Arriving in Shenzhen China I had lots of Stuff on my mind. Finding an Apartment, new Workplace, where to live, and most definitely where to train. Having to work in Futian and having MMA Gyms in Shekou and Luohu I had a tough choice to make:
Take 30+ minutes to work or 30+ minutes to the Gym. Come on guys we all know the drill. We get up early, work 8-10 hours, go home and then … really, 30+ minutes to the gym!!??? Same thing in the morning, who wants to get up super early and head the long way to the gym? Since I hate missing workouts, at least when I am training, I eventually decided to move close to Fusion Fitness in Shekou after a muscle packed guy talked to me at Coco Park and told me how cool the place and the people were. So after visiting Fusion I started to sketch out how to tackle work, training and most of all good nutrition, drawing time-tables, tracking time and checking food prices and planning supplementation etc. Since Fusion opens at 5.30 am and I am one of those people who can not concentrate well if they don’t get their weekly dose of exercise, it was pretty clear how my day would look like once I signed the Gym membership.So after I sketched out my daily schedule I started wondering how I would eat and how I will get enough protein and nutrients to fuel my body and recover from my workouts. Yeah you get it, I decided to plan everything up front and then start my regiment, and did not care if this meant laying low for two weeks.
Been in China for more than two months (Jinan, Shandong) I felt that whatever I ate, kinda did not give me the same amount of good grade Protein I was used from my diet (Dairy, Chicken, Beans, Lentils, Nuts, Meat and Fish) back in Germany. So I started too look around for some Protein Powders. Sure you find some in the grocery stores, the ones for kids and old people, and of course some from MetrX or CGN. However I didn’t really trust these and buying stuff on Taobao is somewhat like Russian Roulette. Melamine, Flour, poisonous chemicals? No, Thanks! The next logical step was to go to Bodybuilding.com and do some research, but hey, I quickly noticed I was not gonna pay 80$ shipping costs. Then I contacted John Graham, Trainer and owner of Fusion in order to get his Opinion. He told me to check some shops in Hong Kong, which I did. This and the fact that I had a friend who regularly moved between Hong Kong and Shenzehn actually helped me to fix the Location. Hong Kong it was and it had plenty to offer (see belows links).
The next issue was to decide what kind of protein I actually wanted. On the shelves you find a vast variety of blends, formulas all with fancy labels and lots of bogus bla bla. Whey, Casein, Glutamine, Soy and Egg Protein are pretty much the major groups you can find. Among those, the most stated and used surely is Whey Protein. Whey Protein is described as a fast acting Protein derived from Dairy Production, which naturally carries essential Branched Chain Aminco Acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine), Amino Acids the body can not produce itself and thus has to get it from food intake. But behold, Whey Protein is not Whey Protein. I was reading a little into the field to find a good quality, BS free Protein with a good price ratio. I don’t know about you but my first encounter with Protein was Muscletech and it bloated my belly, let me fart and gave me pimples. Really, really bad stuff imho. So far for fancy labels.
So I thought hey, maybe that was due to lactose, since whey is derived from milk and might be highly concentrated in the powder. At another occasion I ran into a powder from Layenberger which advertised its Product as lactose free. I tried it and it was much better. It actually made me feel like it had positive effects on my body, and most definite let me shred some body fat. So I wanted to settle for nothing less but the best stuff that was lactose free. A little reading and various advertisements and label checks on Bodybuilding.com etc. later and I found, that Whey is easily divided in Whey Concentrates and Whey Isolates. Please note the”s” indicating each category can be further spread out.
Whey Isolates are pretty much all ultra low in lactose (<1%) and definitely constitute a good Whey Protein. Don’t pay for lactose free, just get an Isolate! To make it short I quickly figured Whey concentrate was pretty much garbage, a cheap whey, higher in lactose and I felt I wanted to stay as far away as possible. So back to the Isolate, Whey Isolate seemed to be a fast acting and very potent Protein which, so it is claimed, helps with muscle building, recovery and the more specific building up nitrogen levels. The next step was to find a brand that offered a good grade, non denatured (preferably processed under low temperature, since high temperature destroy important nutrients in the Whey) and most of all non-BS-enriched Powder in a 5LBS jug for a good price.
But first, what BS am I referring to. Actually lots of Powders are promoted as Isolates, or at least look like them, but are enriched with cheap concentrates and thus are a bogus deal. Second, there are various processes out there to derive Whey Isolate from Dairy, respectively Milk. Microfiltered, Cross Micro Filtration, Inverted Osmosis, Ion Exchange, Hydrolized etc. Among these a Microfiltered or Cross Flow Microfiltered under low temperature seems to be the one to go for. Ion Exchange on the other hand uses chemicals to get a high grade and pure isolate (e.g. Isopure). However these chemicals might be leftover in the Whey and definitely denature it. Hydrolization is a process where the isolate is broken into various parts, which then will be enriched with “Whutever”… This method is under heavy discussion and just did not feel right with me. Third, there are a lot of additives used in the powders, which I wanted to avoid as much as possible. Among these we find Sugar, Aspartame (artificial sweetener which is claimed to cause cancer), high amounts of sodium and soy (which promotes estrogen production). However I am fine with stuff like vitamin B6 and 12, magnesium, calcium which have positive effects post-workout. Calcium enriched, seems to make sense, since it is said that a higher protein intake may lead to calcium being flushed out from the bones which later might lead to osteoporosis. However when using Whey and/or a high protein diet, be sure to increase your water intake, since these diets add extra stress to the kidneys and you sure do want to avoid inflammation.
The Brands in Question:
So micro filtered and non artificial and un-flavored, was the Isolate I was looking for. And guys let me tell you, working through this jungle of Bullshit and finding it, was a huge pain in the Ass. Now, here is what I found:
Now Foods: Whey Protein Isolate (Micro-filtered)
BioX: Power Whey Isolate all natural (CFM, available in HK)
- Allmax Nutrition: IsoFleX (artificial flavours, available in HK)
- Allmax Nutrition: Isonatural (CFM, available in HK)
- VPX: Zero Carb SRO (Inverted Osmosis)
- Isopure: (Ion Exchange, available in HK)
- AST: VP2 (Hydrolized, available in HK)
- SCITEC: Zero Carbs/Fat ISOGREAT (CFM; available in HK)
Now, there might be others but these really are top of the line Protein Powders and you can easily judge by the price tag. A good Whey Isolate has its price, If it seems to be to good of a deal, read the label carefully, check the shelf-life (protein powders degenerate over time, especially once they are opened. Buy only what you can use within a few months.) Make Sure the stock is fresh. Be sure its not cut with concentrate and stupid additives like sugar or else (fillers). Here as elsewhere, YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!
The Right Decision!?
In the End I send my friend to Hong Kong to get me the Isonatural. However upon arriving at the store, it was out of stock and he send me the Label of the unflavored BioX Power Whey Isolate. A quick read and research on the web showed, its a Canada based company and the label as well as the price sounded fair enough. So I decided to go with this one (see picture left) and later switch to the Isonatural, should I be unsatisfied. Turned out the stuff is just fine, mixes easy and does not come with too much of a bad taste. You can get it at BC Shop Hong Kong or, if you trust it a reseller on Taobao.com who claims to source from BC in HK.
Yeah, three more things, which often occur when discussing protein. How much protein does one need. Well that is hard to define since the values vary tremendously among different Institutions, agencies or whatever. You will find values between 0,45g – <3g per Kilogram of Bodyweight. What I figured in Terms of sports related nutrition are values between 0,8g-1,5g. If you are aiming on weight and size, meaning becoming a heavy, massive bodybuilder, you might want to go up to 2g per Kg of bodyweight. Second, YES! Protein powders, also the high grade, zero carb, zero fat isolates can make you fat if you eat to much aka more than your body needs in terms of overall calories or protein. Whatever your body can’t use he will either throw out of the system, or store it as fat. One last thing, to consider is when and in which ratios to consume protein. Remember the Groups of Protein I mentioned above? Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) as a fast acting protein should be used within 30 minutes after training and in the morning 30 minutes after getting up, since after 8h of sleep your body craves protein (in Tim Ferris’s Book “the 4h body” you will find that he claims consuming protein 30 minutes after getting up, helps in shedding excess body fat). Glutamine on the other side is recommended after workouts since it is a major component in muscle repair. Then there is Casein which is a slow acting protein. This is perfectly taken an hour to thirty minutes before bed and ensures a protein supply throughout the night. Last but not least there is the “magic” ratio of MACRONUTRIENTS (Carbohydrate, Fat, and Protein). I personally believe that there is no rule of thumb that applies to everybody, and that these figures are misleading. It sure depends on the individual, its life style, and its goals. So either try the often stated 50-60% Carbs, 20-30% Protein and 10-20% fat. try a low carb diet, go paleo or what every you think floats your boat. And once you have tried it and got experience with it decide for yourself which way to go.
I hope this text can help you guys, stranded in Asia, who are looking for a good protein, to make a good and “well” informed decision. However, please remember, there is no short cut, no quick fix to building strength, muscle and overall athleticism, no matter what companies promise you. You want to reach your goal, stay dedicated, eat, sleep and train right and know that things take time. Happy training and see you around in Shenzhen.
This article doesn’t claim to be scientific or medically proven in any way. Its just somewhat of a summary of a guy who took some time to read into the topic and compared labels, brands and proteins on the market. After all Protein powders are not really proven to have an positive effect in big, long term studies. Also, as recently brought to my attention by one of the Fusion Fitness trainers, are the hardly ever tested for purity etc. by any governmental health institution (e.g. FDA). Even the major players like bodybuilding.com are that honest and give you these information in some articles. The other side is the vast feedback and experience from athletes around the world, who swear on the positive effect. As I said, decision is all yours. I am not even promoting the stuff, its just a little helper in case you already know you want it but don’t know where to look.