Reading the label-
- Before we choose a protein supplement we first need to understand that protein is not just protein and not all proteins are the same. Seconding, once we understand the different types of proteins we need to choose the correct one to serve any special purpose we might have like bedtime supplementation, first am supplementation or post workout supplementation. No matter what type of protein supplement we choose nothing that is processed can compete with the unprocessed whole food complete protein.
Before we decipher the supplement label it would be good for us to know how protein becomes muscle. Here is a overly simplified description on how protein becomes muscle.
- Digestion - Acids and enzymes break down the protein into smaller proteins (peptides).
- Manufacturing Building Blocks- Enzymes break down the peptides into amino acids. Our body can produce 11 amino acids but it relies on the food we eat for 9 more.
- Satiety Secretion - Amino acids enter the GI tract and stimulates the secretion of satiety hormones.
- Amino's Circulate - Amino's enter the liver and are converted into blood proteins. This circulation can last up to five hours waiting for a signal that a body part is in stress.
- Repair is signaled - The stress from training or activity produces a signal. The blood proteins respond to this signal and enter the muscle and begin repairing the damaged muscle fiber.
So what are the different types of proteins used by sports nutrition companies in their protein supplements? Different proteins have different digestive speeds and come from different sources. Depending what you need to use the protein supplement for will partially depend on which protein you should use. Here is a list of the most popular and most used by sports nutrition companies.
1. Concentrate (whey) or Casein - 80% protein. It has more fat and carbs. These are medium and slow digestive proteins.
2. Isolate - 90-95% protein. Relatively fast digestion.
3. Hydrolyzed - Protein that has been broken down into smaller particles that become more easily absorbed. Very fast digestion. Both whey and casein can be hydrolyzed. If casein is hydrolyzed it negates the benefits of this slower digesting protein.
4. Milk - Has the same composition as natural milk. 80% casein and 20% whey.
5. Egg White - This is a high quality source of protein. Many labels will list it as 'instantized egg albumin'.
6. Proprietary blend - Should be avoided because we are unsure of the quantity of each protein that is listed in the blend.
7. Plant proteins - way to many to list but are a very good source for protein based on their special makeup. The major ones are hemp, soy, brown rice, and pea.
A complete protein contains all 20 amino acids. Some are more important than others for protein synthesis, muscle growth, recovery, and performance. That is why sports nutrition manufactures will add branched chain amino acids (BCAA's).
I did not include the other less popular proteins like beef peptides because you need to get off your ass and do your own research instead of relying on me to do it for you.
I hope you have a better understanding of protein the next time you read a protein supplement label. This by no means 100% inclusive or complete but it is a place to start in understanding protein supplements.