So here’s the thing: Protein and supplements can be pretty expensive at the health food shop. $70 for 5 lbs of protein, that’s simply madness. Most supplement companies get their whey isolate & concentrate from the same handful of suppliers by the truckload.
Aside from some shifty supplement companies who cut their wholesale whey down and label it untruthfully, there’s almost no difference between these two…
…except for a few bucks/pound on the price tag. Once you know you like a particular flavor, get a 25lb bulk box shipped to you and scoop to your heart’s content.
The difference is even more pronounced with something like creatine, which comes in a million different formulations on the shelves, but when it comes down to it, simple creatine monohydrate powder is just as effective without the bells and whistles. It blends right into protein shakes, suspends in pre/mid-workout drinks, and you can slosh it back with orange juice if you’re a tough guy. Difference: $20-30 for capsules or smaller quantities of fancy mixing powders, $10-15/lb as simple powder from different companies like Dymatize or Canadian Protein.
Quick sidebar: for some reason creatine is misunderstood. It’s got a name that sounds medicinal but there’s nothing spooky about it. When your muscle fibers contract, it’s like a ratchet that works on the molecular level. ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate) is the molecule that stores energy in our bodies, and when it makes a muscle fire, one of the phosphates breaks off. Creatine is another molecule that our body normally produces, that catches the lose phosphate and reattaches it to the adenosine group, recharching it. That’s really handwavey, but hopefully helpful. It’s not to be whispered along with things like steroids. Think of it as … steak extract. Having a bit extra helps muscles contract repeatedly and recover (by resetting the adenosine groups) from bouts of exertion.
Same with BCAAs (branch-chain amino acids)- often used to protect muscles when going for a while without food, or to provide a bit of an energy buffer for a long workout. $45 will get you 400 capsules with a measly 1g of BCAAs each (plus a bunch of filler to make the pill), or $30 can get you a pound (454g) of mixable powder with sugar-free flavors, too. Green Apple from Canadian Protein happens to be legit delicious. If you want to go all-out, you could just get Leucine (the specific BCAA that triggers muscle protein synthesis).
Another sidebar, this one more nerdy: scientific evidence is mounting that leucine is one of the most important signalers for the body to start MPS, muscle protein synthesis. This is the process that repairs and lays down new muscle. One of the bigger debates in the past was how much protein and when – but it might just be that they were overlooking the underlying mechanism; how much of which type of protein did it take to reach a sufficient threshold of leucine in the body to start the process. Norton 2008 for one reference, more by searching. Anyway. Short version is that spiking a half-size protein shake or small meal with a few grams of leucine may have similar effects to a full meal containing that much leucine. Consider throwing half a pound of leucine into 5lbs of protein shake mix if you like to make snack-sized shakes throughout the day.