03 May What You Need to Know About Protein Supplements
Specifically, what type of protein is best?
The answer may depend on what your goals are, but the bottom line with protein supplementation is an increase or change in lean body mass. Adequate protein consumption is an essential part of resistance training for muscle hypertrophy (or muscle building), muscle tissue repair, and many other hormonal and metabolic activities.
Before discussing the protein supplement types, let me briefly address protein requirements, which is also a common question.
How much protein should you take?
Again, this will depend on your goals and many other factors. Not to mention, this may also be one of the MOST CONTROVERSIAL areas there is in the area of nutrition. With that said, it really does depend on many factors, such as the type of protein, intensity of training, other macronutrient intake, and timing of protein ingestion to name a few.
So, to answer the question in ‘general’ terms, if you are actively engaged in regular participation of resistance training (strength and/or power training), then the guidelines are 1.6 to 2.0 g/kg/day (so a 150 pound person who is actively engaged in strength training would consume 109 to 136 grams of protein per day). Remember, this is assuming you are training hard and regular. This is in significant contrast to the RDA requirement for a non-resistance trained individual, in which the much lower recommendation is .8 g/kg/day. Can you see the controversy?
Ok, let me review the protein types with you. There are basically four major types of protein supplements, which are all high quality proteins. Here’s a closer look at each of the four proteins.
WHEY PROTEIN: Whey protein is pretty much the most popular source of protein there is these days. It is available in concentrates, isolates, and hyrdolysates. There are small differences in the amount of fat and lactose content and in the amino acid profiles. A key advantage to whey protein is that it is digested quickly and it is also perceived as being a better quality protein. There is some evidence that the amino acids in the blood are more rapid than casein protein, which stimulates protein synthesis to a greater extent. Whey protein is an excellent source of protein based on it’s amino acid content and it’s quick absorption.
CASEIN PROTEIN: Casein is the slower acting protein, meaning it take longer to digest and absorb. While casein protein also stimulates protein synthesis, it seems to do so at a lesser extent as compared to whey protein. There are other benefits of casein versus whey. One such benefit is that is seems to inhibit the catabolic activities (breaking down) of protein. Based on the increased protein synthesis of whey and the anti-catabolic activities of casein, more protein supplements are containing both types of proteins these days.
SOY PROTEIN: This is another highly controversial topic, just letting you know. All I’m going to say here is that there is very limited data on soy protein and increasing lean body mass in combination with resistance training. Enough said on soy (for now).
EGG PROTEIN: Egg protein is another high quality protein. However, there are a couple of limitations with egg protein supplementation. Taste is not very good and they tend to be more expensive, making egg protein supplements an unpopular choice as compared to whey or casein proteins.
There’s your main protein supplement types in the simplest terms and definitions. As you can see, whey and casein proteins are very high quality proteins that offer many benefits for resistance trained individuals seeking to improve body composition.
It comes down to taking the proper amounts, types, and, timing. The timing is absolutely vital to optimizing performance and body composition. This is the concept of ‘nutrient timing,’ which I’ll discuss in the future. I hope this helps to clear some of the confusion around protein supplementation.