Supplement Focus: Protein

protein powder

As far as supplemented protein goes, there are lots of different kinds. The most common are whey, casein, and vegetable-based. Whey and casein are both animal-based, made from milk. Milk protein is made of about 80% casein and 20% whey. Whey and casein differ in their effects as well, more on that later. As far as vegetable-based protein there are several options, they key is to utilize complete proteins. A complete protein contains all of the essential amino acids (EAA).

Types of Protein

Whey Protein: The most used and easy to find protein supplement. Whey is found in two forms, isolate and concentrate.

  • Whey protein isolates (WPI) are the purest form of protein, with up to 90% concentration of protein. The process of making WPI removes almost all fat and lactose making it more or less ok for lactose intolerant people to consume. WPI are considered the best protein supplement because of the purity, the lack of fat and lactose, and the amino acid profile it provides.
  • Whey protein concentrates, while not as pure as WPI still provide amino acids and can enhance performance and recovery. The process of making whey concentrates is not as refined as with WPI, but water, lactose, ash, and some minerals are all removed.

Casein Protein: The major component of bovine (cow) milk. Casein protein exists in micelle form, which is a large colloidal particle. Casein differs from whey in that the micelle particle, when digested, expands to form a gel or “clot” in the stomach. This can be beneficial for slower, sustained protein/nutrient release opposed to the fast acting effects of whey.

Vegetable Protein: Vegetable proteins are a viable option for supplementing protein. As mentioned above, the key is to use a complete protein, which will have all of the EAA. Vegetable-based proteins will usually have lower amounts of EAA, though still beneficial for performance and general health. Soy-based protein is the most common vegetable protein, which is unfortunate because soy, it turns out, is not very good for muscle growth, hormone regulation, or stress.

Efficacy of Protein

  • Whey protein, both concentrates and WPI are best pre or post workout, as they are quick digesting. It would seem there are more benefits as far as muscle growth and recovery from training with post-workout protein supplementation. WPI and concentrates will enhance muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and increase insulin. This insulin increase will push glucose and amino acids into your (muscle) cells, and insulin also inhibits cortisol, the stress hormone, which if your worked out right, will be elevated.
  • Casein Protein is used in a different way than whey. Most commonly, casein is taken at night, around bed time or as a meal supplement during the day. Because of it’s slow digesting micelles, casein protein can be very filling and will provide a slow release of protein and EAA for up to 8 hours.

The amount you should be taking depends on you and your goals. The more lean mass you have the more protein is recommended. Also if your goal is to gain mass you will usually need to supplement more than someone whose goal is to reduce body fat or maintain weight.


Author: NFShealth

Certified personal trainer, grad student in nutrition. Obsessed about all things regarding nutrition and health.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s