Protein: you’ve likely heard of the stuff. It is one of three macronutrients vital for the proper functioning of our body, alongside fat and carbohydrates. Common knowledge also tells us that is good for those who are working out, as it helps build and maintain proper muscle strength, not to mention it is the source of vial amino acids.
But the term “protein” serves as something of a blanket term, lumping all types of protein into a single category. Anyone searching for a protein supplement will soon see a problem with this: there are a few different types of protein offered, and how does one know what to choose?
Know thy Protein: Casein, Whey, Soy, and Egg
Protein is indeed one of our 3 main macronutrients. These are called macro-nutrients because of their relative molecular size as well as their larger presence in our diet. Depending on who you ask, protein should occupy 10-20 percent of your daily intake of calories. Some argue more, some argue for less.
When it comes to a protein supplement, though, you’ll want to focus on the type of protein you’re choosing to consume. There are four main types to focus on: casein, whey, soy, and egg.
The first thing to note is that casein is derived from milk (heads up to all you vegans who might want be trying to bulk up!). Out of all the protein in milk, casein represents about 80 percent. Why choose casein? Casein is extremely rich in the amino acid glutamine; in fact, it contains the highest amount of glutamine among proteins. Glutamine is thought to be beneficial as it is the most abundant amino acid found in skeletal muscles, and when consumed, helps preserve muscle mass while aiding immune system function.
Besides being derived from milk, though, casein is low on the biological value scale: 77. This number speaks to the speed and proportion of protein absorbed, and in effect the number of amino acids that can be used by the body. Also, casein is more slowly released in the body when compared to a protein like whey. Because of this, casein is often opted for as a meal replacement rather than a follow up to a work out.
Whey protein is also found in milk (it’s the other 20 percent!), but unlike casein, this is a fast-absorbing protein. Because of its ability to be absorbed quickly, whey protein is often used immediately after a strenuous workout to replenish and repair the body. Whey has a biological value of 104, meaning it is absorbed very quickly.
As far as downsides, besides the regular problems with overconsumption of protein (like gout), whey has never been popular for its taste!
Soy protein is the protein for vegans or vegetarians (be sure to check your brand’s ingredients, of course). This lactose-free, low-fat, complete protein has been found to be beneficial to both those who are looking to strengthen themselves and, somewhat surprisingly, pregnant women. Soy protein has an estimated biological value of about 74.
Egg protein is another great source for protein. Eggs themselves are actually the source for the highest naturally occurring biological value of protein, finding a score of 100. Egg protein is high in essential amino acids, aids in digestion, and known to be very beneficial when looking to build and maintain muscle over time.
Integration for a Better Diet
So which is right for you? Good question. Your best bet to sit down and determine how you’ll be going about your bulking up process and your ability to use protein supplements. If you see yourself working out hard and not having much time afterwards, whey protein may be the best for you. Then again, if you’re just looking to add some protein back into your diet, casein may be a better choice.
The best thing to do is check with your doctor. Make a plan and find out what will complement your schedule and needs the most!