If there is one supplement that should have a permanent space on every athlete’s kitchen counter, it should be a container of high quality protein powder. Studies reported in the NSCA Journal of sports nutrition have demonstrated that protein supplements are an effective choice for boosting muscle growth, decreasing fat and increasing strength when combined with regular, intense resistance training. The effectiveness of protein powders has generated a great deal of scientific interest and, as a result, there are now several forms of protein available on the market. You need only step into a health or supplement store to become overwhelmed by the variety of types and brands available. The challenging part is figuring out which ones to select. Most sources of protein have worthwhile benefits, but in order to get the best muscular gains for your hard-earned buck, a few factors should be considered. FitPro Consulting has taken on the role of referee in this protein match-up to help you determine your number one option when choosing the what and when in protein supplementation. We’ve scored each protein form based on five important criteria. On each individual evaluation we have utilized a five point rating system (5 denoting the best).
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Whey Protein Isolate
Whey protein isolate (WPI) is produced from why protein concentrate (one of the proteins found in milk). With greater than 90% purity, it represents the purest of all the protein products on the market. Moreover, whey protein isolate contains approximately 0.5% fat and 0.5% lactose, so it is a great option for athletes who are limiting their fat intake or who are lactose intolerant. WPI digests fairly rapidly, so it promotes marked increases in protein synthesis.
Whey Protein Hydrolysate
Whey Protein Hydrolysate (WPH) is made from WPI via a predigestion process. During this type of processing, special enzymes are used to break down the protein (hydrolyze), resulting in the production of peptide fractions (short chains of amino acids). These fractions are low molecular weight and this pass through the digestive system fairly quickly. In fact, small dipeptide and tripeptides are absorb faster than any other protein or amino-acid supplement available. Because of this rapid absorption rate, once in your system WPH pushes water into muscle cells (cell volumization), speeds recovery and signals fro increased anabolic drive. The only drawback is the cost of purchasing WPH. The hydrolyzing process is quite costly, so WPH products tend to be ore expensive than other protein sources.
Whey Protein Concentrate
Compared to other whey products on the market, whey protein concentrate (WPC) is relatively impure. However, because WPC is the starting material for most whey protein supplements, it carries most of the benefits associated with taking the other types. It is important to note the the impurities in WPC are generally derived from lactose and fat, as such this from of protein powder may be undesirable for those who are dieting and/or lactose intolerant. On the positive side WPC is a very economical choice because its production doesn’t require the same expensive processing techniques used to make WPI and WPH. If you read the contest label (Nutrition Facts) on protein powder containers, you will find the most inexpensive whey products contain large amounts of WPC.
Casein is the most abundant protein found in milk solids (the breakdown is about 80% casein and 20% whey), and the micellar form is the purest casein. This specific type has the distinct ability to form a gel in the stomach, an effect that substantially slows absorption and thus makes micellar casein a sustained supplier of nutrients. Micellar casein is isolated using microfiltration, a process that results in an undenatured protein that retains its native structural properties. Casein is especially noted for its anti-catabolic qualities and its slow release of amino acids into circulation (up to several hours).
Egg Protein (Albumin)
For many years eggs were considered the benchmark by which all other forms of protein were compared. Egg protein isolate supplements offer two main benefits: First, they are very low in fat and second, they contain an abundance of amino acids in undenatured form. Egg protein isolate is well tolerated in moderation and digest completely, but take note that it can cause bloating and gas if used in excess. The popularity of this form of protein has dwindled since the 1990s because of the development of new protein products that have a better amino-acid composition.
Soy protein has been used for years, commonly among vegetarians, as a supplementary means to boost protein intake. This form of protein contains isoflavones, and studies have linked these polyphenols to profound health benefits include reduced risk of cancer, improved bone health, decreased risk of heart disease and protection of prostate health. Recent research has also reported that soy-protein ingestion may improve cardiovascular health. While these studies are intriguing and promising for overall well-being, there are very limited scientific findings that support soy protein as a source that promotes muscular development.
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Duane De Jager, M.Ed. B.Ed. BPE