It has long been recognised that protein is a key macronutrient for fighting infections, transporting oxygen, supporting metabolic reactions, and building and repairing tissue. However, not all proteins offer the same benefits. For example, casein, a milk protein is absorbed relatively slowly resulting in a prolonged increase in amino acids. Whey protein, also a milk protein, is rapidly absorbed but provides a short-lived increase in amino acids. Digestion and absorption rates are critical factors in determining muscle response to exercise. Below are some of the best protein sources to meet your needs.
Building Muscle Fast
Anyone looking to build muscle and increase strength should be using their diet to induce protein synthesis immediately post your session. There is no point doing all the hard work in the gym if you don’t feed your muscles sufficiently to help them repair and grow. To trigger this response, you need to choose a protein that contains a high concentration of leucine. The amino acid leucine acts as a trigger to tell your body to synthesise new muscle. Whey protein is made from milk and has the highest levels of leucine.
Maintaining Muscle Mass
When you eat is just as important as what you eat. We know that immediately after exercise our muscles are staved of nutrients and possess a sponge like quality that increases the muscles ability for protein synthesis. Therefore a rapidly absorbed protein such as whey is ideal at this time. We also know that consuming 20-30 g of protein every 3-4 hours throughout the day is optimal for protein synthesis. But which protein is best away from exercise? During sleep, the body is working hard to replenish key neurotransmitters and repair damaged tissue. Casein protein, made from milk, takes hours to break down and get absorbed by the muscles. This makes it a perfect evening snack to help drip-feed your muscles throughout the night and keep them in positive protein balance.
Suitable for Vegans and Vegetarians
Whey protein is not suitable for vegans. Vegetarians and vegans in particular struggle to meet their dietary protein requirements as few vegetable sources of protein contain all essential amino acids. Soy protein is an effective alternative to whey protein as it contains adequate amounts of all 9 essential amino acids. Soy may also have additional benefits due to its high antioxidant effects and high concentration of Glutamine and Arginine.
Suitable for Allergies and Intolerances
Some people who have intolerances to eggs, milk and proteins derived from soy struggle to meet their daily protein requirements. One of the best options in this scenario is Brown rice protein. It has an amino acid profile similar to whey protein and is easily digestible. Brown rice protein is suitable for almost anyone.
Total Nutritional Value
Admittedly, this is rarely considered a factor when choosing a protein source however, there is a growing interest in proteins such as Hemp. Hemp protein is a complete plant protein and contains a source of healthy omega fatty acids, fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Essential fatty acids are known to have beneficial properties such as decreasing muscle breakdown, boosting recovery, decreasing inflammation, supporting healthy joints and optimising hormone secretion. With a fast absorption rate, alkaline-forming properties, and free from diary and gluten, this protein source is excellent for anyone who suffers from gastrointestinal problems with whey or soy based proteins.