Supplements: Part 1 - Protein Choices

The sports nutrition industry is huge ($5.9 billion in the U.S. in 2015 alone). This series of articles is designed to educate you on different types of products, navigate through the hype, and help you make informed decisions on your nutrition supplements.

This first article is on the common protein supplements currently on the market. We will look at the different composition and sources of protein supplements.

When looking at the label of a protein supplement, you might see that a protein is either a concentrate or an isolate. This indicates the composition of the protein, or how the protein was extracted from its source. Sometimes a supplement will contain a mixture of both concentrate and isolate proteins.

Concentrates: When the protein and its source are separated, the process delivers a protein concentrate. In whey protein, this means separating the milk liquid from the nutrients inside. The protein and trace fats are turned into a powder, which is the concentrate. This form of protein is rich in micronutrients, because it has received limited processing and your body can absorb it very well. High quality whey protein concentrates can be processed in a non-denatured state. Non-denatured proteins are digestion and gut friendly, which means less bloating and discomfort. On the downside, concentrates tend to have 5 percent or so less protein per serving than isolates.

Isolates: Isolates undergo the same process as concentrates, and then they take it one step further. The protein is processed again, removing lactose (good news for those that are lactose intolerant). This leaves a higher protein concentration of around 90 percent depending on the brand. The downside of isolates is that they have been stripped of almost all micronutrients and are denatured in the processing. This affects the absorption rate and can have a negative impact on gut health.

Whey: Whey protein comes from milk and is one of the most popular protein supplement sources. It is typically less expensive than other protein sources. Whey is easily digested and absorbed. This means your body is able to use the nutrients it provides. Whey is also a complete protein (has all the amino acids) and is proven to promote lean muscle growth and development. Because whey contains lactose, those with an intolerance won't be able to digest the protein as well and may have unpleasant side affects (bloating, gas, etc.).

Current products in the CFF store containing Whey: Progenex Recovery, Progenex More Muscle, Grind Diesel

Casein: Like whey, casein is also taken from milk. However, casein is generally only available as an isolate. Your body absorbs casein much more slowly than whey, so it's not ideal for post workout. Instead, many people use it as a meal replacement or as a snack they take before bed to up their daily intake of protein.

Current products in the CFF store containing Casein: Progenex Cocoon

Soy: Soy protein is plant-based and popular with vegans. It is a complete protein and lacks lactose (good for those that are lactose intolerant). A major downside is that soy supplements tend to be highly processed, and when taken in very high amounts can affect hormone levels in the body.

Rice: Another plant-based protein, rice is high in fiber, complex carbohydrates and vitamin B. Rice is also easy to digest, ensuring the supplement doesn't go to waste. However, rice is not a complete protein, meaning it's missing some amino acids.

Pea: Pea protein has received a lot of attention lately as a plant source that's rich in glutamic acid - this helps converts carbs into energy. Like rice protein, pea protein is highly digestible. Pea protein lacks certain amino acids and must be paired with other proteins (such as rice) to provide a complete nutrient makeup.

Hemp: Hemp has more amino acids than rice or pea, but is still incomplete. It's also high in fiber and omega-6 fatty acid.

Remember: when choosing a protein source to supplement with, you should select the source that gives you the most benefits. Complete proteins that are as pure as possible with little added sugar are your best bet.

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