People often ask me if they really need to take protein powder while doing calisthenics. Well, it depends.
A few years ago, I was really busy. I barely had any time on my hands. And I had to constantly bring this massive bag with myself which was always full of food.
The security in a big mall once though I was stealing stuff and asked to see what’s in the bag.
When he saw all the steaks, eggs, bananas, the protein shake, he looked at me with this look of newfound respect and told me I am free to go. I still remember that.
However good your results may be, there comes a time in your life where you start looking for some extra boost.
Maybe you’ve hit a plateau. Or you are having troubles getting the necessary protein.
Do I really need protein powder for calisthenics? You do not need protein powder for calisthenics. A nutrient-dense diet and adequate amounts of sleep are enough to bring good results in calisthenics. Protein powder is a supplement to your diet. You need to take protein powder only if you cannot get enough of the macro-nutrients each day.
Of course, that’s not all there is about protein and bodyweight exercises. Read on as I show you what you need to know on protein supplementation and the good the bad and the ugly things about it.
Table of Contents:
When Do You Need Protein Powder in Calisthenics?
Calisthenics (or bodyweight training) is not much different than training in the gym and doing weightlifting. You will still be training hard. You will be pushing your muscles to their limit. And you will have the same goals in mind.
Using protein powder is not necessary or mandatory. You can do pretty well without it.
However, there are indeed different situations where you may want to have that extra boost that protein powders give.
Protein powders can be very useful for calisthenics as well. They are not reserved only for the gym-goers.
To Improve Your Performance
Protein powders are a great way to get to a whole new level. Research has found that having a protein powder after working out can do a few things for you:
- Increase your one-rep max;
- Increase your energy levels; and
- Increase strength and performance;
An interesting thing that one study discovered protein powder intake could reduce the levels of muscle sourness and even the recovery time.
To Easily Increase Your Protein Intake
I am a small guy but with big caloric needs. If you are like me, I feel you brother, and I know what you are going through.
There’s only so much time in the day, and sometimes you may not have the time needed to get in all the food that you have to eat.
So maybe you just can’t quite get to these 200 grams of protein you need to take each day.
This is where a protein powder may be very beneficial as it is a super quick way to up both your caloric and protein intake.
Frequently I would take protein powder or even a gainer as a meal substitution. It literally takes 2 minutes, and you are ready to go.
To Increase Your Muscle Mass
The more protein-rich is your diet, the more muscle you can gain after each good calisthenics workout. (1)
Total caloric intake is also important, but just calories without an appropriate amount of protein will do nothing for you.
Your body is in a constant process of protein synthesis and muscle breakdown. The protein synthesis is responsible for building your muscles, and the muscle break down is pretty much self-explanatory.
Protein powder intake after training has been proven to negate the muscle break down and promote higher protein synthesis.
To Maintain Your Lean Muscle Mass
But maybe you started doing calisthenics for other reasons. Well, protein powder can be of help to people that want to lose weight while still gaining or keeping their muscles in order to do a pull-up or why not a front lever. (2)
Let’s look at one study, for example that split the participants into two groups. Both groups were on a slight caloric deficit. One group was taking protein powder, and the other didn’t.
After 12 weeks, both groups were able to lose a significant amount of weight.
However, the group that was taking the protein powder lost more body fat and kept more of their muscle mass as opposed to the other group.
How Much Protein Do You Need for Calisthenics?
One of my favorite topics. And a very controversial topic. So get ready for some data and hard numbers.
Let’s first start with what are the common dietary guidelines that are usually recommended.
The Recommended Amounts of Protein You Need to Take
If you do a quick search, you will find that the DRI (or the Dietary Reference Intake) for the average person, who is having a rather sedentary lifestyle – is 0.36 grams per lbs or 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. (3)
Now that sounds much better, and in fact, the 2.0 grams per kilogram have been considered the golden mean for a long time.
My Real-life Experience
Science and controlled studies are one thing, but sometimes the real life is a whole other thing. Not everything that holds true in a controlled environment will apply to the real world.
So what is my experience with this, coming from a person that has a rather high metabolism and as a result of that was very skinny for a long time?
To me, personally, even 2.0 grams of protein per kg is not enough. I have always kept track of my macros, so here is some hard data. When I was about 132 to 143 lbs, I was seeing the best results with at least, mind you, 200 grams of protein a day. Anything below that and I wouldn’t really see much progress. This is more like1.39 per lbs of body weight or about 3 grams per kg. So why do I bring this up?
I always considered the DRI not enough. They are what is generally recommended and considered safe so people will not get into trouble.
My Experience with Other People
Is it going to be the best amount for everyone, though? Not too sure about that. Let’s take a look at my experience with other people.
The DRIs are okay for most people. But things get tricky when we talk about athletes and people that are into physical training like calisthenics. Many of us do train at least several days a week. And many of the movements and exercises we do are incredibly demanding.
This is why athletes are known to consume high amounts of protein. Why above what is recommended for the regular Joe.
I’ve worked with many people throughout the years, many of which skinny guys like I used to be, and even bigger guys had the same issues. And almost always it will be up to the protein intake not being sufficient enough.
I always told them to try upping their protein intake and see how it goes. And wouldn’t you know it? After increasing their daily protein intake, they started to feel stronger with more energy and had better results. But there is something very interesting.
What the New Scientific Data Shows
And interestingly enough recently there was a study done that even higher protein intake (as much as 3.4 grams per kilogram) is safe. (6).
Another study found no adverse effects in consuming between 2.6 to 3.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (7).
Just to have a better idea of what that would mean in grams per lbs – 3.4 gr/kg is about 1.53 grams per lbs of body weight. So a quick math would give us:
- For a 132 lbs person would give us 201 grams of protein;
- For a 154 lbs person that would give us 235 grams of protein.
Which I was very pleasantly surprised at what I found worked for me best when I was that weight was getting in at least 200 to 220 grams of protein.
Again pleasantly surprised as at the time nobody talked about this, and most people were too scared of taking that much protein.
What Are the Types of Protein Powder?
There are many different kinds of protein. And there will be even more in the future. However, here are several of the most popular types of protein powder:
- Whey protein – Whey is absorbed very quickly by the body and contains all the essential amino acids;
- Casein protein – It is absorbed very slowly by the body, and it contains all the essential amino acids;
- Beef protein – Also a very effective type of protein for stimulating muscle growth;
- Rise protein – Plant-based protein with low levels of lysine, which is an essential amino acid;
- Pea protein – Another plant-based protein with low levels of cysteine and methionine, both of which are nonessential amino acids; and
- Hemp Protein – Protein made from hemp seeds, with high fiber content and low levels of lysine.
What about soy protein?
Maybe you noticed that I didn’t mention soy protein. I didn’t because soy protein is the worst kind of protein for calisthenics and, honestly, any type of physical training.
Soy has several disadvantages to it (8):
- Potential decrease in testosterone and increase in estrogen;
- Low biological value;
- Lacks methionine;
- May increase LDL or the ‘bad’ cholesterol;
- It contains antinutrients (lecitin and protease inhibitors);
Of course, this is a very controversial topic, especially with soy being very cheap.
However, the price does not trump health in my book.
I don’t recommend going for soy protein with so many other, much healthier, and better protein powders. Moving on.
How to Choose The Protein Powder You Need for Calisthenics?
When you are choosing your protein powder to supplement your calisthenics workouts properly. Start with your goals in mind.
Most of the people in the calisthenic community usually try to build muscle or lose fat. Or ideally, build lean muscle. I always felt that was the best thing to do.
For gaining muscles, both whey protein and casein protein powders are considered the best with whey being the most commonly used.
- Whey protein powder is perfect for calisthenics because the body can absorb it quickly and efficiently. Take the protein powder right after your workout, and your body will immediately utilize it for a quick recovery.
- Casein protein powder, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. It is a slow working protein. It is a perfect protein powder if you want to provide your body with a steady supply of protein for many hours without having to worry.
For weight loss, read losing fat but keeping the muscle, the ingredients of the protein powder you choose is what will matter.
The right protein powder can help you stay lean, lose fat, and gain lean muscle in calisthenics. However, here’s where the catch is.
Manufacturers often try to pamper our taste buds with great tasting powders, but that comes at a sacrifice. They often will contain high amounts of sugar or other ingredients.
And we need to make sure we avoid that.
An excellent example of a nice clean protein powder is this one (on Amazon).
Bulking is another way to go about calisthenics training. I wanted to do this in a different section just because it is kind of a different ball game altogether.
When you bulk up, you don’t really care about the calories all that much. In fact, every single extra calorie is welcomed.
I am not a big fan of the dirty bulk. However, a lean bulk is something that I’ve seen great results with. A lean bulk can build you a lot of muscle while staying relatively lean. Here’s what I did in this case.
When I do a clean bulk – and this can work pretty well for dirty bulking too – I go for a good quality weight (or mass) gainer like this one (found on Amazon).
Why do I like it?
Well, it provides you with a high dose of calories in the first place — something you very much need on a lean bulk. And a lot of protein at the same time. It is 2 in 1. Sometimes I add a little extra protein in the mix if I feel I am not getting enough protein.
Mind the Ingredients
After properly setting up your goals, the next thing is to take a look at the ingredients of the protein powder.
There are a few ingredients that should not be in the protein powder:
- Artificial sweeteners;
- Soy protein;
- Vegetable oils and vegetable fats;
- Heavy metals;
- Dextrin or Glucose (sugar);
- Gum; and
- Added fibers.
This is in no way a comprehensive list, but it is a great start for picking up the right protein powder that will support your calisthenics journey.
What Is the Best Protein Powder for Calisthenics?
The best protein powder for calisthenics will depend to a certain extent on your personal goals. However, these three are some of the best protein powders we can take.
- Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Protein Powder (click here to check the price on Amazon) – A time-tested protein powder like this one is an easy fix to your daily protein needs.
- NAKED Grass Fed Whey Protein Powder (click here to check the price on Amazon) – A high-quality protein powder free of any additives, artificial sweeteners, flavors, soy, gluten, and more.
- Optimum Nutrition Micellar Casein Protein Powder (click here to check the price on Amazon) – A quality casein protein powder that will digest slowly; perfect for taking before bedtime.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Protein Powder
This protein powder from Optimum Nutrition has been a staple for many people for years. It has been on the market for more than a decade. It comes in multiple sizes and with many different flavors.
It is a blend of whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, and whey peptides. It has low amounts of carbs and sugar.
Each serving provides you with:
- 24 grams of high-quality protein.
- 5.5 grams of BCAAS.
- Typically about 3 to 4 grams of carbohydrates and 1 to 3 grams of sugar.
This protein powder is perfect for anyone doing calisthenics and who is looking to gains and maintain their muscle mass.
For best results, it should be taken after working out.
It is a very good whey protein blend that works very fast, and your body will be able to absorb it quickly and start working on recovering your muscles.
For more information, check the prices on Amazon.
NAKED Grass Fed Whey Protein Powder
What makes this one such a great product?
One word – it contains only protein. This is something very hard to come by nowadays. Usually, most of the protein powders on the market – if not all of them – will contain a whole list of various ingredients.
But this protein powder is a little different
- No artificial sweeteners;
- No flavors;
- No synthetic additives;
- no heavy metals;
- No coloring;
- Growth hormone free
- Soy-free; and
And last but not least this is whey protein powder from all 100% grass-fed cows. It is also cold processed in order to maintain as little contamination as possible.
In one serving you get:
- 25 grams of protein;
- 5.9 grams of BCAAs;
- 120 kcals;
- 3 grams of carbs
- 2 grams of sugar;
If you are looking for a high-quality clean protein powder to supplement your dietary needs, this is a great product to do so.
Keep in mind that since it has zero additives and flavors, it may not taste as nice as some of the other protein powders on the market.
But a little fruit or chocolate to your liking can fix that in a moments time.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Micellar Casein Protein Powder
As we have discussed above, casein is an excellent choice for a late-night protein powder as it is very slowly digestible and will keep your body supplied with key nutrients for longer.
It is also a great protein to be used in between meals in order to stay and feel fuller for longer.
Each serving provides you with:
- 24 grams of protein
- 5 grams of BCAAs
- 5 grams of Glutamine and Glutamic Acid
Taking whey during the day and after working out and using the casein before bed is a time-tested and very powerful combination which can lead to faster recovery. Faster recovery means also feeling less sore.
The only downside to the casein protein powders, in general, is that they tend to be more expensive.
When Do You Need to Take Protein Powder for Calisthenics?
The best time to take protein powder will vary slightly depending on the type of protein you have and your personal goals.
Most often than not, you will be either interested in building muscle, maintaining lean muscle mass, or losing weight. So let’s take a look at what the research shows.
For Building Muscle
For many years fitness gurus preached about the infamous anabolic window. I always considered this bro-science. And the real science actually somewhat confirms that.
It is important to spread out your protein intake throughout the day in order to provide your body with a steady supply of protein.
Additionally, if you like to train early in the morning on an empty stomach – before breakfast – it is beneficial to take some protein after working out. (11)
Casein protein is best taken before bedtime or in-between meals, especially if you know that you won’t be eating for several hours. Here’s why.
Casein protein is unique in its slow absorption ability. Taking it before bedtime is a great way to provide your body with a steady protein source for the whole night.
For Losing Weight
Protein is a very important macro-nutrient when it comes to losing weight. (12)
Protein high diets have shown to both raise your metabolism and curb your appetite at the same time.
Consuming protein powder in-between meals can lead to less caloric consumption throughout the whole day. (13)
When you think about it, a higher protein intake can actually be a great way to both gain muscle and lose weight.
For Optimal Recovery
Another thing protein powder can do for you is improve your performance and recovery. And who wouldn’t like that?
Combining protein powder with carbohydrates during or after working out can lead to better recovery time, better performance, and lower soreness. (14)
Just a protein powder before or after working out can be enough to improve your performance and speed up your recovery for resistance training. (15)
In both cases taking protein just after exercising is considered good. And depending on what your calisthenics training has been, you may also want to throw in a few carbs in the mix.
Do You Need to Take Protein Powder for Calisthenics Before Bed?
Adequate protein intake throughout the day is crucial in achieving optimal muscle recovery and maintaining energy levels and health.
However, taking protein before going to be ca be a very effective way to help our muscles grow, recover, and adapt to our working out. (16)
What scientists have found is that consuming about 40 grams of protein before bed is required to promote an increase in muscle protein synthesis. (17)
The best protein, in that case, would be casein protein as it is digested slowly by the body, and therefore, it will supply us with protein throughout the whole night.
Can You See Results by Just Drinking Protein Powder and Doing Calisthenics?
Here’s a little story you may like.
When I was 15, I tried working out at the local gym. It was one of those old-school dingy gyms filled with old equipment and weights.
I had no idea what I was doing.
But there was I training almost every day and taking a protein powder when I get back home. Of course, I had no results whatsoever.
The thing is just taking a scoop, or two of protein powder will most likely do nothing for you. Protein powders in calisthenics are a supplement. They are not meant to substitute your whole diet.
There are many different aspects to calisthenics and working out.
- Having an appropriately structured diet is essential.
- Having a well-structured training routine is also essential.
- Providing yourself with a healthy lifestyle and sleep quality is also essential.
A protein powder thus is a good way to give you a little boost when needed. But you cannot just rely entirely on a scoop of protein powder.
Can You Do Well in Calisthenics Without Protein Powder?
As you have seen so far, protein powders can have an important role in our fitness journey. But protein powders are a supplement. And this is how you should look at them.
Adequate protein intake is vital for building and maintaining muscle mass in calisthenics. Protein powder increases protein synthesis and lowers muscle breakdown, and it is a readily available source of protein.
However, proper protein intake in calisthenics can be achieved with food as well.
Protein powders should supplement your daily meals if, for some reason, you cannot get your daily requirements of protein.
This may happen as a result of various things like:
- Not having enough time to eat all your meals;
- Not having enough appetite; or
- You may find it hard to eat all your meals in a day.
Protein powder is a convenient way to up your protein intake. But you can also easily get that protein from your food.
Higher protein consumption will lead to more muscle mass. This has been documented as we have examined earlier. But does it say it needs to be from protein powder specifically?
You can easily meet your daily protein needs by eating regular food.
Is Consuming Too Much Protein Bad?
For many years it was thought that too much protein would damage your kidneys. But that was done without too much evidence proving it.
This is why I mentioned that study earlier, which showed that even higher protein intake than what was considered safe until recently is still safe.
If you want just to maintain your muscle mass and you are not doing any physical and strength work you can probably do fine with lower protein consumption of about 0.6 grams per lbs (or 1.4 grams per kilogram) of body weight.
However, if you are after gaining muscle, you may want to up your protein intake.
But how much protein is too much protein?
I am sure you have heard about protein toxicity. But there is an important caveat here.
Protein toxicity can happen in people that are following a high protein diet. However, they need to have to suffer from insufficient kidney function. So if you have any renal disease, a high protein diet is not recommended for you.
Some studies found no adverse effects of high protein consumption in healthy adults and no protein toxicity. (18)