds, is processed into hemp protein supplements. (8)

Rice Protein:
Rice protein is protein derived from rice, which can be treated with enzymes that will cause the carbohydrates to seperate from the proteins. Rice protein powder is commonly mixed with Pea protein powder, the combination providing an amino acid profile comparible with dairy and egg proteins. (9)

Pea Protein:
Pea protein is protein extracted from the yellow pea, Pisum Sativum, and is commonly blended with rice protein as stated above. (10)


Which protein supplement do I choose?


When choosing a protein supplement, there are a number of factors to consider.

  • Cost - In this day and age, cost is always of concern. Choose what you can afford and provides best value for money once you have considered all options.
  • Allergens - If you are lactose intolerant then Whey Concentrate is probably not for you. Whey Isolates, Hydrolysates or Beef Protein is probably going to be a better option. Do your research or contact a medical professional.
  • Concentrate, Isolate or Casein? – There are many mixed feelings about which type to take and when however general consensus is Concentrates are a good source of protein for between meals. Isolates are slightly faster absorbing thus working well immediately following a workout to move amino acids into starving muscles. Casein, being slower digesting, is favoured as a bedtime snack because it provides a slow release of amino acids during the night.
  • Mass Gainer or Protein Powder? – If you are a person that easily picks up weight then you’ll want to stay clear of mass gainers.
  • Brand Steady – Use a brand you trust.
  • Preference – Choose the protein powder you are comfortable ingesting… chicken or beef anyone?

Now that you have a better understanding of what protein supplements are, move over to our PRODUCT COMPARISON PAGE or PRODUCT DETAIL section by clicking the link, to help you make an informed decision about your next purchase.



If there are still terms or ingredients you unfamiliar with, see our GENERAL INFORMATION page for further explanation.