An Introduction to Protein
In this ebook, we will guide you through a definition of protein, and protein supplementation, why we need protein, the benefits of consuming protein (number one being it’s required for life) and detail a history of protein and protein supplements. We’ll discuss the various natural sources of protein, and contrast protein from whole foods versus supplementation. We’ll tackle one of the most vigorously contested aspects of protein consumption, how much is required, versus how much is optimal, and provide you contrasting viewpoints. We’ll devote a segment to identifying quality protein supplements, and we’ll look at different types of protein, their uses, and when to take them. We’ll conclude with a segment on the need for variety and convenience in our fast-paced, instant gratification, on-demand world.
If that sounds like a lot to say grace over, it is. Feel free to work through this book in whatever order suits you. Want to know the best time to take a protein supplement? Visit the chapter on the Timing of Protein Intake. Want to know how much protein you should be consuming daily? Go straight to, How Much Protein is Optimal. You’re a businessperson and want to understand the market statistics, see Addendum One, The Sports Nutrition Market. For a sneak peek, the size of the protein supplement market in the US is estimated at $4.2 billion in 2018, projected to grow by nearly 50% to $6.4 billion by 2025.
So, we’re taking on a big topic, in a large and growing market. We’ve done our research and have done our best to identify all of those we have borrowed from in this book. We hope you enjoy this eBook at least a little and we hope you learn a lot. Please read on.
Just how important is protein? A clue lies in the derivative of the word protein, from Late Greek prōteios = primary, or the first quality, and, from Greek protos = first.
Merriam Webster defines protein as “any of various naturally occurring extremely complex substances that consist of amino acid residues joined by peptide bonds, contain the elements carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, usually sulfur, and occasionally other elements (such as phosphorus or iron), and include many essential biological compounds (such as enzymes, hormones, or antibodies).”
That’s quite a mouthful, and a bit difficult to digest, pardon the pun. For a more simplistic definition, we consulted with YourDictionary.com, “The definition of a protein is a substance that has amino acids, compounds and carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and sometimes sulfur and is found in many foods. An example of a protein is the type of nutrient found in meats.”
Proteins are complex molecules, made up of amino acids, that play many critical roles in the body, particularly at the cellular level. Protein is the primary factor within cells comprising about half of a cell’s mass and responsible for cellular repair and maintenance. Ingesting protein provides your body with amino acids that are required in the production of certain hormones such as insulin and growth hormone.
Plant based proteins continue to gain in popularity although most do not contain all nine essential amino acids, thus are not considered a complete protein.
We gave away an important piece of information in the Introduction about the critical nature of protein in our diet. Did you know that you can live your entire life, after infancy, without consuming carbohydrates? Or, did you know you can go for more than six months without ingesting fats, (obviously dependent upon how much fat you begin with)? However, since your body is incapable of storing proteins, you can only survive for a maximum of 70 days in the absence of protein intake.
To step back for just a moment, protein is one of the three major macronutrients. Macros have received more than their fair share of attention of late due to the popularity of current diet trends such as:
- The Ketogenic Diet
- The Paleo Diet
- Low carb, no carb, and slow carb diets,
- The Atkins and South Beach Diets
- And, of course, the IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) Diet
Macronutrients provide calories (energy) for bodily functions, growth, and metabolism. By definition, a macronutrient is, “a type of food required in large amounts in the human diet.” We typically refer to three main macronutrients; protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Water is the fourth macronutrient, although not an energy-providing nutrient.
The Caloric values of the three macronutrients are as follows: for Protein and Carbohydrates, each gram equal 4 calories, while each gram of Fat equals 9 calories.
MACRONUTRIENTS - CALORIC VALUES
CARBOHYDRATES 1g = 4 Calories
Protein 1g = 4 Calories
Fat 1g = 9 Calories
Beyond survival, protein is essential for good health. Per its very definition, protein provides the building blocks of life, amino acids. Protein is a component in every one of your cells.
Protein is required to build and repair muscle and connective tissue, to put meat on your bones, for your blood, antibodies, enzymes, and more. Collagen protein plays an essential role in hair, skin, and nail health, as well as cartilage. Proteins aid in the production of enzymes and hormones, is a source of energy, and regulates metabolism.
In addition to the myriad of reasons cited above, there are additional benefits of supplementing higher levels of protein beyond its ability to build muscle. Science continues to discover additional benefits:
- Protein plays an essential role in building muscle
- Higher protein intake and more muscle can boost your metabolism, helping you to burn more calories
- Protein promotes satiety, a feeling of fullness, and decreases hunger
- It decreases oxidative stress, a significant cause of aging, and a precursor to major illnesses
- Protein can aid in the reduction of chronic inflammation, another contributor to the aging process and a precursor to catastrophic illnesses
- Additional protein aids in recovery from surgery
- In the elderly, it can help to preserve muscle and avoid the onset of sarcopenia
- Protein intake can help to reduce blood pressure
Among strength athletes, the quest for the perfect protein goes back eons. First, among the modern-day hard-core group was desiccated liver. Really? And, who can forget Rocky Balboa’s raw egg yolk shakes? All the better to go pound the protein at his local meat processing plant. Things became a little saner with those who drank good old chocolate milk as their post-workout protein of choice. And, in the early days, even whey powder tasted awful.
Protein supplements have been all the rage for decades now. Today you can find a large selection in your local health food store, supermarket, big box store, pharmacy, or sports nutrition store, as well as many gyms.
Some names you should know in the history of protein supplements:
- Eugene Sandow, known as ‘the Father of Modern Bodybuilding”, maker of “Sandow’s Health and Strength Cocoa”
- “Schiff Bio-Foods,” a very early protein isolate
- A 1950s bodybuilder, Irvin Johnson who developed the first dissolvable protein, “Johnson’s Hi Protein Food”
- Bob Hoffman, of York Fitness fame who created a brand called “Hi-Proteen,” a soy-based product.
- Joe Weider of the Weider Fitness empire.
In the 1950s, the first protein supplements began to be marketed. Egg protein was an early introduction and was popular with bodybuilders seeking to increase muscle mass. Whey protein was next, it also appealed to those who wanted to build muscle. Whey remains the most popular form of protein powder to this day. The quality and types of whey proteins vary greatly, depending on where it’s sourced and how it’s processed.
Recently plant-based protein powders have been gaining in popularity, including soy, pea protein, hemp, pumpkin, rice, and quinoa.
Ironically, there was a time, when whey was considered a useless by-product from the cheesemaking process. Today, this “waste” is as good as gold as there is a robust market.
You can meet your protein requirement by consuming real foods, such as:
These and other animal-based proteins are considered complete proteins as they contain all the essential amino acids required by your body.
Other protein sources are considered incomplete proteins as they do not contain all nine essential amino acids.
Below are some excellent examples of great sources of protein for your meal planning:
Food Source Serving Size Grams of Protein
Tuna, Salmon, Haddock, 3 ounces 21
Turkey 3 ounces 19
Chicken 3 ounces 19
Greek Yogurt, Plain 6 ounces 17
Cottage Cheese ½ cup 14
Cooked Beans ½ cup 8
Whole Milk 1 cup 8
Nuts, various ¼ cup 7
Egg 1 whole 6
Athletes and nutritionists have an ongoing debate as to whether protein supplements are necessary, and the recommended amount of protein. Nutritionists believe that protein requirements can and should be met through whole food sources. We tend to agree to a point, however, contend there is a time, and a place, where the convenience of protein powder to supplement your food intake is warranted.
In the previous segment, we mentioned the essential amino acids. Of 20 amino acids necessary for life, your body produces 11 of them. The other nine are known as essential amino acids which must come from your diet in the form of dietary protein. If you are consuming adequate quantities of animal protein meeting this essential amino acid requirement is achievable. Let us reiterate, whey protein is, in fact, a complete protein containing all the essential aminos.
As you can see protein is necessary for numerous bodily functions. Whether you want to gain/maintain lean muscle, lose weight, recover from strength training, or simply maintain good health, you’ll need to get your recommended amount of protein regularly, from food, or with supplementation.
Today we have multiple options for protein supplementation; whey concentrate, whey isolate, grass-fed whey, casein, collagen, plant-based powders, hemp, and soy, as well as protein bars, cookies, and bites; not to mention real food.
So, which is best to help you achieve your recommended daily intake of protein? In fact, do you know what your daily requirement is?
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The RDA is the amount of a nutrient you need to meet your basic nutritional requirements. To determine your RDA, you can multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36.
The issue of Protein intake has been a source of considerable controversy between registered dieticians, nutritionists, scientific researchers and, athletes. There is a great deal of confusion regarding the optimal amount of protein. Many RDs and nutritionists contend we consume too much protein.
Conversely, we contend that the RDA provides too little protein, not too much and that taking in up to twice the RDA of protein “is a safe and effective range.” At double the RDA, you would consume roughly 15% to 25% of your caloric intake in protein. Consider that on a keto diet about 20% of calories come from protein, and Keto is a high-fat, moderate protein, and low-carb diet.
Athletes have long contended that high-protein diets improve performance and increase muscle mass. Scientific data seems to support that endurance athletes need at least 0.54 - 0.64 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, while strength athletes need at least 0.77 - 0.82 grams per pound.
One caveat to the increased protein consumption is that when exceeding your specific requirements, the excess is either converted to glucose or stored as excess fat.
There are several different methods to judge protein quality:
- BV, Bioavailability
- The amino acid profile
- Additional nutrient ingredients
The BV score indicates how much protein is absorbed and retained in the body (the remaining protein is eliminated). A BV score is measured versus a high-quality protein source such as egg protein. Egg protein provides the baseline of 100 while other types of protein are rated on a scale of 1 – 100 with 70 being considered a quality protein. Higher BV scores should translate to better absorption and utilization of protein in the body. Also, this increase in BV may increase the release of IGF-1, which, can stimulate muscle growth.
The PDCAAS (protein digestibility corrected amino acids score) measures whether a protein is complete or incomplete. Each individual amino acid is measured. If even one amino is deficient, it will impact the rating negatively. This quality measurement ranks the essential amino acid content compared to the human requirements. A protein is limited by its lowest amino acid score. Proteins from animal sources tend to score better on both tests.
The additional nutritional ingredients method monitors other nutrients in the formulation such as fatty acids, phytonutrients, fiber, digestive enzymes, etc.
Many users suffer from gas and bloating when using inferior whey protein concentrate due to lactose intolerance. Whey protein concentrate can range anywhere from 35% protein to 80% protein. Lower protein percentages frequently correlate with higher lactose content. Many whey isolates are lactose-free, which eliminates digestive issues significantly.
So which source of protein powder is right for you, whey, casein, collagen, egg, soy, or plant-based?
Soy, derived from soybeans, does have a complete amino profile, yet many athletes will avoid it due to phytates which can decrease mineral absorption. The phytoestrogen in Soy continues to spark debates about its conversion to estrogen in men, although the scientific data doesn’t seem to support this urban legend.
Plant-based has gained in popularity; however, taste and their incomplete amino profile are limiting.
Collagen has its place, depending upon its type. Collagen Type I and Type III are great for hair, skin, and nails. These types are thought to minimize or eliminate fine lines and wrinkles, improve elasticity, correct nail beds, and thicken fine hair, while Type II is for joint and cartilage support.
Over the years egg protein powder has decreased in popularity as Whey has surpassed egg in efficacy for both muscle building and weight control.
This leaves us whey and/or casein as the top choices for most athletes. Both are high quality protein sources with high PDCAAS and BV scores. The difference between the two is the rate of absorption and digestion in the body. As we’ll see in the next chapter, these two factors greatly influence the type and timing of your supplementation.
A useful way to categorize protein powders is the timing for digestibility. We’ll create two groups, the slower digesting proteins, and faster absorbing proteins. In general, slower digesting proteins would be whole food sources such as cottage cheese, egg, beef, fish, chicken and supplemental protein powders containing milk and casein. The faster absorbing proteins include whey isolate, whey concentrate, and protein hydrolysates. Why is this important and how do we use the information? Primarily in the timing of when you use each type of protein for optimal results.
A.M. If you train in the morning, specifically strength training, we recommend you take on protein before heading to the gym. Consider that overnight your body has been fasting for hours and depleting nutrients. A relatively fast absorbing whey isolate, whey blend, or hydrolysate is the ideal choice.
One of the most important meals of the day is your post-workout meal. After training, whether aerobic or anaerobic, the body and muscles are primed for nutrient uptake. This is the ideal time for a fast digesting liquid protein, for ease, convenience, and speed of digestion. A whey isolate, whey blend, or hydrolysate would be ideal.
For a potent post workout, you might consider adding rapidly digesting, high glycemic index carbohydrates, to shuttle nutrients to the muscles, glutamine, an amino acid known for its recovery capabilities, and BCAAs which independently stimulate protein synthesis. Post-workout meals and shakes should be of the low-fat variety as fats are known to slow digestion and nutrient delivery.
P.M. We also recommend you consume protein before going to bed. You will be fasting the next seven to eight hours and you want to preclude the body from using all its stored energy during the night. This is the ideal time for a slow digesting protein, one that releases its nutrients over several hours. So, before bed we suggest a milk protein, preferably one that includes casein, or a blend of whey isolate and concentrates with casein. In a pinch, a cup of cottage cheese, preferably low-fat, is a viable option for your late-night protein snack.
Your protein intake should come from a variety of sources. In this eBook we’ve reviewed different protein sources from whole foods, both complete and incomplete proteins, we also mentioned the plethora of supplement options; different protein sources for shakes, in addition to bars, bites, cookies, even coffee creamers, and chips. Each of these options have different amino acid, vitamin, and mineral profiles. To ensure you meet your macro and micronutrient requirements, we suggest you consume a variety of different types of protein.
Athletes seek protein sources that are both convenient and require minimal preparation, particularly for their pre and/or post workout shakes. Convenience is essential when you’re packing a bag as you head off to the gym before starting your day at the office. Protein supplements contain high-quality proteins that require no meal planning short of remembering to grab your powder or protein bar on the way out the door. In addition, since these protein powders are often fortified with vitamins and minerals, they may provide a natural source of other nutrients necessary for optimal nutrition and growth. And the variety story continues. In addition to the various types of protein supplements there are an untold number of flavors, and flavor combinations, even if it seems retailers stock their shelves primarily with chocolate and vanilla.
Another option for your protein fix that is gaining in popularity is ready-to-drink. Numerous national brands now offer ready-to-drink varieties in supermarkets, convenience stores, drug stores, and even in the gym. If you are searching for the leanest and cleanest protein, beware of the protein RTD. Many varieties contain extra ingredients as well as added sugars. And a final word of caution, you don’t want to leave your ready-to-drink in the car on a hot summer day.
The Shake Library is providing solutions to two of the issues all athletes face in meeting their protein requirements; variety and convenience.
First TSL is offering eight, great tasting, and unique flavors including Apple Cinnamon Roll, Grandma’s Secret Snickerdoodle, Chocolate Mudslide, Butter Caramel Sucker, Whipped Cream Dream, Captain Crunch, Fruity Cereal, and House of Waffles for unsurpassed flavor options. Just imagine the recipe potential, which will be the subject of an upcoming eBook. And, The Shake Library is the first supplement company that provides athletes with the opportunity to discover their favorite flavor in a single serving or micro-tub format before investing in a large tub of flavorful regret.
How does TSL’s offering work? Go online to www.TheShakeLibrary.com and build your case of single serving bottles with any combination of the 8 unique flavors to choose from. Place your order and check your doorstep. Then simply shake and enjoy.
Each bottle contains 25 grams of an ultra-clean, limited ingredient, whey protein isolate and concentrate blend, without any liquid. You can easily pack and travel without the need to refrigerate, worry about preservatives, or the sludge you may encounter on the bottom of other single serving protein shakes. Simply add water, milk, or your beverage of choice, shake, and enjoy.
In preparation for this eBook, we scoured the internet to determine the negatives associated with protein supplementation. Some detractors and researchers say that too much protein can cause nausea, cramps, headaches, fatigue, and bloat. They also warn of dehydration when you eat too much protein. We concur that if you increase protein consumption, you should also increase your water intake. And, there are indicators that additional protein can make the kidneys work harder, which could be an issue for individuals with a history of kidney disease. Research, however, has not produced substantive data to support these theories.
Beyond that, and a few mentions of unscrupulous manufacturers that made powders with unsafe levels of heavy metals, the information was quite positive. In this day and age, any product or category with this much positive press is certainly doing something very right.
That said, with an abundance of caution, we recommend you consult with your medical professional before revising your diet and increasing your protein supplementation.
We hope this short eBook has delivered on our promise as a definitive guide to protein powders. If you have additional questions about proteins and protein powders or would like to learn more about The Shake Library and our products feel free to visit our website at https://www.theshakelibrary.com.