The majority of protein powders on the market contain some form of protein derived from cow’s milk. Protein is separated from lactose and fat in milk via a gentle filtration process that leaves both Casein and Whey components intact. Whole milk provides the benefits of both Whey and Casein proteins.
CASEIN: The major protein component of milk (+/- 80%). It exists as globules called micelles. Casein is a slower-absorbed protein that provides a steady release of amino acids to muscle cells for several hours helping inhibit muscle protein breakdown.
WHEY: The other major part of milk protein is whey (+/- 20%). Whey is soluble in liquid and has many benefits other than assisting with muscle growth. Whey is a fast-digesting protein with a high BCAA content. Whey protein is an excellent choice to take immediately before and after a workout.
• Beta-lactoglobulin – the largest protein fraction of whey, which is rich in BCAA’s.
• Alpha-lactalbumin – a low molecular weight peptide fraction of whey that is easily digested, allowing for faster absorption and uptake by muscle cells.
• Glycomacropeptide – a fraction of casein often found in whey, helps to reduce appetite.
• Immunoglobulins – fractions of whey that strengthen the immune system.
• Bovine Serum Albumin – fractions of whey that are rich in the precursors for glutathione (a powerful antioxidant).
The following are terms/ phrases you will find on the ingredient label of protein supplements.
Remember that (by law) ingredients on labels are to be listed in order of concentration.
Total Milk Protein(TMP)
Made by precipitating whey proteins and casein from skim milk. The TMP is then washed to remove impurities, providing >85% protein and virtually no lactose or fat. It provides both fast (Whey) and slow-digesting (Casein) protein.
A high-quality complete protein, containing some carbohydrates and fat. Most WPC’s contain between 70-80% protein depending on the filtration process used. The filtration process typically involves ultra-filtration and sometimes micro-filtration, which leave much of the vital fractions in place.
A purer form of whey protein (90%) than WPC, because it is processed even further via longer filtering or ion exchange. A good protein for dieting, as it has a lower carbohydrate and fat content.
Formed when WPI is taken through an extra step – hydrolysis. WPH is absorbed the fastest of the whey proteins, making it good for post-workout consumption. A main drawback to WPH can be a bitter taste.
Contains greater than 90% protein and is the most soluble form of casein – allowing it to mix easily in fluid. It is formed by the reaction of casein with an alkaline substance such as calcium. This raises the mineral content of the product.
One of the highest quality proteins available. Virtually devoid of carbohydrates and fat. Suitable for people allergic to whey or casein. Egg protein is high in sulphur, which is critical for the body’s hormone producing pathways.
A complete protein, yielding all of the necessary amino acids. Soy has a high glutamine and arginine content.
- Soy Concentrate: usually around 70% protein. Can cause gas in some people.
- Soy Isolate: made from soy concentrate that is further processed to remove any unwanted potential gas-producing factors. Soy Isolate has a minimum of 90% protein.
Manufacturers use various processing methods to separate whey protein from the lactose, fat and other components found in milk. Some of the more common methods are listed below. These terms may sometimes appear on a product label.
• Ultra-filtration: A process that uses pressure and a porous membrane to separate the fat and lactose from milk proteins.
• Cross-flow micro-filtration: A method that further separates whey protein from fat and lactose through a low temperature process using high-tech filters that maintain the majority of the beneficial fractions. CFM processing removes the large fat globules that Ultra-filtration cannot separate to achieve a fat content of less than 1%.
• Ion-Exchange: A method that uses ionically charged resins and chemicals such as HCL and sodium hydroxide to separate protein. This process is often used to produce the purest form of whey protein isolate – meaning it has the highest protein content of all whey proteins (90% or more).
• Hydrolysis: The separation of protein into peptides (multiple amino acid fragments). Hydrolysis breaks some of the amino acid bonds in the protein chain, allowing the protein to be digested and absorbed more rapidly.
The benefits of protein in exercise
Every bodybuilder understands the importance of protein supplementation. Without protein (which the body breaks down into amino acids), muscle cannot be built.
Studies have shown that exercise increases the need for protein. The harder you train, the more important dietary protein becomes to maximise the muscle-building process.
In addition to providing muscles with vitally important amino acids it needs to grow, protein also has an effect on insulin stability and energy levels, especially during a diet. Blood sugar levels fluctuate less when protein is consumed with each meal. This helps with controlling appetite.
Protein is needed in the daily diet to provide the 9 essential amino acids required for body maintenance and repair.
In addition to normal physiological needs, protein plays a special role in sports nutrition, particularly for strength training, endurance, and the repair of muscle fibres. Protein provides the raw material needed to synthesise proteins for increasing lean muscle mass, and it protects muscle against catabolic breakdown during intense exercise. Research has shown that proteins consumed by athletes have positive physiological effects and that both beginning and experienced athletes increase their rates of protein utilization during extended workouts.
Protein may serve as a source of energy for athletes who are undergoing, or have undergone, intense or prolonged exercise. Much of this energy is thought to come primarily from BCAAs. BCAAs are unique among amino acids in their ability to provide a ready and direct energy source to skeletal muscle, not the liver, as is the case with the other amino acids. During exercise the body’s demand for the three BCAAs increases. As a result, an adequate dietary supply of BCAAs is needed to prevent unwanted muscle breakdown, or catabolism. Therefore, athletes who wish to preserve or enhance muscle mass, such as bodybuilders, triathletes, swimmers and weightlifters seek out BCAA-rich proteins like whey proteins in the belief that they will prevent unwanted muscle loss to catabolism. Resistance exercise prompts an increase in the body’s uptake of amino acids, a process necessary for building muscle mass. It is important that these athletes consume sufficient protein to maintain a positive nitrogen balance, thus maximizing muscle building.
Finally, protein may stimulate the synthesis and release of growth hormone, which promotes increased muscle mass.