After siphoning through several research papers and experimenting with numerous protein formula’s I found the answer…
“What is the best protein drink for gaining muscle?”
I will briefly go over common protein powders that are readily available and used by most health and fitness enthusiast. I WILL NOT expand too much on each type of protein as this article isn’t a long winded fact sheet.
Most people involved in the health/fitness and Bodybuilding industry are all too familiar with whey protein, namely whey protein concentrate (WPC) & whey protein isolate (WPI). Both of these whey proteins are considered “fast digesting” and have a high biological value (100-104). WPC & WPI are typically used pre & post training or anytime someone needs a fast and efficient protein source in their body. Most people will opt for a whey isolate over whey concentrate due to lactose intolerances which initiates uncomfortable bloating & GI distress.
Also highly sought after are the “slower digesting proteins” such as calcium caseinate and micellar casein, with a slightly lower biological value than WPC &WPI (77). These milk proteins are highly regarded as “night time” proteins for their slow and steady amino acid delivery.
Recently, peptide based proteins have generated a lot of buzz due to their potential to be rapidly taken up into the blood stream, virtually by-passing the digestion process. Whey protein hydrolysate and casein hydrolysate (PeptoPro) are two proteins that fall into this category. These hydrolyzed versions of whey and casein contain fragments of protein chains composed of 2-3 peptides (di & tripeptides) which are instantaneously absorbed and elevate blood
amino acid levels sky high. These ‘hydro-proteins’ are very impressive, but the bitter taste and poor palatability will hold consumers back from making these options a mainstay in their supplement arsenal.
Whey versus Casein-
A recent study compared both whey and casein and their effects on muscle protein synthesis (MPS ) following resistance training.
The study used 17 healthy, young males as test subjects. They were devoid of medical ailments and were all in great physical condition. The subjects were randomized to participate in either 2 protein trials in randomized order or one control trial.
Protein trial group, 9 men and control trial group, 8 men.
The subjects came into the test facility in a fasted state and underwent heavy resistance training consisting of 10 sets of 8 repetitions at a predetermined load corresponding to 80% of 1RM.
Post exercise, (within 5 minutes) the participants consumed either water, casein or whey protein.
The amount of protein ingested was 20 grams dissolved into 400 ml of water.
Some cool observations were noted –
Researchers found that whey protein -
- Spiked IGF-1concentrations instantly and peaked at 30 minutes
- Spiked insulinconcentrations from 15 – 60 minutes
- Elicited astronger myofibrillar FSR increase immediately post exercise
- Induced a stronger protein synthesis responsein the early post workout period compared to casein
Researchers found that casein protein –
- Did not have profound effects on insulin release (compared to whey)
- Elevated myofibrillar FSRsteadily over 6h period opposed to whey
- Had better anti-catabolic effects than whey protein
On a side note:
The same study also touched base on some fascinating information regarding micellar casein and whey & casein hydrolysates.
Whey hydrolysate elicited an even greater initial spike in muscle protein synthesis FSR than regular whey.
Micellar casein elicited an even slower and longer lasting muscle protein synthesis FSR compared to regular casein.
The very slow micellar casein and the very fast whey hydrolysate results in SIMILAR muscle protein synthesis response in the 6h postprandial period, with the whey hydrolysate having the largest MPS response in the early stages.
The conclusion of the study was obvious in the fact that whey initially
Casein spiked MPS less abruptly with a prolonged elevation as time passed.
Immediate intake of whey and casein following heavy resistance training in young men results in SIMILAR MPS response over the subsequent 6-h recovery period.
Now, back to the question -- “What is the best protein drink for gaining muscle?”
From my research and personal, empirical experience, I believe it is in one’s best interest to utilize a protein supplement that contains a ratio of 70% cold-filtered whey protein isolate + 20% micellar casein & 10% hydrolyzed whey peptides.
Combining both FAST and SLOW assimilating, high quality protein sources have yielded the best results for me and clients as well. You get the benefit of initial high blood amino acid levels and an insulinotropic response from whey protein isolate & hydrolyzed whey peptides, while the micellar casein sustains blood amino acid levels for up to 6 hours, which elicits an anti-catabolic effect.
From the multitude of studies performed on variations of protein sources and their effects on muscle recovery & muscle protein synthesis, the results point the finger at whey protein over casein. This is convincing enough for me to recommend 80% of a protein blend to be comprised of whey isolates & hydrolysates, giving 20% to micellar casein --- solely for its reliable anti-catabolic effects from sustained blood-amino-acid levels.
*I strongly recommend heading over to www.TrueNutrition.com to build your own customized blended protein formula to enhance your muscle recovery and improve your immune system*
- MPS = Muscle protein synthesis
- FSR = Fractional rate of protein synthesis
- WPC = Whey protein concentrate
- WPI = Whey protein isolate
- BV =Biological Value – The percentage of protein that is absorbed
- Calbet JA, Holst JJ. Gastric emptying, gastric secretion and enterogastrone response after administration of milk proteins or their peptide hydrolysates in humans. Eur J Nutr. 2004 Jun;43(3):127-39. Epub 2004 Jan 6.
- 2. Koopman R, Crombach N, Gijsen AP, Walrand S, Fauquant J, Kies AK, Lemosquet S, Saris WH, Boirie Y, van Loon LJ. Ingestion of a protein hydrolysate is accompanied by an accelerated in vivo digestion and absorption rate when compared with its intact protein. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jul;90(1):106-15. Epub 2009 May 27.
- Tang JE, Moore DR, Kujbida GW, Tarnopolsky MA, 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. J Appl Physiol. 2009 Sep;107(3):987-92. Epub 2009 Jul 9.
- Paul J. Cribb; Andrew D. Williams; Michael F. Carey; Alan Hayes Full Article Table of Contents for Vol. 16, Iss. 5 The Effect of Whey Isolate and Resistance Training on Strength, Body Composition, and Plasma Glutamine. IJSNEM, 16(5), October 2006, Copyright © 2006
- Beelen M, Koopman R, Gijsen AP, Vandereyt H, Kies AK, Kuipers H, Saris WH, van Loon LJ. Protein coingestion stimulates muscle protein synthesis during resistance-type exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Jul;295(1):E70-7. Epub 2008 Apr 22.