The Truth Behind Hydrolysed Protein | What Is It Good For?

When did buying protein get flooded with so much choice? And even the good old trusty whey protein has now been broken down into different types! However, each one has a specific process in the body and can fuel your workouts in a different way. We can appreciate that it might sound a bit scientific, but hydrolysed protein is an excellent form of protein to use. This article will give you the lowdown on hydrolysed protein, including what it is, what it does and what it’s good for.

What Does Hydrolysed Mean?

So, let’s start with what hydrolysed protein actually is. ‘Hydrolysed’ means that the protein has been partially broken down, making it more easy to digest. Some people refer to it as pre-digested, which sounds a bit gross, however, that doesn’t mean that another person has digested your protein before you!

The process of hydrolysing simply involves adding proteolytic enzymes when making the powder, which will increase the speed your body can transport the amino acids to your muscles. This causes an increase in protein synthesis from an increase in amino acids reaching your muscles, which causes the muscle fibres to rebuild faster, to get you refuelled in time for your next workout.

Can You Get Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein?

Hydrolysed protein seems to be most popular in whey and casein variations, although some vegetable proteins have started to go through a similar process. However, there seems to be a longer process to break down the proteins and the use of chemicals make it less beneficial for the general user looking to rebuild muscles. Therefore, vegetable protein blends contain a vegetable isolate version with added digestion enzymes in the blend.

hydrolysed protein

Hydrolysed Protein vs. Isolate

Now, in comparison to other forms of whey, hydrolysed whey protein has a higher percentage of leucine content compared to isolate and concentrate. Leucine has been linked to the regeneration of muscle fibres and particularly increases in muscle size and density. It also prevents muscle breakdown – even when you’re in a calorie deficit.

Here’s where it gets really interesting: when casein protein goes through the hydrolysing process, it acts a little more like whey protein in terms of speed of muscle-protein synthesis – as well as keeping its high-yielding, long-release properties we all know and love. It’s also been found to improve endurance exercise performance when combined with fast-acting carbohydrates, making athletes faster when it’s taken during a session [1].

Recent research (2010) has found that whey hydrolysate (hydrolysed whey) was better than whey isolate when it came to a faster recovery from a high intensity muscle damage protocol [2]. This would mean that if you’re looking for a speedy recovery between training sessions, or before a long day at work, hydrolysed whey could be the way to go. Interestingly, when this was taken further and analysed for insulin response, the hydrolysed version gave an increased response [3].

If you don’t know much about insulin in the body, the hormone causes the nutrients in the blood stream to be forced into storage areas – i.e. the free amino acids in the blood get pushed into the muscles where they can be used, stored and give you a great boost in muscle size and density.

Additional Benefits of Hydrolysed Protein

The benefits of hydrolysed protein go further than muscle building alone. Hydrolysed collagen protein can go a long way to look after the rest of your body, including your hair, skin, and joints. The broken down amino acids from the hydrolysing process can help to enrich the components that make up the rest of your body – parts of which are made up of collagen which cannot be replenished without dietary intake. As you use some of cleansing products to your hair and skin, this can dry out the skin, where collagen intake can push the lift back into you.

From a performance point of view, hydrolysed collagen protein can improve your joints and reduce the likelihood of injury by keeping the ligaments and tendons strong.

Take Home Message

At the end of the day, the most important factor is increasing the daily protein intake to meet required levels, however, supplementing your diet with hydrolysed protein can help you to: improve the speed of your recovery, which is important if you are training multiple times per day (whey); improve your intra-workout performance (casein); improve your hair, joints, nails and skin (collagen).

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.

[1] Saunders, M. J., Moore, R. W., Kies, A. K., Luden, N. D., & Pratt, C. A. (2009). Carbohydrate and protein hydrolysate coingestion’s improvement of late-exercise time-trial performance. International Journal of Sport Nutrition,19(2), 136.

[2] Buckley, Jonathan D. et al. (2010) Supplementation with a whey protein hydrolysate enhances recovery of muscle force-generating capacity following eccentric exercise. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport , 13 :1 , 178 – 181

[3] Power O, Hallihan A, Jakeman P (2009) Human insulinotropic response to oral ingestion of native and hydrolysed whey protein. Amino Acids. 37: 333-339.

Simon Cushman

Simon Cushman

Personal Trainer & Lecturer

Simon started his fitness journey from a young age, and was playing sport as soon as he could roll a ball. This pushed him to compete in a variety of sports from rugby to squash.

After completing an MSc in Strength & Conditioning, alongside a PT qualification, he gained an academic role at the University of Chester. From lecturing to research-based studies, his applied role caters to both team and individual sports.

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