Protein has long been recognised as an essential dietary nutrient to assist and promote healthy living. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) acutely recognises the fact that protein helps the body grow and repair, a fundamental nutrient considering our bodies are continually growing and evolving to meet the demands of our environment.
With the growing trend of keeping fit and trying to improve ones physical appearance, protein has been thrown in to the spotlight as a nutrient that is even more essential to those who exercise on a regular basis. Various studies and key figures within the health industry have concluded that the physically active population require greater amounts of protein in their diet than those who do not exercise. Whilst in an ideal world we would be able to consume enough protein in our normal daily diet to satisfy our needs, this isn’t always the case and we often need to turn to other dietary sources to fulfil our quota. The athletic population, now educated to know the importance of protein, often use supplements to boost their daily protein intake. These can come in various forms and sources for the all important additional protein content. The most popular form of protein supplementation is that of the protein shake. A quick, convenient and often great tasting solution that offers high protein content, low carbohydrates and fat, they also offer highly bioavailable protein sources which provide great results.
A quick example of the dietary needs of the athletic population is shown in the table below. This should give you a rough idea of how much protein one needs to consume:
Endurance athlete: 1.2-1.4 g per kg body weight/day
Strength and power athlete: 1.6-1.8 g per kg body weight/day
Athletes on a weight gain programme: 1.8-2.0 g per kg body weight/day
Using the above table we can see that an average male of around 70kg body weight will require up to 126g of protein per day, to satisfy his strength and power training routine. When you consider that the average grilled chicken breast contains around 25g of protein, that’s a lot of chicken that you would need to eat everyday! When a protein shake can easily contain the same amount of protein as a chicken breast, you can instantly see the attraction and convenience of a protein supplement.
Without question, the most popular forms of protein shake are those sourced from dairy including whey protein and milk protein. These forms of protein offer neutral tasting shakes that can be quite delicious when combined with specific flavours and they also offer excellent nutritional benefits. The key to any protein shake is the protein content, the bioavailability (how well it passes through your digestive system) and the amino acid profile. However, dairy sourced protein is not the ideal solution for everyone. Certain diets will not allow dairy products whilst some individuals suffer allergic reactions to dairy meaning alternative sources are required. There are also some people who just simply don’t like or agree with dairy produce.
Alternative protein sources have been available for a number of years and have gradually evolved from healthy food choices for those with limited protein diets, such as vegetarians, to excellent sources of protein for the athletic population. Some of the most popular non-dairy protein supplements are available from Myprotein® and include Soy Protein, Brown Rice Protein, Pea Protein, Hemp Protein and Egg Protein.
This is one of the best alternatives to dairy based protein as it provides an excellent amino acid profile, very high protein content and also tastes quite neutral like dairy. Soy Protein Isolate is made from 100% NON-GMO defatted soy beans using a stringent process which removes a vast majority of the fat and carbohydrate content. The resulting product yields colossal 90% protein content with minimal fat and carbohydrate, whilst being completely free of lactose. Soy protein has been at the wrong end of some pretty unfair hearsay with regards to its effect on hormone production. A largely unsupported myth suggests that soy protein goes some way to increasing your levels of oestrogen which is something most male athletes would want to avoid. However, a recent review of studies using soy protein in an athletic situation found no evidence that oestrogen levels were increased as a result of using soy protein.
Soy protein absorbs slightly more slowly than whey protein, meaning you will receive a more prolonged supply of protein and amino acids. This makes it an ideal protein supplement for use at any time of day, especially in between meals. Much more than just an ingredient for a protein shake, soy protein can be used for as an alternative for flour in cooking, producing high protein foods that are extremely low in fat – a bodybuilder’s dream come true!
In addition to the protein content, its other valuable constituents include saponins, phytosterols, and isoflavones. Saponins support healthy immune system function and combine with cholesterol to reduce its absorption into the body through the small intestine. Phytosterols have also been shown to help maintain cholesterol levels already within normal range. Isoflavones in soy not only have exhibited effects as powerful antioxidants, but have been shown to exhibit positive health benefits for both men and women including aiding muscle growth.
Brown Rice Protein
This is a fantastic source of non-dairy protein that is suitable for both vegetarians and vegans, providing a complete amino acid profile with all the essential and branched-chain amino acids. It is highly bioavailable meaning your body is able to digest the protein effectively resulting in greater use by your body, specifically your muscles. Concentrated to a massive 70% protein content, this is a great way to add extra protein to your diet in a condensed and cost effective way. The added beauty of Brown Rice Protein is the fact that it is hypo-allergenic and completely dairy free making it the perfect choice for anyone looking to avoid specific allergens such as wheat, gluten, eggs, dairy and soy. Brown rice protein also contains healthy amounts of fibre, complex carbohydrates and vitamins. Generally viewed as a complex carbohydrate brown rice delivers a broad profile of amino acids, in addition to naturally possessing essential nutrients like thiamin, iron, phosphorus and potassium.
Peas are a rich source of highly bioavailable protein which also offers a very good amino acid profile. Pea Protein Isolate provides a massive 80% protein content, making it another effective method of boosting your daily protein intake. Peas are often classed a superfood, naturally healthy and cholesterol free, containing unique combination of vitamin and minerals. Peas, as part of the legume family, are high in folate, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, calcium, potassium, iron, and B6. The pea is also naturally high in fibre and is a low-cal way to include protein.
Amongst its complete amino acid profile, Pea Protein Isolate is particularly high in the Branched Chain Amino Acids and Arginine. These amino acids are widely touted as being essential for muscle growth.
Hemp has been used as a nutritional food for thousands of years as a great source of protein, essential fatty acids, fibre, carbohydrates and all the essential amino acids. Classed as a superfood, hemp is one of the best plant sources of protein known to man as it provides the full list of amino acids which are essential for growth and tissue repair.
Hemp Protein is sourced from the hemp seeds which are rich in essential nutrients including chlorophyll, magnesium, potassium, sulphur, phytosterols, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, calcium, fibre, histidine, iron, potassium, phosphorus, riboflavin, niacin and thiamine. It is also a good source of omega 3 and 6 fatty essential fatty acids as well as containing GLA, an important and rare fatty acid not often found in plant sources.
Egg protein is used extensively by athletes who are looking for a great quality protein. Years ago, before the evolution of protein powders, bodybuilders were forced to drink egg whites in order to satisfy their high protein diets. Egg protein scores 100 on its biological value, meaning all ingested protein is used by the body which is why it is often referred to as the “perfect protein”. Egg protein is absorbed by the body at a rate in between the fast absorbing whey protein, and the slow absorbing milk protein, making it a good supplement for use throughout the day.
In order to avoid the cholesterol and fat content of full eggs, the most popular form of egg protein supplement is Egg White Powder. Egg whites are nature’s number one source of protein because they are 100% bio-available. This means they are absorbed fully by the body with none of the vital amino acids going to waste. All other forms of dietary protein are graded in comparison to egg whites due to their fantastic nutritional content. Egg White Powder has a protein content of around 80% and includes a fantastic amino acid profile.
To ensure your body makes the most of the protein you consume, it is important to get your protein intake from a number of different sources. Whilst some sources contain excellent amino acid profiles, they will all have different profiles, and on this basis it is important that you mix your protein sources throughout the day. Lastly, with non dairy based protein supplements, you are providing your body with a fantastic array of nutrients including vitamins, minerals and various other health boosting compounds, a majority of which cannot be supplied by dairy produce.