Liquid Whey. Quick and convenient, no refrigeration or mixing.
Comes in a packet.
Mass Gainers. These add calories, typically in the form of complex carbs, to a protein powder.
Meal Replacement Powders. Meal replacement powders add a carb, some vitamins, some minerals, sometimes some fiber, sometimes some EFAs. The idea is it's a protein-rich meal that you shake and drink. People often mix raw oats, fruit, nuts, or other additional items into their MRP, but this isn't necessary.
The MRP is arguably the one supplement, if any, you should use if you had to choose only one. The reason is it gives you both the protein and the other nutrients that may be missing in your food. For the serious bodybuilder, and MRP is used as one (or two or three) of the six small meals per day, with a protein shake consumed after a hard workout.
BSN Protein. The BSN name is widely recognized and respected.
Gold Standard. Optimum Nutrition raised the protein quality over their regular offerings to develop this one.
Nitro XP. Developed by JS-Nitro, it's a high-quality protein. You'll notice it's not cheap, but you get what you pay for.
Stacking a protein supplement with glutamine speeds recovery. You can find many other recommended stacks, and some of them are worth doing. But the glutamine stack is the most worth doing.
glutamine, you want to add 5g to your shake on workout days. On recovery days, there's no need to so much glutamine, so cut back a little and save your money.
On workout days, you'll also want glutamine at other times of the day (3 to 4 times, at 5g each). On recovery days, consume less glutamine (e.g., twice at 5g each). Exception: On the two days following squats or deadlifts, consume glutamine as if you're on a workout day, whether those are rest days or not.
If you are a...
Hard trainer. Consume 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.
Moderate trainer. Consume 1.1 to 5 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.
Casual trainer. Consume 0.6 to 1.1 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
What is a...?
Hard trainer. Your training sessions are brutal, highly-focused, and short. Each one feels like you're going to die. And you have them 6 days a week.
Moderate trainer. Your training sessions are hard, but not brutal. You train with weights 3 or 4 days a week. You rarely do squats or deadlifts.
Casual trainer. You do circuit training and some cardio. You stay fit, but don't push yourself especially hard.
1. Increase the intensity of your workout (fewer reps per set, with heavier weight in each set). If you do 3 sets of 10 reps, you are sacrificing intensity for conformity. Change that silly pattern before supplementing. You should find each set harder to do than the last, so it will necessarily consist of either fewer reps or less weight. If each set is the same, you are doing something wrong. Think about the logic, here. Then, implement the change and watch your results improve.
2. Focus on what the muscle is doing, not what the weight is doing.
3. Stimulate, don't annihilate. You need only stimulate the body into an adaptive response. Training beyond that point is counterproductive.
Protein supplementation is practically a "must" for today's hard-training athlete.
If you aren't sure what kind of protein to supplement with, choose a blend. Most people make the mistake of choosing whey, then they consume it at the wrong time. The result is they have more body fat and no muscle gain. fitness beginners routinely do this (along with workout routines that quickly plateau).
The key to gaining lean muscle mass isn't slamming down some shake or pill. The "secret" to doing this is really a program of hard work (there's a reason it's called a "work" out), adequate rest, sound foundational nutrition, and proper supplementation.
Supplements alone won't get you there, but supplements combined with the other three factors will produce impressive result. That is, if you choose the right supplements. This is why we limit which protein powders we offer.