The Case for Combining Whey, Casein, and Soy Protein


By Jeff Volek, PhD
Mar 25, 2013

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In the battle of the best protein sources, new research points to the possibility that a blend offers the best approach.  Whey protein gets a lot of attention because gram for gram it has more branched chain amino acids, especially leucine, and it is digested quickly.  These qualities result in a rapid and pronounced increased in muscle protein synthesis.  Thus whey is an excellent choice for a protein supplement, not to mention many other favorable health effects.  But the one down-side of whey is that the anabolic effect is short-lived, on the order of an hour or two.  Slower digesting proteins like casein and soy may therefore blend nicely with whey to promote a longer lasting anabolic effect.  They also have a different amino acid profile, and may promote antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.  Therefore, it might be of value to combine both these high quality protein sources, or at least that's what researchers hypothesized.  

Researchers had young healthy participants perform a single bout of resistance exercise and then 1 hour later consume either whey protein or a blend of whey, casein, and soy.  The supplements both contained 19 grams of protein.  The blend consisted of 50% casein, 25% whey, and 25% soy.  Both supplements equally increased muscle protein synthesis during the 2 hr post-exercise time period.  From 2 to 4 hr post-exercise only the protein blend increased protein synthesis.  Thus, the effects of whey protein alone were not sustained over a 4 hr period after exercise.  Does this mean you should change your protein supplement?  Results of this study are consistent with the large amount of research supporting the superiority of whey consumed right after exercise. But it highlights the limitation of using whey as the only protein source when examined over a longer time frame.  Based on these new findings it would be prudent to either combine whey with a slower digesting protein source or consume a meal containing protein during the first couple hours after exercise.   


Reidy PT, Walker DK, Dickinson JM, Gundermann DM, Drummond MJ, Timmerman KL, Fry CS, Borack MS, Cope MB, Mukherjea R, Jennings K, Volpi E, Rasmussen BB. Protein Blend Ingestion Following Resistance Exercise Promotes Human Muscle Protein Synthesis. J Nutr. 2013 Jan 23. [Epub ahead of print]



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