Protein Protein Protein

Protein Protein Protein

Overview

Protein is an important macronutrient that plays an integral role in optimising both our health and our body composition outcomes. Of the sources available to us, protein powder is one of the best. It is readily available online or in-store, and its primary benefits are that it is a cheap, easy, and effective method of adding additional protein to one’s diet.

 While the benefits of protein consumption do not necessarily scale with increased protein intake (meaning that more is not always better), the fact that many individuals consume insufficient protein through their diet is the primary reason why protein supplementation is such an effective intervention for many.

While on the surface protein powder can look like an expensive investment, this is likely an illusion (depending on where you source your protein powder from). The reason for this is because protein powder can be substituted for other high protein, yet even more expensive food products, resulting in a decrease in the overall cost of one’s diet.

 As an illustration:

900g of 3PS protein powder (WPI) – $60

  • Servings per packet – 30
  • Serving size – 30g
  • Grams of protein per serving – 26
  • Cost per serving - $2

1kg of eye fillet beef steak – $45

  • Servings per packet – 10
  • Serving size – 100g
  • Grams of protein per serving – 25
  • Cost per serving - $4.50

*Protein is 3 Point Supplements  WPI
*Steak is Coles packaged eye fillet beef steak.

We see here that the whey protein isolate is approximately two times cheaper than the steak, for pretty much the same amount of protein. Other advantages that whey protein has over “whole food” sources that are not reflected in the cost include:

  • It can be prepared with less time and effort.
  • It can be used as a meal replacement (by adding more ingredients) or cooked into a dessert.
  • It is often more exciting and tastier (more options of flavours available).
  • It keeps for longer and does not expire quickly.

The following sections detail some of the different variations of protein powder you may be exposed to, as well as a summary of their benefits and detriments. We will cover the following:

  • Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)
  • Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC)
  • Collagen
  • Fat-burning Protein Powders
  • Mass-gainers
  • Casein
  • Plant-based proteins

Whey Protein Isolate

Whey protein isolate (WPI) is the most commonly sold and consumed form of protein powder. The term “whey” refers to the water-soluble component of milk and is a by-product of the cheese making process. The term “isolate” refers to the process of manufacturing where the whey is isolated from the carbohydrates and fats, making it higher in pure protein.

While not necessarily the most expensive, WPI is commonly referred to as the “gold standard” of protein powders in regard to taste, cost, and effectiveness. It is one of the world’s most researched supplements and has long been a staple supplement, known for its safety and effectiveness.

Pros

  • High quality protein source (complete amino acid profile).
  • Low in other macronutrients.
  • Minimal lactose.

Cons

  • May be more expensive than other protein variations.
  • Lack of some micronutrients when compared to whole foods.

    Whey Protein Concentrate

    Whey protein concentrate (WPC) is very similar to whey isolate, but due to higher levels of processing the isolate will result in less carbs, fats and lactose than it’s concentrate counterpart. Whey concentrate is a great option if higher amounts of lactose, carbs and fats are not an issue, as it is generally more cost effective.

    Pros

    • High quality protein source (complete amino acid profile).
    • One of the cheaper varieties of protein powder.

    Cons

    • Contains higher amounts of fats, carbs and lactose.
    • Lack of micronutrients when compared to whole foods.

    Collagen

    A type of protein which has received a lot of hype in the last few years due to multiple (and quite extraordinary) health claims. Collagen protein has been shown to be effective as a health supplement for those with joint and inflammation conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, where 10g per day has been shown to decrease pains and symptoms associated with such diseases.

    The evidence suggests, however, that collagen protein is quite lacklustre when it comes to enhancing performance and body composition. The incomplete amino acid profile and lower doses of leucine found in collagen can makes for a very inefficient and expensive protein supplement.

    Pros

    • Can be effectively used as a supplement for those suffering from inflammatory diseases.

    Cons

    • Often more expensive.
    • Incomplete amino acid profile, resulting in poor muscle protein synthesis..
    • Lack of micronutrients when compared to whole foods.

    Fat-burning Protein Powders

    Put simply, fat-burning protein powders are one of the bigger money-grabs on the market. By adding a matrix of vitamins, minerals, and stimulants (such as caffeine, among other things) to WPI, the protein powder can be claimed to have thermogenic properties. This is incredibly appealing to many protein powder shoppers.

    While thermogenic properties certainly have their place adding them to a protein powder does two not-so- ideal things. Firstly, it greatly increases the cost of the protein powder. Secondly, it makes the protein powder a much less versatile supplement. If you’re looking for a quick top up of protein at 8pm so you can hit your macronutrient targets for the day, all of a sudden that dig dose of caffeine is a lot less helpful.

    Sure, if you plan on taking it in the morning to get a bit of a kick from the stimulants, it may be justifiable, but many prefer to simply keep their stimulants and protein supplementation separate (given that there is no clear benefit of adding them together). There’s nothing wrong with keeping your coffee in one cup, and your protein in another!

    Pros

    • Comes with all the benefits of WPI.
    • The thermogenic compounds may have a desirable stimulatory effect.

    Cons

    • Often more expensive.
    • Lack of micronutrients when compared to whole foods.
    • The caffeine present may limit the times of the day when the protein should be ingested.

    Mass-gainers

    For many gym-goers, getting sufficient protein and eating in a calorie surplus is the primary barrier that keeps them from achieving their muscle-building goals. The purpose of a mass-gainer, therefore, is to provide a supplement that addresses both these issues — predominantly through moderate amounts of protein, some fats and a significant serving of carbohydrates, adding up to a decent whack of calories.

    Some mass-gainers are also fortified with creatine — or other special additives — to justify high selling prices, but these ingredients are often best consumed separately so that you can get sufficient dosages, in the ratios that you desire. Something must first be effective in order for it to be convenient.

    Amongst the mass-gainers on the market, the ratios of proteins-to-carbs can be quite different, so be sure to choose a product where the macronutrient profile suits your goals and needs. If you struggle to hit protein, you may want to opt for a gainer with a higher protein-to-carb ratio, whereas if overall calories are your concern, a lower protein-to-carb option will probably be more beneficial and cost effective.

    Pros

    • High protein supplement.
    • Higher amounts of calories per shake when compared to other protein supplements.
    • Although usually more expensive than other protein varieties, often quite cost effective when looked at through a dollar: calorie perspective.

    Cons

    • Lack of micronutrients when compared to whole foods.
    • May be more expensive than other protein variations.
    • May contain unnecessary amino acids or undesirable filler ingredients.

    Casein

    Casein protein is a slow releasing protein which is often taken as an alternative to whey. The processing of casein involves the separation of the two components of milk protein (casein and whey). Casein and whey differ in their amino acid profile and digestion rates, and thus have slightly different effects on the human body.

    Given that casein protein digests more slowly and can keep plasma leucine levels elevated for longer periods of time, it seems to be best suited for taking before bed or any other extended fasting window. In contrast to this, whey protein will be assimilated more quickly and will result in a faster peak of plasma leucine levels, which is ideal if meal frequency is high, such as when one is in a caloric surplus.

    One potential detriment to casein protein is its consistency. The thick texture makes it great to consume while appetite is high due to how satiating it is, but difficult to consume when one is in a gaining phase and feels like the last meal is still digesting when it’s time for the next one.

    Pros

    • Ideal for taking before bed/fasting windows.
    • Thick texture makes it a satiating snack/meal when dieting.
    • High protein content and complete amino acid profile makes it good for athletic populations.

    Cons

    • Lack of micronutrients when compared to whole foods.
    • May be more expensive than other protein variations.
    • Thick texture may make it difficult to consume.

    Plant-based Protein

    Plant-based protein supplements are often an important staple for any non- diary consumer. One of the biggest critiques of a plant-based diet from a health and performance perspective is the fact that eating sufficient protein is more difficult without animal products. This issue is exacerbated when one takes into consideration the fact that those who eat a plant-based diet must consume even more protein relative to their bodyweight (due to the incomplete amino acid profiles of their common protein foods).

    Common types of plant-based protein include soy, legume, and nut-based protein powders. The amino acid profiles of these products may differ considerably based on the brand, but it is recommended that you opt for a product with a high leucine content (3g+ of leucine per 30g protein serving).

    Pros

    • Offers a high protein food source for plant-based eaters.
    • Different derivatives to choose from to suit dietary requirements.

    Cons

    • Lack of micronutrients when compared to whole foods.
    • Amino acid profile and leucine content may be low, especially for athletic populations
    • May be more expensive than other protein variations
    • Reported to have a different taste compared to standard protein powders.

    Conclusion

    Protein supplementation is going to be individual and goal dependent, with the aim of choosing a supplement which enables the individual to hit their daily protein requirements as well as any additional requirements they may have.

     

    Article written by @aaronhoey_