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Know Your Protein Basics



[Editor's Note: It's always a pleasure to welcome a new nutrition and training expert to our ProSource family. This week, Andrew Jagim, PhD, CSCS, CISSN, steps into the spotlight with his first ProSource feature article. Andrew is Assistant Professor of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, as well as a certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. For his debut, Andrew will be talking the ABCs of protein supplementation. Take it away, Andrew!]

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Leaf through any bodybuilding magazine and you'll find that everyone wants to talk about exotic technologies. The newest pump complexes, fat burners, energy catalysts, and some products that, frankly, defy description.

These products all have their place in the training and nutrition firmament, but none will ever budge the true cornerstone of any nutritional regimen: protein. And yet, many athletes (especially beginners) are a little fuzzy about the details of the what, why, and how of this most essential dietary building block. So let's get back to basics and check in on the bodybuilder's best friend, the humble amino acid.

Why Is Protein Important?
The key to building muscle is combining a well-structured training regimen with adequate nutrients, specifically protein, to maximally stimulate muscle growth. The macronutrient protein is vital to the growth and recovery of skeletal muscle as muscle itself is an assortment of proteins and therefore its potential for growth depends on the availability of proteins from our diet. 

Proteins are chains of amino acids bound together by peptide bonds. These amino acids can be consumed individually or in an intact protein. When consumed, they are digested and broken down into individual amino acids which then enter the bloodstream and contribute to the amino acid "pool" within the body which can then be used to jump start muscle growth

Protein synthesis (aka muscle growth) occurs when we are in a positive state of protein balance, meaning protein synthesis is greater than protein breakdown. A positive protein balance is an indication that muscle is in an anabolic state and amino acids are available which sets the stage for muscle growth over time.  During periods of intense training and weightlifting, rates of protein synthesis are elevated. However, so are rates of protein breakdown. One of the ways to ensure a positive protein balance following training is to make sure you consume protein before and/or after a workout to increase the availability of amino acids.  

What Do I Look For In A Protein?
When choosing the right protein source, it's important to look for a high quality protein to capitalize on its muscle building effects. Typically, proteins are classified as complete or incomplete. A complete protein is one that has all the essential amino acids (which are amino acids that cannot be synthesized within the body). An incomplete protein is one that is lacking a few essential amino acids and therefore may not be as effective in terms of stimulating muscle growth, as research suggests essential amino acids are key players in stimulating protein synthesis. 

What does this mean in terms of muscle growth potential? Well, the higher the quality of protein (that is, more complete), the more essential amino acids it will likely have which can lead to more muscle growth over time. So when choosing a protein supplement look for one that has a high concentration of essential amino acids. 

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NytroWhey Leads the Way
ProSource's NytroWhey Ultra Elite is an example of an excellent protein option that has a high quality protein source with some of the most scientifically advanced protein blends available on the market. NytroWhey Ultra Elite contains whey protein, which is a high quality protein containing all of the essential amino acids. It is also rapidly digested, which makes the amino acids readily available to the muscles after the digestion process. Several research studies have shown that ingesting whey protein following a lifting session can significantly increase muscle protein synthesis, even more so than other forms of protein [1]. For example, Tange et al. found that whey protein resulted in 122% and 31% greater increases in muscle protein synthesis respectively compared to casein and soy, following resistance training [4]. 

Not only are essential amino acids important to look for when choosing a protein supplement, but one essential amino acid in particular appears to have a powerful anabolic effect. Leucine has been shown to act as a powerful stimulator of protein synthesis and therefore is extremely important for building muscle [2, 3].  Whey protein itself has a high leucine content compared to other protein sources and is another reason to go with whey when looking for a protein source. One of the most unique features of ProSource's NytroWhey Ultra Elite is its patented leucine-bound leucine peptide technology Leuvon 590 Leucine Peptides. Luevon contains up to four times the leucine content of other brands, and is processed via Cross Flow Nanofiltration to greatly enhance delivery to muscle tissue.

Formulation Is Key
Another way to select a protein source is to consider how it's formulated. In regards to whey protein alone, there are several formulations available including whey isolate, whey concentrate and hydrolyzed whey. Whey isolate, believe it or not is a more “concentrated” form of whey protein compared to whey concentrate (I know, confusing right?). Whey isolates have less non-protein components such as carbohydrates and fats compared to concentrate formulations making it a more pure source of protein. 

NytroWhey Ultra Elite contains the unique whey isolate formula, Provon, which is manufactured using a microfiltration technique designed to isolate the whey protein and maintain the integrity of the individual protein peptides contained within the whey protein. And what is hydrolyzed whey other than a game-changer in Scrabble? Hydrolyzed whey is a "pre-digested" form of whey isolate which means it is already split into smaller peptide chains to enhance its bioavailabilty and make it easier to be absorbed by the muscle.

NytroWhey Ultra Elite's TherMAX technology is a patented hydrolyzed whey formula that splits the proteins into di and tri-peptides promoting rapid absorption into the muscle.  So when you're looking for a protein supplement, make sure to choose a whey protein hydrosylate to get more bang for your buck to optimize the anabolic response.

Conclusions
Remember, the ingestion of protein before or after a workout is a great way to shift the protein balance into an anabolic state and ensure an optimal environment for muscle growth.  When selecting a protein supplement, make sure to select a high quality protein, such as whey, or one with a high amount of essential amino acids.  Also, remember that hydrolyzed isolates are a great way to guarantee you are getting the ultimate muscle fuel, as they are a more pure and readily available source of amino acids.


References
1.    Hulmi JJ, Lockwood CM, and Stout JR. Effect of protein/essential amino acids and resistance training on skeletal muscle hypertrophy: A case for whey protein. Nutrition & metabolism 7: 51, 2010.
2.    Katsanos CS, Kobayashi H, Sheffield-Moore M, Aarsland A, and Wolfe RR. A high proportion of leucine is required for optimal stimulation of the rate of muscle protein synthesis by essential amino acids in the elderly. American journal of physiology Endocrinology and metabolism 291: E381-387, 2006.
3.    Nair KS, Schwartz RG, and Welle S. Leucine as a regulator of whole body and skeletal muscle protein metabolism in humans. The American journal of physiology 263: E928-934, 1992.
4.    Tang JE, Moore DR, Kujbida GW, Tarnopolsky MA, and Phillips SM. Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men. Journal of applied physiology 107: 987-992, 2009.

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