Protein powder or supplementation comes in many different types and from different sources, so the question needs to be asked, which is the best one to take? We will give you a brief overview of some of the common protein supplements on the market.
The most popular and well-known protein is whey, which is one of two proteins derived from milk. The other is casein which we will touch on later. Whey protein is the water-soluble part of milk. It is absorbed faster than other forms of protein meaning it can increase muscle protein synthesis rates and start the recovery process quicker, and also aids in fat loss efforts for people. Under the whey umbrella, there are three main derivatives that are produced for supplementation; whey concentrate, isolate, and hydralysate.
Whey protein concentrate (WPC):
WPC is the least processed type and generally contains a higher amount of fat and carbs. It is typically standardised at 80% protein by weight.
Whey protein isolate (WPI):
WPI is processed further than concentrate by removing most of the fat, carbs, and lactose and is typically more than 90% protein by weight.
Whey protein hydralysate (WPH):
WPH is the most processed whey protein and is the fastest absorbed for muscle protein synthesis.
WPI and WPH are typically more expensive, however it does not necessarily mean they are better. You can still get an adequate amount of whey protein from WPC with a small amount of fat and carbs. However, if you are lactose intolerant, WPI or WPH would be more suited because the processing involves removal of any lactose. Lockwood et al., (2016) ran a study investigating body composition and performance outcomes with the ingestion of different forms of whey protein during 8 weeks of resistance training and found that WPH may be more beneficial in reducing body fat but did not provide any other advantages when combined with resistance training.
Casein is the other protein found in milk (the curds) and is typically known to be “slow” digesting with a sustained release of amino acids, and important minerals in calcium and phosphorus to be utilised by the body (Hoffman and Falvo, 2004). Casein has been shown to provide the greatest benefit for increases in protein synthesis for a prolonged duration and a recent study has shown this to be used with the greatest effect when taken before bed (Madzima et al., 2018).
Soy protein is derived from soybean and contains all of the essential amino acids for human nutrition but in smaller amounts. It stimulates muscle protein synthesis faster than casein but slower than whey protein suggesting this is related to how quickly the proteins are digested (Tang et al., 2009).
The International Society of Sports Nutrition (2017) recommends the following:
- For building or maintaining muscle mass an overall daily protein intake of 1.4-2.0 g protein/kg bodyweight per day is sufficient for most exercising individuals
- Higher protein intakes of >3.0 g/kg bodyweight per day may promote fat loss in resistance-trained individuals
- Protein doses should be evenly distributed every 3-4 hours across the day
Take home message
Protein supplements are exactly what they are, a SUPPLEMENT. They should only be consumed in combination with a wholesome well-balanced diet.
Hoffman J and Falvo M (2004) Protein – Which is best?. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 3(3), 118-130.
Jäger R, Kerksick C and Campbell B et al. (2017) International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(1).
Lockwood C, Roberts M and Dalbo V et al. (2016) Effects of Hydrolyzed Whey versus Other Whey Protein Supplements on the Physiological Response to 8 Weeks of Resistance Exercise in College-Aged Males. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 36(1), 16-27.
Madzima T, Melanson J and Black J et al. (2018) Pre-Sleep Consumption of Casein and Whey Protein: Effects on Morning Metabolism and Resistance Exercise Performance in Active Women. Nutrients, 10(9), 1273.
Tang J, Moore D and Kujbida G et al. (2009) Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 107(3), 987-992.