Protein is without doubt the most important macronutrient in the body, and plays a pivotal role in growth, muscle repair, hormone synthesis and appetite control. There is a bewildering amount of information and research on protein, but a basic level of understanding can help maximize the benefits to be gained from this powerful nutrient.
Dietary proteins can be derived from animal or vegetable sources, and when consumed, are digested in the stomach into their constituent amino acids. Proteins are composed of long chains of up to 20 different types of amino acids; some of these amino acids can be made by the body (non-essential) others have to be derived from food sources (essential). Proteins which contain all these amino acids in the correct proportions are “complete” proteins. With the exception of soya and quinoa, most vegetable proteins are lower in one or more of these essential amino acids, which is why animal proteins are often the preferred choice.
The protein needs of athletes and regular gym users have been explored. In particular, sports scientists have shown that consuming protein and amino acids before, during and after training offers extreme benefits. For example, supplementing with 4g/d of the essential branched chain amino acid (BCAA) Leucine has been shown to dramatically increase muscle protein synthesis prior to resistance training (1). Likewise, the BCAA’s Valine and isoleucine are important as a muscular energy source during exercise and are often included in pre-workout drinks for endurance athletes. They may also reduce muscle damage during endurance sports (2).Following exercise; protein supplementation can accelerate muscle repair and recovery and creates the ideal environment for muscle synthesis. However, not all types of protein offer the same benefits due to their different nutritional profile or their different speed of digestion.
Advantage of Protein Supplements
One of the main benefits of protein supplement is that they can be digested quicker than whole food and offer a greater level of convenience. The main sources of protein used in such products are whey and casein and each has useful attributes.
Fast digesting and is a rich source of BCAA’s – in particular the anti-catabolic amino acid Leucine (a precursor of HMB). Many believe Whey to be the king of proteins as its amino acids profile is superior to other sources. The quality of Whey protein varies and protein content accordingly, the team at the Real Nutrition Co source only the highest protein Isolate (90%) and concentrate (80%) from the finest suppliers in Europe. All the whey protein used in RNC products is extracted using low temperature ultra and micro filtration to ensure the highest quality protein yield.
Slow digesting and a rich source of glutamine which also helps to inhibit muscle protein breakdown. A shot of fast acting whey protein following resistance exercise can help flood the muscles with anabolic amino acids – stimulating muscle protein growth quickly. A maximum of 20-25g of whey protein is recommended for this purpose. However, combining whey and casein means that you get the benefits of fast-acting whey with the sustained benefits of casein. This two stage release protein allows the body to get the benefits of protein over a period of up to 7 hours – initially the Amino acids from the whey protein are released, followed by those in the casein (3). Serving sizes of up to 40g are recommended for these blended whey proteins. Our blends of Real-Pro S2, S3 and S4 all contain a combination of Whey, Casein and whole milk proteins in various combinations suited to the total protein in each serving in order to deliver the optimum rate of digestion.
Hungry for Protein
Often over-looked by many when discussing protein, is the impact protein has on appetite control (4). Diets high in protein lead to an overall decrease in calorie intake because foods high in protein stay in the stomach for longer – thereby promoting a feeling of fullness. In addition, carbohydrate digestion is slowed, helping to reduce sugar cravings by stabilizing blood sugar levels.
As well as the benefits already discussed, protein offers lots of additional benefits including improved immune function, and bone (5) and circulatory health (6). Most of the research has been conducted using milk based proteins such as whey and casein and demonstrates that adding extra protein to the diet not only confers benefits to athletes and those concerned with body image, but is part of any healthy diet and lifestyle.
(1) Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2011 Mar;6(1):38-50.
(2) J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2000 Sep;40(3):240-6.
(3) Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Dec 23;94(26):14930-5.
(4) Am J Clin Nutr 2008 Jan:87(1):23-9
(5) J Dairy Sci. 2009 Jul:92(7):3014-8
(6) Nutr J. 2009 Jul 22:8:34