Find Out About The Unique Benefits 12 Different Protein Sources Have To Offer!
Protein is a vital part of any healthy diet and is crucial for maintaining optimal health. It’s also the most important macronutrient for athletes. Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks for muscle growth and tissue repair. You must ensure your body has a constant supply of amino acids delivered all day long if you truly want to maximize muscle growth and recovery. To ensure you’re getting enough protein throughout the day, you will likely want to use a quality protein supplement. That said though, not all protein supplements are the same; aside from different flavours, there are also different sources of protein found in supplements. These different types of proteins each have unique properties and benefits. The following protein sources are all great options for supplementation; so read on to determine which work best for you!
WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE
Whey protein isolate is considered the highest quality protein source available. Whey protein isolate is called an “isolate” because it’s been isolated from milk and has a protein content of 90 to 98 percent, making it the only protein supplement that is nearly 100 percent pure protein. Whey isolate has a biological value of up to 159, which is the highest of all protein sources! It’s also very high in branched-chain amino acids and absorbs quickly in the body. For this reason, it’s best to use whey protein isolate post-workout, when your muscles need a fast-acting source of essential amino acids.
WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE
Whey protein concentrate is similar to whey isolate, but contains a lower percentage of protein. Compared to the 90 to 98 percent protein content of whey isolate, whey concentrate usually contains 75 to 85 percent protein. For this reason, whey concentrate has a slightly lower biological value than whey isolate and is also less expensive. That being said however, whey concentrate is still a truly excellent source of fast-acting protein that provides similar benefits to that of whey isolate. So, if you’re on a tight budget, then whey concentrate is the economical choice!
HYDROLYZED WHEY PROTEIN
Hydrolyzed whey protein is the fastest absorbed protein on the planet, even faster than whey isolate! Hydrolyzed whey is usually derived from whey isolate, but the difference is that some of the bonds between its amino acid structures have been broken down to improve the speed of absorption. Although hydrolyzed whey has the best absorption of all protein sources, the processing can result in a bitter and unpleasant taste. On top of that, the additional processing to break down the amino acid structures increases manufacturing costs, making it a relatively expensive source of protein.
Just like all whey protein, micellar casein is also derived from milk. However, unlike the rapidly absorbed whey, casein is digested at a much slower rate. In fact, micellar casein is digested slower than any other source of supplemental protein. Slow-acting casein is beneficial because it provides a sustained release of amino acids to muscle tissue. Since the amino acids in casein are slowly released, it has excellent anti- catabolic effect; therefore it helps prevent muscle tissue breakdown! Micellar casein is casein in its un- denatured form and is of the highest quality.
Calcium caseinate is similar to casein. It’s also absorbed slowly and provides a sustained release of amino acids to the body, meaning that it also has anti-catabolic effects. Calcium caseinate is derived from skim milk, which makes it low in lactose and fat and high in calcium.
MILK PROTEIN ISOLATE
Milk protein isolate is mainly a mixture of whey and casein; the primary proteins found in milk. Essentially, it provides similar benefits to that of whey and casein by delivering both slow and fast-acting sources of protein. Milk protein isolate also has a very high biological value and is often filtered to remove most of its lactose and fat contents.
EGG WHITE PROTEIN
Egg whites are an excellent source of fat-free protein and have a high biological value. They contain all the essential amino acids and can therefore effectively support muscle growth and tissue repair. As a supplement, egg whites are available in both liquid and powder forms. Liquid egg whites are most often pasteurized, which makes them quite safe to eat (or drink) without cooking!
WHOLE EGG PROTEIN
Although whole eggs contain fat, they provide even greater benefits than egg whites alone. Whole eggs have a slightly higher biological value than egg whites, which is likely because the absorption of the whole egg is better when intact in its natural state. Whole eggs are also a good source of key vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, Vitamin E and iron.
BROWN RICE PROTEIN
Brown rice is rich in minerals (such as iron and magnesium), vitamins and natural fibres. If the protein content of brown rice is extracted without any artificial elements (such as solvents and chemicals) then the nutrients remain totally intact. That’s why when choosing a brown rice protein supplement, be sure to stick with a reputable manufacturer who does not use chemicals or solvents. Although brown rice protein is not a complete protein (meaning it does not contain all the essential amino acids), it still provides excellent health benefits and is a great alternative protein source. As a matter of fact, brown rice is the least allergenic of all protein sources in the world and is perfect for those who are allergic to soy and/or milk and need additional protein in their diet. Brown rice protein is also a great choice for those looking to gain the health benefits of added whole-grains in their diet.
Hemp protein is derived from hemp seeds and is considered the “king” of all plant-based proteins. Hemp protein powder is produced when whole hemp seeds are cold pressed to expel the oil then milled at low temperatures to produce a concentrated form of protein. Hemp protein is an excellent source of complete protein, especially for vegetarians. Hemp contains edestin and albumen proteins, which are similar in structure to the proteins that occur naturally in our bodies. Since the protein found in hemp resembles protein found in the human body, it’s very easily digested and assimilated. Hemp protein provides a solid dose of essential amino acids and is relatively high in branchedchain amino acids too. This source of protein is also high in fibre and essential fatty acids. It is a quality source of many vitamins and minerals. Hemp is also one of the least allergenic protein sources available and can help boost your immune system, lower cholesterol and blood pressure and even supports weight loss. On top of all that, hemp is quite tasty and has a natural nutty flavour.
Soya protein is another excellent source of protein for vegetarians. Soya beans are considered a complete protein source, which provides all the essential amino acids for human nutrition. Soya protein is well recognized for its health-promoting and diseasepreventing properties. Intake of soya protein is correlated with significant decreases in serum cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the bad stuff) and triglyceride concentrations. There is a substantial amount of evidence which shows that soya protein can help reduce the risk of heart-related diseases. In fact, in the United States, the FDA has approved health claims on product labels, stating that soy protein helps reduce heartrelated diseases. Soya protein is also a rich source of calcium, iron, potassium, omega-3 fatty acids, and fibre.
AMINO BALANCED PLANT PROTEINS
Plant protein is readily absorbed and digested but very few plant sources are complete proteins. They also don’t provide optimal amino acid ratios, hence the need for careful combination. 4 specific plant proteins, Pea, Alfalfa, Rice and Spirulina form an excellent amino acid profile when combined. Some premium formulas add freeform amino acids to create an exact match to the amino acid ratios of human muscle tissue, hence the term “aminobalanced”. The further addition of digestive enzymes facilitates bio-availability and creates a superior protein source for the high recovery demands of performance athletes.
Now that you know more about the most popular sources of protein, you can make an educated decision next time you buy a protein supplement. Remember to choose protein sources that suit your nutritional needs. Since each protein source has unique advantages, you’d be wise to include multiple sources in your diet and reap the benefits of each!
By Don Gauvreau, MSc., CSCS a.k.a., The Supplement Godfather