The Low Down On Protein Supplements
Protein supplements have changed dramatically over the past few years, it wasn’t too long ago that these products didn’t mix very well, tasted awful and were just used by bodybuilders and hardcore athletes.
Nowadays, many people use them, even those who go nowhere near a gym as they are well known to help boost general health
There are different types of protein with some offering different benefits in different circumstances.
Milk proteins fall into two categories, these are Casein and Whey Proteins. Milk is generally made up of 80% Casein and 20% Whey protein.
Milk protein isolate can be made by spinning the milk at high speed to separate the fats from the protein content.
Once this is complete, the PH is altered so it reaches the isoelectric point ( down to a reading of 0) at this point the Casein becomes solid, while the Whey remains liquid which makes separating the two easier.
This is not the end of it however, different modifications can be made to make further changes to both Casein and Whey.
WPC – Whey Protein Concentrate
Made by purifying and refining the isolated milk protein, it contains between 70 and 80% protein.
Pros Of WPC – Contains a large amount of chain amino acids that are quickly absorbed to provide a rapid increase in protein synthesis.
Cons Of WPC – The rapid spike in levels can also deplete very quickly, so does not maintain plasma amino acid levels at a high level for very long. WPC can be difficult for some people to digest as it contains lactose.
WPC can cause allergies that could include symptoms such as diarrhoea, nausea and other stomach problems.
They are not generally considered to be serious and should disappear quite quickly once consumption of the product has stopped.
WPI – Whey Protein Isolate
Similar to WPC but with an added step of purification, this is usually done by a process of filtering which removes most of the lactose to leave a product that is between 90 and 96% protein.
Pros Of WPI – More protein with less fat, lactose and carbohydrate. Easier to digest that WPC and causes a similar spike in amino acid levels to WPC
Cons Of WPI – can be more costly that WPC, often foamy when mixed. Depletes as quickly as WPC
HWP – Hydrolised Whey Protein
Made when whey fraction is exposed to enzymes which break down the proteins to form shorter peptides
Pros Of HWP – quick to absorb and rarely causes any problems, contains a greater percentage of protein and causes a similar fast spoke in amino acids (like WPI and WPC)
Cons Of HWP – Usually tastes terrible, also depletes quickly in the body (usually within 3 hours)
Produced by purifying the insoluble part of the milk protein
Pros Of Casein Caseinate – turns to gel in the stomach to deliver a slow and steady release of amino acids. levels stay higher than whey proteins (up to 7 hours). It is more anti catabolic than whey by suppressing muscle protein breakdown.
Cons Of Calcium Caseinate – produces half the level of protein synthesis as whey and therefore not as anabolic. Not as bioavailable as whey along with a reduced concentration of BCAA’s
Made by separating the soluble whey protein isolate from the insoluble casein.
Pros Of Micellar Casein – delivers the same anti catabolic benefits of Calcium Caseinate but unlike the latter does not denature during processing
Cons Of Micellar Casein – More expensive and not as anabolic as Calcium Caseinate
Other Forms Of Protein
Can be in liquid or in dried powder form
Pros Of Egg Whites – contains no fats, lactose or cholesterol, highly affordable and one of the purest sources of all required amino acids, vitamins and minerals
Cons Of Egg Whites – Delivers fewer amino acids into the blood stream as Whey and is more expensive than WPC – taste isn’t as nice as milk proteins
SWP – Soy Protein Concentrate
Made by exposing defatted soy flour or flakes to acid wash, filtration or alcoholic extraction. this removes virtually all the carbohydrate content to leave around 70% protein.
Pros Of SWP – contains the full range of amino acids and perfect for those who do not eat any animal based products. High in vitamins and minerals
Cons Of SWP – Higher in carbohydrates than most forms of protein, and does not release as many aminos into the blood stream as milk and egg proteins
Can have a negative impact on women suffering with breast cancer especially in menopausal women
SPI – Soy Protein Isolate
Made by purifying SPC further to increase protein concentration to 90%
Pros Of SPI – better choice for the older women, contains a good level of protein with less carbohydrates
Cons Of SPI – more expensive with less isoflavones.
Does not release as many amino acids into the blood stream as other forms
Points To Remember
To get the maximum benefits from protein supplements, here are a few things to remember:
- Fast acting proteins such as Whey are best when a sudden boost is required. best used in the morning and post workouts
- Slow working proteins ( Casein) are better taken between meals and before going to bed to allow the protein synthesis to work while you are resting
- Blend Whey, Casein, Egg and even Soy together to make an effective meal replacement, to give both a sudden boost and a slow release of protein
- Adding egg whites to any mixture delivers a good balance of amino acids. especially suitable for those who are sensitive to soy
- WPC, SPC and Calcium Caseinate are the cheaper options but will still deliver some excellent results, they can however be harder to digest so anybody with digestive issues could be better served by using WPI, Micellar Casein or SPI.
A good protein powder is an easy way to ensure that you take on board sufficient protein consumption. the type chosen will depend on your dietary requirements, budget and lifestyle.