What is protein?

Protein is a macronutrient (meaning the body needs a large amount of it) which is imperative to the sustainability of the human body. Amino acids are what form different kinds of proteins. Once consumed the amino acids begin to break down, forming “the building blocks” of our muscles, skin, hair, nails, blood, cartilage, and bones.

 

What are protein powders?

Protein powders are concentrated sources of protein from animal or plant foods, such as dairy, eggs, rice or peas.

There are three common forms:

  • Protein concentrates: Produced by extracting protein from whole food using heat and acid or enzymes. These typically supply 60–80% protein, with the remaining 20–40% composed of fat and carbs.
  • Protein isolates: An additional filtering process removes more fat and carbs, further concentrating the protein. Protein isolate powders contain about 90–95% protein.
  • Protein hydrolysates: Produced by further heating with acid or enzymes — which breaks the bonds between amino acids — hydrolysates are absorbed more quickly by your body and muscles.

 

How much protein should I consume?

In general, it is recommended that 10-35 percent of your daily energy intake comes from protein. If you consume 2,000 calories per day, this would work out to be between 200 to 700 calories of protein per day. The recommended daily intakes (RDIs) can also be calculated by a person’s body weight. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that the average individual should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram or 0.35 grams per pound of body weight per day for general health. So a person that weighs 75 kg (165 pounds) should consume an average of 60 grams of protein per day. Since there are approximately four calories per gram of protein, 60 grams of protein would result in the intake of 240 calories.

Muscle mass is built when the net protein balance is positive: muscle protein synthesis exceeds muscle protein breakdown. Research shows muscle protein turnover is the greatest after working out. Additionally, it has been shown that muscle mass increases over time when resistance exercise (i.e. weight lifting, body weight exercises, etc) is combined with nutrient intake. However, as we age, we need to increase our protein intake. Around 50 years of age, we need to increase the protein in our diets to one gram per kilogram of our body weight to maintain muscle mass. People that exercise regularly also need to eat more protein than the recommended daily intake. To increase muscle mass in combination with physical activity, it is recommended that a person that lifts weights regularly or is training for a running or cycling event eat a range of 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, or 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight. Consequently, the same 165lb  individual should increase their protein intake to 75 grams (300 calories) to 128 grams (512 calories) in order to gain muscle mass. 

Reprinted with permission of the American College of Sports Medicine. Copyright © 2015 American College of Sports Medicine.

 

What is the best time to consume protein?

The process of protein turnover is increased with resistance training and can remain elevated for up to 48 hours in people beginning a new resistance training program. Therefore it is important to provide enough energy including protein so there is a sufficient pool of amino acids available to repair and build new muscle. Of course, you do not want to exercise on an empty stomach. In fact, exercising in an unfed state leads to an increase in protein loss making it more difficult for the body to both repair and build muscle. Research suggests there are several benefits to pre-exercise protein supplementation. Pre-exercise protein supplementation helps to improve body composition by increasing resting energy expenditure up to 48 hours after exercise. This is important because it suggests that pre-exercise protein ingestion will not only help increase lean muscle mass and thus strength, but will also simultaneously reduce fat mass. However, the most scientifically supported and most significant benefits of consuming protein prior to exercise may be improved recovery and hypertrophy. This is thought to occur because of improved amino acid delivery. Protein supplementation after exercise may have a more profound impact on skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Several studies have demonstrated that protein ingestion following an acute bout of resistance training stimulates muscle protein synthesis for up to three hours. In contrast, failing to eat after exercise may limit protein synthesis and therefore limit potential progress in lean muscle tissue development. Research actually suggests there may be an “anabolic window” such that protein intake within an hour of exercise has the greatest influence on resistance training adaptations.

Reprinted with permission of the American College of Sports Medicine. Copyright © 2015 American College of Sports Medicine.

 

What is Whey Protein?

Whey protein comes from milk. It is the liquid that separates from the curds during the cheesemaking process. It's high in protein but also harbors lactose, a milk sugar that many people have difficulty digesting. While whey protein concentrate retains some lactose, the isolate version contains very little because most of this milk sugar is lost during processing.

Whey digests quickly and is rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). Leucine, one of these BCAAs, plays a major role in promoting muscle growth and recovery after resistance and endurance exercise.When amino acids are digested and absorbed into your bloodstream, they become available for muscle protein synthesis (MPS), or the creation of new muscle.

 

What is Egg Protein?

Eggs are an excellent source of high-quality protein. Of all whole foods, eggs have the highest protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS). This score is a measure of a protein's quality and digestibility. Eggs are also one of the best foods for decreasing appetite and helping you stay full for longer.

However, egg protein powders are typically made from egg whites rather than whole eggs. Although the protein quality remains excellent, you may experience less fullness because the high-fat yolks have been removed. Like all animal products, eggs are a complete protein source. That means they provide all nine essential amino acids that your body can't make itself. What's more, egg protein is second only to whey as the highest source of leucine, the BCAA that plays the largest role in muscle health. Egg-white protein could be a good choice for people with dairy allergies who prefer a supplement based on animal protein.