Protein: What Choice Is Right For You?

With so many protein supplements on the market today, knowing what to look for is half the battle.  Most of the time without looking at the ingredients all you read on the label is all the great things the product can do for you.  This article which you are about to read will hopefully shed some light on the topic and help you to understand what the protein on the back of your container means and does.

There are some simple facts which you must know in order to understand this article.  Protein is the building block of muscle—without it, your tissues cannot repair themselves from intense training.  There are four calories of energy per gram of protein.  Also in the mix are something called Amino Acids.  Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are essential amino acids, ones you must get from your diet because your body cannot produce them by itself. 

These essential amino acids are:

  • Tryptophan
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanone
  • Threonine
  • Valine
  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine

Then there are non-essential amino acids:

  • Tyrosine
  • Glycine
  • Cysteine
  • Praline
  • Serine
  • Aspartic Acid

The function of protein is to help support lean muscle tissue, aid in the production of hormones and enzymes, and support immune function.  People who exercise have a need a higher daily protein requirement than those who don’t workout.  Protein also helps speed up the metabolism since it takes energy to maintain lean muscle mass at rest. 


Whey Protein:

Whey protein is highly absorbable and provides the highest concentration of the leucine, isoleucine, and valine.  They play a key role in the muscle-building process and also support immune function.

Whey concentrate is one of the least expensive forms of protein powder you can find on the market today.  Some people have a hard time digesting concentrates which leave them bloated and gassy.  Some people live with it, and some people look for something else.

Whey isolates are one of the quicker absorbing proteins available on the market today, although pricey, it isn’t the most expensive.  You will find almost all of the containers of isolates have very low if any amounts of carbohydrates in them. 

Hydrolyzed whey protein has some of the benefits of whey while providing highly absorbable peptides that can have anabolic effects.  This is by far the most expensive protein you will be able to find. 

Casein Protein:

Casein protein is a slow digesting protein.  It can be slowly absorbed for 5-7 hours which makes it a great choice for a pre-bed supplement.  Casein protein is also a good idea to use during the day to keep you full and to keep a constant supply of protein available between meals or snacks if you have a long period of time between them.  The glutamine content in casein is very high which can help increase recovery and boost immune function. 


Milk Protein Isolate:

Milk protein contains both whey and casein proteins.  This protein is full of amino acids from both whey and casein protein. 

Soy Protein Isolate:

Soy protein is a vegetarian source of protein.  It has been shown to enhance thyroid hormone output, which helps increase the metabolism and aids in fat loss.  The isolavones found in the soy can help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.  Soy is also loaded with glutamine, arginine, and BCAAs. 

There are forms of soy protein concentrate found in soybeans, tofu, and soymilk.  Theses are not the same as soy protein isolates.  Soy products can be estrogenic in men and can cause water retention and bloating.


Egg Albumin:

Cooked egg whites are a good source of egg albumin.  Egg albumin which has been known as the traditional protein has an amazing amino acid profile and is still one of the best whole food protein sources that you can get.  Not only are they good for you, but eggs are relatively inexpensive.

You will also find some protein blends containing egg albumin due to its great profile.  It is not uncommon to find it in meal replacements or sold solely as a protein powder.


Some Great Whole Food Protein Choices


Chicken Breast:

Chicken breast is a relatively low-fat, high quality protein source.  It contains high doses of BCAAs and has a good potassium-to-sodium ratio (which can positively influence water balance).  It is always best to try and get in as many whole foods as possible before using protein supplements.  You can make many different platters with chicken which makes it very versatile come meal time.

Top Sirloin Steak:

Top sirloin is a lean protein source with an excellent potassium-to-sodium ratio, it provides iron and good amounts of the amino acids alanine and lysine, which can help support energy and lean body mass.  It also contains a great amount of B12, selenium, zinc, and phosphorous.  Again, if you have it available, whole foods are a much better choice than protein supplements.


This is another lean protein source that provides an excellent amount of BCAAs. Canned versions are not only convenient, but they are also inexpensive sources of protein.  They also sell tuna in sealed packages as well.  Tuna can be put on crackers or in a salad or even ate straight out of the can/package.  Tuna is a very nutrient dense choice having several minerals and vitamins found in it including niacin, selenium, B6, thiamin, phosphorous, potassium, and magnesium.  It also has omega-3 fatty acids in it which are the good fats that we all need in our diet which help with cardiovascular health. 


Salmon has a high amount of BCAAs in as well as being loaded with omega-3 fatty acids.  Salmon is a great source of protein and one of the better fish you can eat in terms of health benefits.  It is great for cardiovascular health.  Salmon is also loaded with minerals and vitamins such as selenium, niacin, B12, phosphorous, magnesium, and B6. 


Nuts such as cashews, walnuts, and almonds (just to name a few) are not only a great snack full of protein, but they also have many health benefits.  Nuts help lower cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease.  They are also loaded with vitamins and minerals which add to their already outstanding profile.

Author:  Matt Weik

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