The protein industry is in its prime right now. The popularity of protein has never been higher, and I’m glad everyone is starting to recognize its importance as a macronutrient. There is no denying that protein impacts strength, performance, and body composition. Protein is an essential building block that helps with muscle growth, maintenance, and repair.
However, given the abundance of protein supplements available, one frequently asked question is which one to purchase. Some tips to help you select the best protein type and product for your unique fitness objectives!
Once water is taken out, protein accounts for about 80% of muscles’ mass and gives muscles their shape and function. Many athletes use protein supplements and high-protein foods to help them achieve their ideal levels of muscle size, strength, and performance. But the fact remains that not all proteins are created equal when it comes to protein supplements. Let’s quickly review the classification of proteins before we discuss the various types of proteins:
1- Concentrates: Depending on how much of the “non-protein” components are removed, protein in powder form can be concentrated and processed to produce a variety of compositions. Protein concentrates, for instance, are primarily composed of protein, with small amounts of other nutrients like water, minerals, carbohydrates, and fats.
2- Protein isolates, on the other hand, contain up to 90% protein with fewer non-protein nutrients. They have had more of the non-protein components removed. Whey protein isolate, for example, contains about 86 percent protein (90 percent dry weight).
3- The term hydrolyzed protein, also known as hydrolysates, describes proteins that have only partially been digested, such as polypeptides and peptides. Although “partially digested” may sound bad, it could be advantageous! For example, peptides may perform additional bodily functions and serve as the building blocks for amino acids.
Due to its ability to support fat loss and muscle growth, whey is the most widely used protein supplement. Eating either right before or right after a workout is the best option because it is digested and absorbed more quickly than other proteins.
With a 2:1:1 ratio of combined isoleucine and valine to leucine, whey makes up about 20% of the protein in cow’s milk and has the highest concentration of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).
Leucine is a desirable amino acid because it increases the activation of the mTOR pathway, which directly contributes to optimizing muscle protein production after intense exercise and in response to a protein meal. In addition, the increase in calories burned per calorie consumed is more significant with whey than with other proteins, making it likely the most thermogenic protein. This is probably related to an effect on muscle protein synthesis that is more potently acute.
Compared to whey, casein, the primary protein found in milk, digests more slowly. As a result, casein is an excellent protein for sustained amino acid delivery to muscle because it can take the body up to six hours to fully digest and absorb, depending on how much you consume.
Casein is a good source of BCAAs and glutamine, which helps reduce muscle-protein breakdown even though it has a less anabolic or directly muscle-building effect than whey. Keep in mind that net gains in muscle protein reflect the imbalance between anabolic and catabolic muscle protein synthesis (catabolic). Therefore, glutamine provides more support on the anticatabolic end.
Casein is frequently suggested before bed or between meals due to its slow digestion, whether consumed alone or combined with other proteins.
HOW MUCH AND WHEN TO CONSUME PROTEIN?
Most sports nutritionists concur that athletes and people who work out hard in the gym must prioritize protein as a significant nutrient and target it throughout the day. Setting a target at or near 20–30% of total calories, or 1 gram per pound of lean body weight—or your target lean body weight—with personalization based on calorie level and meal frequency is a good general rule of thumb. For instance, a lean athlete weighing 190 pounds and consuming 3,000 calories would aim for about 190 grams of protein daily, or about 25% of the caloric target.
Additionally, every meal should be based on protein; every three hours or so, you should consume at least 30 grams of protein (depending on your body weight and the type of protein). As a result, muscle protein synthesis (MPS) will be maximized throughout the day. Furthermore, protein is crucial for three key meal times throughout the day:
PROTEIN AND AMINO ACID SPIKING: A DIRTY COMBO.
It’s unlikely that you have been hiding under a rock for the past few months without hearing about nitrogen and protein spikes in the news. Some companies have been accused of adding extra amino acids like taurine, glycine, and even creatine to products to boost their protein content. They can get away with it because nitrogen, the ingredient that laboratories use to determine how much protein is in a product, is present in all those extra nutrients.
The issue is that while each ingredient has its advantages, they are not proteins and won’t have the same effects on muscle growth or performance advantages as the protein left intact. How can you tell if your protein is high-quality and in the right quantity?
Look for callouts for the leucine content on the label of the protein powder. Leucine, a branched-chain amino acid essential for producing muscle protein, appears to support the mechanisms that “trigger” or stoke the production of muscle protein, leading to the development of strength, power, endurance, and size. Aim for 2 grams or more of leucine per serving (scoop). The math is simple for whey protein powder; a 25-gram protein claim would result in approximately 2.5 grams of leucine since whey protein is about 11 percent leucine. Remember that casein and soy only contain about 8% leucine each.
A rigorous training session can enhance MPS and MPB. You want to maximize protein and minimize carbohydrates when consumed before or after exercise. At breakfast, aim for 25–35 grams of protein.
The rate of muscle protein breakdown (MPB) increases overnight; losses can range from 5 to 15 grams, depending on body size and diet, in the hours before bed. Early in the morning, protein and some carbohydrates can help reverse this damaging effect on muscle protein and activate MPS. Again, depending on body size, protein type, and daily protein goals, aim for at least 25–35 grams at breakfast.
Muscle-protein balance shifts more in favor of MPB than MPS during the night in an unfed state, producing free amino acids that help fuel the body. Therefore, it will help keep MPS higher while you sleep if you eat at least 20 grams of casein, whey, and casein, or a lesser amount of protein combined with additional BCAAs or, more specifically, leucine.