Protein and Protein Powders
How much time have you got? You’ll need a cup of coffee and a good couple of hours to read this.
(Credit to Dr. Stacy Sims for some of this material and NESTA.)
Have you ever thought about the supplement market and why it exists? In particular, protein powder is the largest range in the whole gamut of supplements that you see on the shelf. I will take you through whey protein, whey protein powders, vegan protein, and vegan protein powders. By the end of this article, I want to have you have the tools to be able to go to a shop, look at the label and compare and contrast what it says to be able to determine what is the best protein powder for you and also be aware of other supplementation and whether you need it or not.
“This is only available through this special TV offer…” (how often do you see this…?)
Social media, TV commercials, magazines, fitness professionals… they are all promoting vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, probiotics, prebiotics, predigestive enzymes. I know people that go home and when they feel unwell in the stomach they just dose themselves with probiotic and prebiotic pills.
Based on what dosage, evidence, and reason?
We know that there are different forms and formulations. We can buy tablets, we can buy capsules, soft gels, gel caps, powders, liquids, fortified drinks, all part of the nutrition supplement. The issue with nutrition supplements is we cannot market them for the purpose of treating, diagnosing, preventing or curing disease because they are not pharmaceuticals, they are not drugs. In that we know that they are not always regulated by the FDA or our food authority in the UAE so there are some inherent risks. This is why we often recommend professional athletes not just use over-the-counter supplements because what’s on the label might not necessarily be representative of what’s actually in the product.
Watch out for these, there are literally hundreds of types of supplements
– Vitamins, minerals
– Protein powders/Amino Acids
– Herbal supplements
– Calcium/Creatine Supplements (creatine is the #1 supplement for menopausal athletes right now, more on this in a later article)
* All of these claim to be what is MISSING in our diet and what will be the ultimate product to better health.
So when COVID hit in 2019, everyone took a sudden interest in preserving their health, trying to boost their own immune systems, trying to increase their health and longevity to prevent getting COVID and looking at Zinc, Vitamin C, Vitamin D all of these became buzzwords about preventing COVID or lessening the symptoms thereof. With COVID there was this great increase demand for nutraceuticals that might help, functional foods that might help. The supplement market itself especially in the vitamin and mineral side of things really skyrocketed. As an example, in the United States prior to the pandemic, dietary supplement sales increased by 5% ($345 million) in 2019 compared to the previous year. However, there was a 44 % ($435 million) increase in sales in the six weeks preceding April 5th, 2020, during the first wave of the pandemic, relative to the same period in 2019! You can read about this here. The supplements most sold were Vitamins C, D, Zinc and Magnesium.
But the big question that really exists is, how do you know what is right for you?
What are your needs?
Why are you taking a supplement?
Is it necessary?
Did You Know…
• Essential vitamins/minerals can be found in foods
– Vitamin C (oranges, strawberries, red/green peppers, green vegetables)
– Vitamin E (Wheat germ, nuts, vegetable oil)
– Vitamin B6 (meat, cereal, grains)
– Vitamin B12 (meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk)
– Calcium (milk, cheese, yogurt, broccoli)
Should you take supplements?
– Pregnant women (folic acid to decrease risk of birth defects
– Older adults (vitamin D, Calcium –osteoporosis)
– Those who are lactose intolerant
– Strict vegetarians
– Those on very-low calorie diet
Don’t just take supplements for the sake of it. Get a blood test and see where/if you are deficient.
Research indicates that
• Using a multi-vitamin can be a healthy part of a balanced nutritional plan ( I know the Juice Plus consultants will have a word here…). Also, using a multivitamin can mean very expensive urine…
• Ensure you are taking in enough vitamins and minerals even when you are NOT making the best food choices
• When choosing vitamins:
- Label state 100% of daily values (DV)
- Avoid those with > 100% DV
- Natural doesn’t always mean better
Are there risks to supplementing?
• Some are safe, some have severe side effects in the wrong dosages…
• Many supplements have not been tested – no research currently exists.
• FDA warns consumers some supplements cause ill-effects when taken with prescription and other OTC medicines
• Do your homework – read up on supplements!
What about protein and my training?
So what exactly is protein? We hear about it. We hear protein is meat. We hear protein is eggs. We hear protein is a protein powder. It’s in nuts, it’s in seeds. But what is it and why do we need it? So we know that proteins are chains of amino acids that are linked by what we call peptide bonds.
So what are peptide bonds? They are the tie-bonds that bind amino acids into their particular structure that are broken when we are eating protein to release amino acids. So amino acids are the building blocks of different proteins. So our bodies use a lot of amino acids for so many different functions. But they’re really only 20 amino acids that make up the proteins in the human body.
So when you hear about amino acids, know that there are 20 specific amino acids but of the 20 humans can only synthesize 11. So the other nine amino acids need to come from food, and these are essential amino acids. This is where we hear the myth that you have to combine vegetarian sources to get an adequate complete protein. It doesn’t have to necessarily all be in that one meal as long as you are getting high doses of your essential amino acids from different foods throughout the day.
The nine essential amino acids also are included in the whole aspect of muscle protein synthesis. They are:
leucine, phenylalanine, lysine, histidine, valine, tryptophan, isoleucine, methionine and threonine.
Of these, we have three branch chain amino acids, BCAAs (you read about BCAAs a lot, in particular leucine, isoleucine and valine. Branch chain amino acids is they’re metabolized a little bit differently than all the other amino acids. It is known that only branch chain amino acids are oxidized in the skeletal muscle. All the others are oxidised and broken down in the liver.
These three little branch chain amino acids make up the total of one-third of muscle protein and are essential for muscle protein synthesis. The buzz word we hear a lot with branch chain amino acids is leucine which is a critical amino acid for muscle protein synthesis. The reason for that, is leucine indirectly activates p70 s6 kinase. This triggers the mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 or the mTOR complex 1. It’s a signalling pathway that triggers the anabolic response to build muscle tissue.
(The other thing to remember is that insulin also activates that same signalling pathway but differently. )
The objective athletes are trying to achieve is more muscle protein synthesis or MPS, which is why a lot of people use protein powders and dose protein throughout the day through real food. As athletes, we’re trying to get an elevation of amino acids for muscle protein synthesis. Leucine is like the magic anabolic bullet, where it enters through the cell, through a transport mechanism but it directly triggers mTOR.
So when we talk about triggering mTOR what does this do? This mTOR complex 1 is responsible for the signalling cascade here to increase muscle protein synthesis or get those muscle cells building and repairing post-exercise. We also know that insulin can act as an anabolic hormone as can insulin growth factor one and these enter the cell through a different pathway through different co-transport mechanisms but they still activate mTOR and create the signalling pathway for muscle protein synthesis.
So what about after exercise?
So post-exercise, athletes need an increase in insulin and therefore a high-quality leucine. These two aspects of having increased insulin and high-quality leucine is why so many people use a protein supplement post-exercise because it tends to be easier to get the adequate amount of leucine needed to trigger this mTOR complex signalling through a supplement than it is to get it through real food. It’s a quick fix!
Check out Gemma Sampson, PhD (An Australian Advanced Sports Dietitian and Cycling Sports Nutrition expert) Her page has some excellent protein shake ideas made from real food.
What is whey protein and what are the different types of powders available? Before we look at the different types, may I just say that whey protein should come from grass-fed cows… (indoor-fed cows have more of the unhealthy fat and less of the CLAs, omega fatty acids, and beta carotenes that are necessary for optimal health). Do your research on grass-fed beef and dairy and you will come to your own conclusions.
So whey protein is the watery part from the milk that separates during the cheese process, and it actually used to be a waste product from the dairy industry. Eesh. It is however, very high in protein and a very bright spark decided that it would be a really good product to bring to market as a supplement, turning it into a multi-million dollar industry. Whey protein supplies all nine essential amino acids lie we discussed earlier, the EAAs, and it is specifically high in leucine and cysteine.
Whey Protein Isolate (it’s different to whey protein)
The next best to whey protein is whey protein isolate. Whey protein isolate is 90% protein by weight, and sometimes higher. It’s micro filtered to remove fats and lactose, so that it’s lactose-free which is good news for people who are lactose intolerant. But the next best to this, which is often in products that say “instant mixing” or “high mixability” is a hydrolysate or hydrolysed whey protein. This is 90 to 95% protein by weight, it has all the fats and all the lactose removed, and it is ”pre-digested or instantised” for rapid absorption.
So these are your three types with the concentrate being the lowest in protein. Whey isolate tends to be the one that a lot of people will go for especially in the bodybuilding and the athletic set trying to stimulate their muscle protein synthesis post-exercise.
Which one should I buy?
I get questions all the time from athletes, like what is the best whey protein to buy or what is the best whey protein isolate to buy?
Check the labels… the ingredients get very interesting!
Before buying a protein powder, read the label. Please note that ingredients on a label are listed from the most amount in that product to the least amount. Flavouring agents are listed at the bottom and whey protein types at the top.
If you are specifically looking for muscle protein synthesis aspects, always look for a whey isolate or the whey hydrolysate, but not the concentrate. Concentrate can trigger MPS but because it’s only 70 to 80% protein, then one scoop of that whey concentrate will a lot of extra stuff in it, extra flow agents, fillers, sweeteners that are not beneficial to muscle protein synthesis (or to anything!)
Look for a whey protein that is grass-fed with no hormones. You want to try to get the cleanest type of whey protein that you can, especially if you are withing scope of being tested by WADA, because any kind of residual hormone that’s fed to the cow might come out into the whey.
It is recommended to avoid protein powders containing sugar substitutes because post-exercise, you need bit of sugar to help with that insulin activation and the sugar works with the protein to facilitate glycogen recovery as well as muscle protein synthesis. Do want to avoid artificial flavours, colours, additives an any other stuff that you can’t pronounce as it’s probably junk!
These are all things that tend to be towards the bottom of the label, and make up what is one scoop or one serving size. The listed flavours are there, you want to primarily look for organic, not natural or artificial. Natural, we don’t really know what it is, it could be one molecule that came from a strawberry that has now been modified within the lab to become a strawberry flavour and called natural because it has that one molecule of a strawberry.
As an example, check out the label above. I won this chocolate flavoured protein powder in my last race, it’s absolutely delicious. (It’s chocolate, come on!) However, 59% of this powder is cornstarch (they call it Superstarch (R) ) and only 19% is why protein concentrate. (The front label says that it provides 2 hours of energy and recommends taking it before, during and after exercise. (One scoop after exercise within a 20 minute window which is only 7grams of protein). This is not enough for women, especially post/menopausal women as we need 40g of protein post exercise. I am not saying that this particular product isn’t any good, you just need to read the label to understand what you are actually getting in each scoop. It also contains aspartame, sucralose.. (more on this when you read down).
On many labels you are likely to see lecithin. The two most popular lecithins come from sunflower or soy. Lecithin is a type of flow agent where it prevents things from sticking together. So whey protein in itself is a bit sticky, so lecithin is added for flow and to prevent clumping. The best option really is to get a plain or unflavoured whey protein, high-quality whey protein and flavour it yourself with fruit or if you like savoury you can use eggs, oatmeal, nuts, and seeds. Or if you want it in a smoothie aspect, you can add vanilla paste, you can add coffee, you can add maple syrup you can change your flavours based on the mood of the day, so to speak, if you go for a plain unflavoured.
The other aspect about getting a plain unflavoured is you don’t have to worry about it having extra fillers, flow agents, artificial flavours, additives, any of the stuff that we don’t want to eat.
I’ll talk about sugar alternatives below, and this is a big issue when we’re looking at protein powders. Putting sugar alternatives is not necessarily a great idea. If you are looking at it from a weight management perspective, because maybe you’re not using it post-exercise and you don’t have/need that insulin response that comes up post-exercise. But, whey protein does increase insulin so it’s a little bit of a misnomer to have sugar alternatives or sugar substitutes in a protein powder.
I mentioned sucralose above, and that tends to be one that’s is used a lot. It is relatively sweet, but it is responsible for a lot of the GI symptoms that women have. We have a lot of bloating, stomach upset, gas that comes with sucralose use. Sugar alcohols, sugar alcohols are also used a lot.
So when and ingredient ends with an ‘ol’, like erythritol, xylitol, sorbitol these are all sugar alcohols. These are not digested by the gut bacteria so they taste sweet, but they are not being digested and broken down by the bacteria is it builds up and causes a lot of gas. You see a lot of people who use a lot of sugar-free gum with xylitol in it or sorbitol in it, they end up with intolerance to sugar alcohols because there bacteria just cannot deal with it so as soon as the sugar alcohol comes in the bacteria is powerless they start to build up a lot of gas and discomfort.
Saccharin is not so much gas forming BUT it is a sugar substitute to be aware of. Aspartame not so much in protein powders apparently but it is in the one above! It’s more in our protein drinks because it comes in a liquid form more readily than a powdered form. The other one to look for is acesulfame potassium, acesulfame K. We often see sucralose and acesulfame K combined because they work together to create a very sweet taste on the palette without any calories. Now, when we look at some of the more natural sugar alternatives, the big three is stevia or stevia thaumatin, and mogrosides which comes from monk fruit.
So what are they?
Stevia is a stevia plant. But the stevia that is in our products is a very concentrated, very refined and processed molecule that comes from the stevia leaf that creates the sweet sensation. There are some individuals who cannot tolerate stevia because it tastes bitter and there are those it gives a really bad mouth feel, something to be aware of. The photo below is from a protein powder that I use on occasion from SunWarrior. I find it particularly sweet!
Thaumatin is a protein from a particular plant and it is a protein that creates a block on the tongue that makes things taste sweet instead of sour. So it’s not actually a substitute as it is a confusion for the palette so to speak. It doesn’t create any GI discomfort, but again, just like stevia, some people don’t have the response needed to create that sweet taste.
And the last sweetener is a mogroside which are the sweet-tasting molecules from monk fruit. Monk fruit comes from the cucumber family and the mogrosides that we have in our products is freeze-dried powder from the fruit.
So let’s look at some labels. This is an example of what we call a good product. And here, this is just a reminder of what to look for, so let’s have a look on this label.
So we see that one scoop of the product has 28 grams of protein, but what does that mean?
The label states that 28 grams comes from grass fed whey protein isolate and non-denatured which means it hasn’t been heat processed yielding 25g o protein in one hit. It is cold processed, non-GMO. Not bad! Other components that make up the 30g are listed as sunflower lecithin. That’s it!
So when we’re looking at this particular product you could say that it is this is a good one to use post-exercise or for weight management, because there is no sugar content and you get the protein hit.
Let’s look at another one. this is a Caramel Mocha flavoured Whey Protein Isolate offering 25 Grams of Protein Per 100 Calorie Scoop.
One scoop has 25 grams of protein which is great. But the average scoop size for this caramel mocha flavour is 30.5 grams. What is in the extra grams?
We have instantized whey protein isolate which is a high-quality protein. But here’s where we get into the bad stuff. It has artificial flavours, digestive enzymes and sucralose. What is the reason for digestive enzymes? It is probably because they also sweeten it with sucralose which is known to cause GI distress. So often companies will put in some kind of digestive enzyme or a probiotic to help with the bacteria that cannot digest that sucralose.
There is a whole lot of extra added stuff. Why?
It doesn’t have any function for muscle protein synthesis and we already know that whey protein in itself helps with immune system, it helps with anti-inflammatory aspects, it has a high antioxidant capacity, it’s fast absorbed, it’s readily digested.
So my question to you again is if you’re reading these labels why did they put those in there? They’re not needed. They are excess rubbish and you’re paying for those instead of the whey protein that you want. yes, it makes it taste good, but it is not for efficacy of the actual powder. It’s expensive excretion 😉
The Rise of Plant Protein
I am vegetarian/vegan, what do I take??
I am not vegetarian nor vegan but I do like and prefer vegan protein powders. I add my own pure unflavoured collagen to them. A plant forward (or plant-based) lifestyle is having a massive upsurge in the supplement and in general population, and is always an interesting and often emotional topic.
The Vegan Protein Powder Market is estimated to be worth $8.03 Billion by 2029. I am in the wrong business!
A vegan protein is a plant-based alternative to animal-based proteins. The Lumina reports shows that the difference in breakdown of the different proteins is marginal compared to whey derived proteins however the major reason for athletes wanting to use plant-based protein powders is more of an ethical one rather than performance one.
Plant-based proteins are naturally free from gluten, from dairy, and other allergens except of course, for soy. They are viewed as environmentally friendly with a lower carbon impact. They are easier to digest and are relatively low on causing gastrointestinal issues with fewer bloating effects. Other benefits that come with vegan protein powders are the Omega-3s, extra fibre, iron, minerals, vitamins. These are some of the other factors to look for but the one downfall is the amino acid profiles of vegan protein lack the ratios necessary for muscle protein synthesis with the exception of pea isolate. The one thing that pea isolate protein does not have, is a high amount of methionine which is found in meat, fish and dairy products.
This is why they say that pea is not a complete protein however it does have enough leucine to stimulate the muscle protein synthesis complex, and it is a very viable vegan protein powder. So we see that pea protein dominates most of the products that are in the market, followed by rice protein, then soy, then pea protein isolate.
Soy has been suffering from a loss in popularity owing to three main reasons:
- It may cause hormonal imbalances: Soy is naturally rich in phytoestrogens (plant-based compounds that can behave like the hormone oestrogen). A few studies have suggested that a high intake of soy could cause a drop of testosterone in males and increase body fat at the expense of muscles. Although many studies contradict this, male body builders, in particular, remain wary of soy.
- Allergenicity: Soy counts among the eight most allergenic foods
- Poor reputation in terms of sustainability: Soy is widely considered a “GM crop that is destroying the rainforest” (ref. Lumina Intelligence)
Next on the chart is hemp protein, was making a huge upsurge in the market, followed by soy, sacha inchi going all the way down to millet protein. So this does not mean that this is the list of highest bioavailability of protein to lowest. It just means this is what the consumer preferences, and how they are saturating in the market. (We are being led….)
Studies are showing though that plant protein users are often switching back to whey, asking for improvements in blending and flavour in the plant products.
Anyway, look at this vegan protein label. As usual, the ingredients are listed from most to least as for all food nutrition fact labels. in this case, it is an all-natural, vegan Organic Pea Protein Powder made with just 1 ingredient!
Studies show that most vegan protein powders don’t have enough leucine to meet that 2.7 to three grams of leucine per serving to maximize anabolic stimulus so you need a combination. We know that pea isolate in itself is just on the level, just on the cusp, it has 2.5 to 2.7 so you could mix it with something like rice or quinoa or hemp will tip it over to give you that maximum anabolic stimulus.
To repeat, we need avoid sugar substitutes, artificial flavours, colours, and additives and gums. In the vegan protein powders, we have fewer sugar substitutes from a chemical orientation and fewer artificial flavours and colours just by the nature of them being plant-based and the cultural aspect that comes with being plant-based.
Just looking at the ingredients there are omega-3 fatty acids and fibre. So these make up the extra grams that we’re looking to counter with that one-and-a-half scoops. So when we look at the amino acid profile per serving, we want to have a good look at our leucine, our valine, or our isoleucine. There is 1.7 grams of leucine listed on the packaging and we need another gram of leucine for it to be sufficient.
So because this is just pea protein and not pea protein isolate, that leucine content is not quite high enough. You would need to combine this pea protein with another source, or add some fermented branched-chain amino acids. Fermented means that they come from a plant source that they’re not animal derived. If you do a top-up of this protein powder with fermented branched-chain amino acids, you will get all the other amino acids that help with the uptake of leucine, but also tip over your leucine content over that 2.7g requirement. Go figure!
So let’s look at the next one. It is an organic pea protein blend, not an isolate, just pea protein. So in one serving 35 gram serving, we are getting 18 grams of protein, which is nearly half…. So what is in that that 17 gram difference?
You need to see the list of flavours, organic flavouring preferred and the lecithin, again, these are flow agents, so you’ll either have some flour or soy. The serving size here is two scoops to give you 18 grams.
There is also 11 grams of carbohydrate, of which 5 grams of that carbohydrate is fibre and 4 grams of sugar. So there’s some extra stuff in there which I am not sure about. It has a good source of potassium, good source of sodium. So these would be good post exercise to help with rehydration. We can also see that it is a blend of pea protein, brown rice protein, hemp seed protein, pumpkin seed protein so a higher boost of protein would be expected rather than just the 18 grams.
There is also cocoa powder and coconut sugar, and added fibre which is not a great thing because these protein sources here come with their own fibre. I would say the extra 5 g of fibre is is a filler….
There are natural flavours, xanthan gum, which is again of a way to make things mixable and monk fruit as a sweetener, as well as coconut sugar. So this is probably pretty sweet protein mix.
They have also added a boost of medium chain triglycerides from coconut oil. We are already getting this rom the pea protein and hemp seed protein and pumpkin seed protein, so adding MCT is just another buzzword. Dr Stacy Sims rates this particular brandon a scale of 1-10, and gave it a four or five with regards to protein for muscle protein synthesis.
So then we get into another one here.
Check out these ingredients and remember to look from most to least for anabolic stimulus properties. Make sure that it doesn’t have any added sugar, substitutes, or artificial colours and stuff, or additives or gums. Does it have any kind of flavouring agents or lecithin?
So reading the label, and also the product information, you see that two scoops of the product gives you 30 gram serving and in that 21 g of protein.
It is an organic pea protein blend, with rice and cranberry protein, hemp protein, sacha inchi, and amaranth. It’s a large combination of “super food and greens blend”.
So if you need it as a post exercise, muscle protein stimulus and helping with muscle repair, as well as getting the required protein dosing, those extra ingredients are not going to facilitate any of that, and if we are getting greens and super foods from a supplement standpoint most likely we’re missing out. (expensive urine….)
We need to be getting these supplement vitamins from real food as much as possible (for example, if you need DIMS eat broccoli, why take a tablet? ) If you are needing to boost the nutrient content of your meals this might be an option BUT it just takes away from what your main goal was for supplementing with a protein powder specifically, and is that muscle protein activation. Right? and it has those added enzymes again….
There is also natural vanilla flavour, and extra sweetener in Monk fruit and stevia. Post exercise… do you need it so sweet? Are you looking for a high-quality protein blend or a dessert? Does it help boost the nutrient content in our meals? I personally would go back to plain and simple protein hit and find superfood by eating real berries…
There is a LOT of information above…. how do I apply it? How do I choose? If I’m vegan, what do I choose?
(Check the Protein comparison table attached and read below)
How do you determine what is a good protein, what is a good quality protein? When we talk about protein and protein digestion from foods, we know that some proteins are wrapped up in fibre, mostly if if they are plant-based stuff. The quality of protein is measured on how it is digested to release those amino acids so that our body can use them. So now we have a measure or scale of that. It’s called the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score or PDCAAS. You also have a BV or bioavailability biological value. The scale is determining the bioavailability of the amino acids in the food that you eat based on how much fibre and omega-3 fatty acids and other micronutrients might be inhibiting that amino acid release and absorption. (Read this opinion…)
So we look at the digestibility is related to how many amino acids are in there and available for the body to use. We know that the maximum score is one, and this means that for every unit of protein, you get 100% or more of the essential amino acids required by humans and an egg as a reference for a complete protein. So this is a requirement from the World Health Organization of milligrams per kilogram of body weight of the amino acids you need in a day.
A greater incidence level for leucine is seen in the USA, of lysine, and lysine tends to be low in so many people’s diets and then we have methionine and cysteine. So this ends up being a 19 gram total combination.
The chart, and all of the information above, is put together by Dr. Stacy Sims she has put together the chart to help you compare. So if we look at how much protein there is per 100 grams of powder, so we’re specifically looking at these different powders. Whey concentrate is 70 to 80 grams per 100 grams of powder, so 70, 80%. Whey protein isolate, is 90 to 95. Whey hydrolysate is 95. Egg white powder is 80 grams per 100. Hemp is 52 grams per 100. Pea isolate is 90 grams per 100. Soy isolate is 81 grams and rice protein concentrate is 70 to 75.
So what does that tell us?
It just gives you an estimate of how much protein is concentrated in these different foods. So what does it mean actually? How do you take this and apply it?
Do your comparisons, look at the functionality of buying a protein powder for muscle protein synthesis and check for essential amino acids and leucine. Check the typical serving size and see a serving size might be 30 grams, it might be 44, it might be 20, but what does it contain?
What is in one scoop? How many grams are in one scoop? ( you need 30g of protein after your workout, and 40g for peri/menopause…)
Here’s an example provided by Dr. Sims.
A typical serving of whey concentrate is 30 grams in a scoop. So that’s two tablespoons. So if we look at how much protein is in that two tablespoons, it’s 25 grams. If we look at whey protein isolate, a typical serving is 25 grams. So 1 1/2 standard tablespoons, and that gives us 22 grams of protein.
So check the label and calculate, this protein has 25 grams per serving and this one has 22 grams per serving. I might opt for the whey concentrate but you have to look at what is a serving size, right? So we know that 1 1/2 tablespoons gives us 22 grams, two tablespoons gives us 25. Right here, we see that the whey protein isolate has more protein per serving if you would do a two tablespoon serving side to side.
Whey hydrolysate, typical serving size is 25 grams, 1 1/2 tablespoons. It has more protein per 100 grams. So again, the protein per serving is up at 24. So it’s another step above the whey protein isolate. Again, it’s more expensive, but when we’re looking at 25 grams to 25 grams, does give you a little bit more. Is it cost effective? Probably not. If I am lactose intolerant, then I would go for the whey hydrolysate.
Compare to egg white protein. So egg white protein, typical serving size is 31 grams around two tablespoons. It gives you a good 26 gram hit. So this is something to consider as well. Again, it’s 31 grams to 25 grams for that extra two grams of protein. Now, let’s look down at our vegan proteins here. So a serving size of hemp protein is two tablespoons, it gives you 16 grams of protein. Next to pea isolate where we have a typical serving size of 1 1/2 tablespoons, it gives you 20 grams. So you’re getting more in your container because the serving sizes are smaller. And you also get a boost of protein per serving. Our soy isolate, our typical serving size is two tablespoons or 30 grams and it yields you 23 grams of protein. So if we’re comparing pea and soy, we see that you get more bang for your buck if you’re using the pea isolate. When we look at rice protein concentrate, we have heaped two tablespoons to give you 24 grams. So again, you’re looking at comparisons, not the absolute protein per serving because the serving size vary.
So now, if we are to compare it to 25 grams of whey protein isolate, which tends to be the gold standard in protein supplementation, we see that to meet that 2.7 grams of leucine that is found in our typical 25-gram serving of whey protein isolate, we need 30 grams of whey concentrate, 25 grams of whey protein isolate of course, 25 grams of our hydrolysate. But compared to egg white, we need 39 grams of egg white protein to meet the same leucine triggering content as that 25 grams of whey protein isolate. We need 54 grams of hemp. We need 37 grams of pea isolate. We need 40 grams of soy, and 38 grams of rice. So if we’re looking again to get that leucine content, running across the scale, we want to say, okay, well, if I’m a vegan and I’m trying to get close to that 2.7 gram, pea isolate tends to be looking like a winner here. In the fact that I need 11 grams more to get that 2.7, but if I’m a vegan and I’m looking at it, that’s not a big ask to grab or I can look at mixing pea with something like rice. Usually we look at a 70:30 ratio of pea and rice to meet the same bioavailability of leucine and essential amino acids as whey protein isolate.
So now, we look down at essential amino acids in 25 grams of whey protein isolate. So there’s around 10.9, almost 11 grams of essential amino acids in whey protein isolate. So we know we need a little bit more of our whey concentrate to meet that same threshold. We need 34 grams as opposed to 25 of our egg white. We need 48 grams of our hemp to get to that threshold. We need 37 grams again to hit that threshold with our pea isolate. We need 40 grams to hit that threshold with soy. Then 39, almost 40 grams, to hit that threshold with rice protein concentrate. So for looking for that trigger of 2.7 grams of leucine to maximize the mTOR complex and get that insulin response post exercise that way protein gives us, then, again, we have to look at combining some of the vegan protein powders. Pea isolate on its own, if you boost the serving size, will do it for you, but again, you have to get that 37 grams of pea isolate to get that same effect that 25 grams of whey protein isolate gives you.
Do your calculations and HAPPY COCKTAILS!
These are two journal articles that go into depth about these protein comparisons and give you an idea of what the plant-based ones can offer with regards to what’s high and what’s low in our essential amino acids and the matching of them.
So a brief summary, I want you to understand why you are using your protein powder.
This is the biggest question that so many people don’t actually ask themselves. Usually, we try to get as much protein and as much of our daily needs from real food and we often turn to supplements to boost it, that’s the idea behind it, but in our busy lives, a lot of us reach for protein powders as that food substitute to try to get that protein content up, to get or to help us achieve our athletic goals. So understanding that and understanding that there are so many of us that use protein powders, I want you to be aware of what’s on the label to be able to reach for a clean product that’s going to work for you to help you achieve your goals.
So read the nutrition facts and label for ingredients because the marketing on the front and the claims is stronger than science because the marketing claims in the supplement world are not regulated by the FDA. Pay attention to what is in the ingredients, know what is on the nutrition facts and label to give you an idea of is it a quality protein that’s going to give me what I want and meet the needs for my athletic pursuits. So for muscle protein synthesis, which tends to be the biggest reason why people are using protein post exercise, as well as the reparation, which is part of the muscle protein synthesis and reducing inflammatory responses that occur with exercise, whey isolate is the best.
Just be aware that there’s a lot of extra buzzwords that go with the plant-based culture that end up in our protein powders, like superfoods and probiotics and digestive enzymes that are not needed. They just add to the price and they add to the serving size, which decreases the protein content. So you know that pea protein isolate is almost there at that leucine trigger point but if we combine it with rice or with hemp, it’s a good way to start to get to the same anabolic properties as whey protein isolate.
Now, post exercise, real sugar is good. So we see in all the labels that are showing you that we have all these sugar substitutes from the chemical structures that we find in a lot of the whey protein to more of the processed plant sweeteners, like your stevia, your monkfruit, your thaumatins, but post-exercise, real sugar is fine. It’s great. It helps with that recovery. It’s not about calories post-exercise, it’s about getting the nutrients in rapidly to signal that muscle protein synthesis.
For weight management and weight control, which is the biggest part of the supplement market, they want to have those sugar substitutes but in an exercise component, you want to look for a real food, well, real sugar within your sports supplements. So this brings me to avoiding your sugar substitutes unless they’re naturally derived. So you have your monkfruit, your stevia, you thaumatin, but again, in low frequency moderation, which brings me back to if you are going to invest money in a protein supplement, then you want to look for a high quality, unflavoured, organic if possible, protein supplement, because then, you know you’re getting a lot of protein per serving and you can flavour it and put stuff with it to make it work for you.
How is your brain now??