Ahh, protein. We’ve spoken about some of the different types of protein supplements before, but it’s crazy how many misconceptions there are surrounding this beloved macronutrient! One such nugget of wisdom that is often bandied around, is to invest in a ‘good quality protein powder’ to help you lose fat, increase muscle tone, build muscle or support whatever other fitness and aesthetic goals you have. Do you need a ‘good quality protein powder’ to do all of these things? If you would like my short, dispassionately non-explicit version of the answer to that question: Absolutely not. Lets have a look at why…
Whole Foods are also a great source of source of protein.
A tub of protein powder can be upwards of $100, yet the humble egg, which retails for about $10 per dozen is equally as good a source of high-biological value (HBV) protein and provides you with a whole range of vitamins and minerals at the same time. Eggs, however, aren’t the only cheap whole-food that provides a good source of HBV protein. Most animal-derived proteins such as beef, chicken, fish & dairy offer a complete range of amino acids, including branch-chain amino acids (BCAAs) that will meet all your protein needs.
Another reason animal foods provide such a great source of protein is because they contain the branch chain amino acid (BCAA) leucine, which is particularly important in muscle protein synthesis.Anthony J, Anthony T, Kimball S, Vary T, Jefferson L. Orally administered leucine stimulates protein synthesis in skeletal muscle of post-absorptive rats in association with increased eIF4F formation. The Journal of Nutrition 2000; 130(2):139 Leucine is thought to be especially important because it helps to minimise muscle breakdown and fatigue after exercise. Hence why some people take specific BCAA supplements after training, in order to gain the benefits of leucine without the calorie-load of eating a protein and carbohydrate-rich meal. More is not necessarily better in this instance however; as only 2-3g of leucine is required following training to maximally stimulate protein synthesis, which can again be found in 20-25g of HBV protein such as fish, eggs or dairy.
What about vegetarians?
Don’t’ fret all my vegos out there! While most of the HBV proteins mentioned so far are from animal sources, there are lots of ways vegetarians can get a complete amino acid profile, including BCAAs to support muscle repair and growth. Aside from the aforementioned soy isolate protein, which is HBV but often heavily processed, there is an ever-increasing amount of plant-based protein powders becoming available such as pea protein and (sprouted) brown rice protein. They often list the amounts of individual amino acids on the nutrition information panel, so check for leucine! Again, these supplements can come at a hefty price and you can still get all the vegetarian protein you need from whole-food sources such as whole-grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. It is important for vegetarians to combine these plant-based proteins to get a complete range of the essential amino acids.Young VR. Plant proteins in relation to human protein and amino acid nutrition. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1994 May; 59(5):1203-1212 World Health Organisation. Protein and Amino Acid Requirements in Human Nutrition. Geneva: United Nations University; 2007. 284p. Report No.: 935
The take home message.
HBV, BCAAs, leucine… it may all seem a bit confusing, but the bottom line is that you don’t need fancy supplements to achieve your training goals and meet your protein needs for muscle repair and growth.
The important thing is that a consuming a protein-rich snack with 20-25g of HBV protein, i.e. 2-3g of leucine (whether in the form of whole-food or protein powder) soon after exercise can help optimise protein synthesis and aid recovery to enhance performance gains.
References [ + ]
|1.||⇪||Anthony J, Anthony T, Kimball S, Vary T, Jefferson L. Orally administered leucine stimulates protein synthesis in skeletal muscle of post-absorptive rats in association with increased eIF4F formation. The Journal of Nutrition 2000; 130(2):139|
|2.||⇪||Young VR. Plant proteins in relation to human protein and amino acid nutrition. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1994 May; 59(5):1203-1212|
|3.||⇪||World Health Organisation. Protein and Amino Acid Requirements in Human Nutrition. Geneva: United Nations University; 2007. 284p. Report No.: 935|