Protein, protein and more protein
Protein is a macronutrient, meaning the body needs it in large amounts. It’s most commonly found in meats, dairy products, nuts and beans etc. Protein is broken down into amino acids, these are known as the building blocks lean body tissue that help to promote healthy skin, hair, bones, fingernails and of course, our muscles.
As you can see above, we can get plenty of protein from plenty of different sources and if possible, we should minimise the use of supplements to get our protein from. However, there are benefits to taking a protein supplement and with its importance in gaining muscle and aiding recovery, it’s always important that you hit your required protein goals.
Whey concentrate is a by-product of turning milk into cheese. It is the most common form of protein supplement you’ll find on the market, it’s extremely fast acting – making it ideal to take when you need a quick protein hit e.g. post workout. The reason for its popularity is due to its effectiveness and affordability. By law whey concentrate is anywhere between 35-80% protein, with most quality brands being towards the higher end of the scale. It’s always worth checking your nutrition label, if you’re after a good, protein only product you will want there to be ~80g protein per 100g of product.
Isolate is very similar to concentrate, but to be classed as a whey isolate, there must be a minimum of 90% protein content. The one major benefit to whey isolate, is that due to extra filtration that takes place, not only is the fat and carbohydrate amount reduced, but the lactose content is greatly reduced also.
Casein is another form of protein that comes from a by-product of milk. They have very similar profiles, but the main reason for people using casein protein is that unlike the speedy digestion of whey, it’s much slower and takes a while to breakdown – causing a “drip feed” of amino acids over a longer period of time. Due to this reason, a lot of athletes take a casein supplement before bed to prevent catabolism whilst we sleep.
Soy beans are one of the only plant based protein sources that have all of the essential amino acids, making it a quality product for people with lactose intolerance and/or who are vegan. Soy protein powder is made when the soy beans are being hulled and dried into soy flour. The one major issue with soy is that it is often genetically modified to create large crops. There have also been several studies relating to soy affecting hormone levels.
Hemp protein is a supplement often used by people trying to avoid dairy and/or vegans. The protein is sourced straight from the seeds of a cannabis plant. Due to the limitation of cannabis plants being grown, hemp protein is often quite expensive.