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Protein Powders
By Dave Slagle, General Manager of Paradise Fitness Centers

Protein has been a staple in athlete's diets for years. By now most educated people accept that to build muscie you need to stimulate the muscles efficiently with progressive resistance strength training and consume a diet high in protein. The experts will argue about the optimal level of protein intake. But most bodybuilders I know try to consume 1.0 to 2.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight daily. That means that a 200 lb bodybuilder would consume between 200 to 500 grams of protein daily. That is a pretty broad range but I leave it to the individual to determine his or her optimal intake. This is after all, about protein powders, not about the means to determine your personal protein intake.

There are a few problems with trying to eat all of your protein. The obvious is fat. Lean beefsteak, for example, has about 28 grams of protein and 31 grams of fat per 3.5-ounce serving. A 3.5-ounce salmon steak has about 20 grams of protein and 13 grams of fat. But some protein sources are low in fat. For example, a 3.5-ounce skinless chicken breast has about 26 grams of protein and only 4 grams of fat. Which brings us to taste. How much skinless chicken, turkey or canned waterpacked tuna can you eat? And yet another problem is the preparation and clean up involved with eafing these foods. My point is that for most people protein supplements are low fat, convenient and taste pretty good.

Protein powders have been around for a long time. Milk and egg powders were popular and then casein and caseinates. then it was hydrolysates and isolates of whey. Then it was...Milk and egg blended with casein, caseinates, whey hydrolysates and isolates. We have come so far to get back on track.

Remember your high school science class? No? I'm going to lightly brush the surface of the chemical aspect of protein. Polypeptides are many amino acids linked together. Hydrolysates are proteins that have been broken down into single amino acids, dipeptides (two amino acids linked together) and tripeptides (three amino acids linked together). Free form amino acids are proteins that have been made by a bacterial fermentation process. Due to the transport system of the human intestines, free form aminos are NOT absorbed very efficiently. Free form amino acids cannot elicit many of the human body's physiological responses {i.e. muscle growth). So as far as a supplement goes, free form aminos are worthless. Branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine) are very important. BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids) make up to one third of muscle protein and may be used as energy during intense exercise. So when you look for amino acids look primarily for the BCAAs! Whey proteins are made up of about 25% BCAAs. Most other proteins are polypeptide bonded amino acids.

Now where were we? OH YEAH! Protein Powders! Most supplement companies make whey isolate, a whey concentrate, milk and egg powder, etc. But one of the more important factors is often overlooked. TASTE! How many companies make a protein powder that actually tastes good? I know that taste is a matter of opinion and I readily admit that the powders today taste a lot better than those available 10 to 15 years ago. If the bodybuilders I know were only concerned with taste, they would drink OREO cookie shakes from JACK IN THE BOX restaurants. Still I think supplement companies need to put a lot more time into developing a great tasting, high quality protein powder. Sure there are a few out there and I, of course, have my favorites, which I will share with you.

I remember that several years ago my friend Brett was working as a salesman for one of the big supplement companies. I was managing a small chain of supplement stores and called Brett to order some product. I was using one of those high static cordless phones to make the call. The product I was ordering had just started to grow in popularity and more flavors had just become available. During our conversation Brett mentioned that the protein powder now came in tuna flavor. "Tuna flavored?" I started laughing. "You guys are a bunch of geniuses," I told Brett. I could picture some of that company's R&D people walking around the gym in their lab coats. On their clipboards they would be taking notes of the foods bodybuilders eat the most. TUNA! They would all agree that bodybuilders must love the taste of tuna because so many of them were eating it. "We will have the best selling protein powder if we make it tuna flavored!" they would declare. Brett was laughing so hard his headset phone fell off. He told me I was deaf because he had said "two new flavors" not "tuna flavored." We both laughed for a while then I asked him to pass my tuna idea on to his R&D department. I guess that they're still working on it. My next big idea for them will be cottage cheese capsules.

Which Whey for Muscle Growth?

Today most protein powders contain whey, either in an isolate or concentrate. Whey protein is the byproduct of manufacturing cheese. The raw powder usually has a bad taste and smell mostly due to the fact that it was denatured during the heat filtering process. Most of the whey powders today have been filtered several times and contan a high amount of flavorings and sweeteners. There was a time when whey protein was not advertised as the best protein. In fact whey protein was not available as a supplement.

My friend Bill Baron grew up working at his father Allen's supplement manufacturing plant (the Allen Baron Company). ABCO produces many fine products including the Bill Pearl line of supplements. Bill Baron told me that as a teenager in the 1960s he remembers his father paying for a disposal company to haul away all the "useless" whey. Years later due to refinements in the filtration processes; whey became a popular supplement due to its high protein content. It went from expensive "trash" to high profit product. Whey protein is about 25% branch chain amino acids, which makes it a favorable choice for athletes. Whey proteins are also absorbed much faster than other proteins. This causes a very favorable anabolic effect. Yet the level of amino acids in the foodstream drops quickly, causing the anabolic effects to be short-lived. Also because the whey is easier to digest only about half the protein gets to the muscle. The rest may be used as a readily available souce of energy. The fast absorption and inefficiency of whey can cause bloating, gas and diarrhea. Many bodybuilders misdiagnose their problems with whey as lactose intolerance.

The Big Lie: Whey protein is all you will ever need for muscle growth.

What? How can that be a lie? Almost every magazine advertisement I see for protein is extolling the benefits of whey! Well, as I already pointed out, we know that whey protein is the FASTEST protein source. Using whey protein as your sole source of protein is likely to condition your body to use protein as an energy source. Whey protein may be the best at increasing the profit for supplement manufacturers. I have only seen one company, CHEMICAL NUTRITION/DORIAN YATES APPROVED, that has addressed the problems of whey protein isolates in their advertising. If you had to choose a single source of protein, other than cottage cheese, micellar casein is the only logical choice. So should you stop using whey? NO, but you should look for a whey protein with glycomacropeptides or one that is blended with another protein source like albumin, casein or caseinates. Glycomacropeptides are one solution because they slow the absorption of whey. Still I believe that anyone who wants the absolute best protein powder, bar none, will choose blended proteins. Optimally your protein powder will be a blend of micellar casein, whey concentrate, albumin and caseinates.

My Favorite Protein Powders

1. High 5
2. Profusion
3. Pro Peptide
4. Max Pro
5. Met Max
6. Lean Gainer
7. Muscle Milk
8. Met-RX
9. Tri Protein
10. Pro Blend 55


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