In this weeks blog, we take a look at the ingredients that are used in Protein Powders…why these ingredients and drinks can be so important in the fatloss lifestyle approach, and basically clearing up a few misconceptions!
A complete protein includes at least 20 different naturally occurring amino acids which are crucial for protein synthesis and preventing muscle breakdown, but also have other properties such as stimulating nitric oxide production which increases blood flow to muscles. BCAA’s (Branch Chain Amino Acids) is a term you will probably come across when learning about fat burning and muscle toning.
Here’s where nutrition labels get confusing, because it’s not what’s in the product but how much of those ingredients get digested and absorbed into your body. This is one reason why animal proteins such as meat, as well as protein supplements, are a better source than most vegetarian ‘protein’ foods such as beans – the protein in beans is not utilised as effectively.
Different to how well protein is synthesised (new muscle built), breakdown prevention is more effective the slower the digestion of the proteins. Whey & soy are faster digesting (despite being excellent for protein synthesis), whilst egg white & casein are slow, so better for preventing muscle breakdown; these slower digesting types are better for evening consumption so that they can work throughout the night.
Concentrate – the protein powder (not including other added ingredients) legally must be 35-80% protein.
Isolate – the protein powder (not including other added ingredients) legally must be at least 90% protein.
Hydrolysate – processed to make protein particles smaller and faster absorbing. Good for getting protein to muscles, not so good for prevention of muscle breakdown.
You can buy pure protein powders, but most people prefer the flavoured ready-to-mix ones for convenience. Does the ingredients list say sugar or anything ending in ‘ose’? Artificial sweeteners? Hydrogenated fats? All no, no, no. Cocoa powder, vanilla, natural sweeteners, added vitamins and minerals? Fine. Again, if you are at all concerned, buy pure protein powders and mix in your own flavourings such as the aforementioned ‘fines’, pureed fruit, spices etc.
Typing ‘soy controversy’ into your search engine is the fastest way to confuse yourself in the world of protein foods and supplements. There are as many people who rave about the health benefits such as protection against cardiovascular disease and some cancers, as there are people who won’t touch it with a barge pole. Soy is fairly high in BCAA’s so good for forming new muscle.
Soy is controversial since some people think it causes hormonal disruptions, but this is not proven and so long as you’re probably not living off soy you’re probably ok. As with most things, I expect it will come down to there being both pros and cons, and whether it is good for you depends on your needs. What I will say is that if you are at all concerned then there are plenty of alternatives to choose from. Pulsin’ do an unflavoured one (get 20% off orders over £20 with code PTC20)
Probably the most popular powder in the market. Made from cow’s milk, the thick, creamy consistency makes great shakes. It is very high in BCAAs so great for protein synthesis, though quite fast to digest so not so good at preventing muscle breakdown. It also lowers blood pressure and cholesterol and is a source of calcium. Generally inexpensive due to huge variety available and market competition.
Used more often in cooking (omelettes, protein porridge, baking and for things like mousses and meringues). It is not the highest in BCAA’s but very slowly digested so good for muscle breakdown prevention, especially when taken in the evening, when it will also keep you satiated through the night. It can be expensive compared to other powders per 100g, and since eggs are such a nutritious, versatile and convenient food for muscle building and fat burning anyway, you might be better just eating more fresh eggs.
A good vegan powder that goes well in savoury dishes, and it mixes well with hemp powder. Not be confused with high carbohydrate rice, it has an amino acid profile very similar to mother’s milk, it is extremely digestible so good for sensitive stomachs, and is unlikely to cause allergic reactions. It is also high in natural fibre.
Another cow’s milk derivative, though different in properties to whey. It does also lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and supplies calcium, but is lower in BCAA’s and breaks down more slowly so is better suited to muscle breakdown prevention than protein synthesis, and is good used at night for its long lasting effects. It tends to be more expensive than whey.
High in healthy omega oils and fibre, hemp is a fantastic vegan powder. Even plenty of dairy-consuming health conscious people choose hemp for its superfood properties. As well as being a great source of protein, hemp is anti-inflammatory and is naturally high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Look for a brand that combines it with additional amino acids as hemp is not quite a ‘complete’ protein.
Good in both sweet and savoury recipes despite the ‘savoury’ smell! It goes well in place of flour in some recipes such as pancakes. Highly digestible and unlikely to cause reactions, it needs to be combined with other plant protein sources so you get the complete range of amino acids. Another benefit is that pea is high in glutamic acid which helps convert carbohydrates into energy rather than storing them as fat.
Seriously, it exists. I recommend just eating beef.