What are Proteins?
Proteins are made up of differing structures of amino acids that can be classified as essential or non-essential. Our bodies cannot produce these essential amino acids, so we must obtain them from our diet. Since there is no storage form of protein in the body, we must acquire adequate amounts of protein for our bodies to function optimally.
Some of the benefits of increased protein in a diet are as follows:
- Increased thermic effect of feeding which leads to a higher metabolic rate
- Increased glucagon which leads to an increase in fat being used as fuel
- Increased IGF-1 which builds muscle
- Increased repair and rebuilding of muscle tissue
- Accelerated muscle growth via increased nitrogen status
No matter if you are trying to lose weight, gain muscle, improve athletic performance or just maintain your current level of fitness, the 5 benefits listed above have something in common: they all improve health AND body composition. This is something that everyone can get excited about!
Protein comes in several powders composed of different ingredients. To get the best results, it is important to distinguish between types of protein.
Whey protein is derived from milk and is a byproduct of cheese production. Whey is rapidly absorbed and digested in the body which is why it is great for before and after a workout.
Casein protein is derived from dairy products and makes up about 80% of the protein in cow’s milk. Also called sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate or milk protein, casein tends to lump in the digestive tract forming a gel that slows its digestion and gives it a “sustained release” effect. Because casein takes longer to process than whey, casein is a great supplement to take prior to bedtime.
Egg protein is derived from either whole eggs or egg whites. Egg whites are said to be more of a complete protein containing all essential amino acids compared to the dairy varieties. Egg protein may be a better option for people with lactose or dairy sensitivities. Egg protein is available in two main types of supplement form: a powder supplement and pasteurized liquid egg whites. Pasteurized liquid egg whites can be a convenient substitute for whole eggs since they are already peeled and the yolk has been removed.
Soy protein is derived from soy beans and will generally come in either the isolated or concentrated form. Soy has a high digestibility ratio which rivals that of beef, milk and eggs. Soy protein may be a suitable alternative to those who are sensitive or intolerant to eggs or dairy.
Pea protein is derived and isolated from peas, has a high digestibility ratio and is often less expensive than dairy or egg protein. Pea protein is a vegan protein powder and is ideal for people who are sensitive to eggs or dairy.
Hemp protein is derived from hemp and is another vegan protein powder that may be better for the dairy or egg-sensitive person.When it comes to choosing a protein powder, the best advice I can give is to get one that tastes good, that fits your needs (whether it be post-workout recovery, morning shake mix, pre-bed meal, etc.) and that has the nutritional value you want (such as calories, protein content per serving, carbohydrate content per serving, fat content per serving and ingredients). I use several types of protein powders per day because they all have their specific use and optimal time for use.
Nutrition and supplementation is a very individualized topic and must be dealt with as such. Choose a protein supplement that you enjoy and that your body responds to best to reap the rewards of a slimmer, more muscular and healthier body.