What is protein?
Protein is a molecule found in all foods which is broken down through digestion into amino acids. The body requires twenty amino acids and can produce eleven of these naturally. However, the subsequent nine are called “essential amino acids” which can only be created through eating protein rich foods.
We use these proteins for a number of beneficial reasons such as hormone production and aiding the transportation of substances in the blood. But the most popular reason for concentrating on what types of protein to digest is to help with the growth, repair and strengthening of muscles.
This is where protein shakes are proving to be very popular and not only with body builders but with all athletes in any sporting field.
Why use protein shakes?
Every time we exercise, minuscule muscle fibres are torn and the appropriate amino acids help fuel the process of recovery and repair to the muscle. It’s this tearing and repairing of the muscle that makes them bigger and stronger.
Protein shakes provide the necessary supplements to a diet to increase the efficiency and speed of this process, particularly if you aren’t receiving enough targeted protein through natural sources. Milk, eggs, meat and fish are excellent providers of essential proteins but the convenience of a quick, large protein hit before, during or after a workout make protein shakes a highly attractive addition to an athletes training regime.
Which protein shake?
It is important to consider which protein based shake is best for you to consume and with hundreds of varieties to pick from it can be a confusing decision. Ultimately it will be dependent on your training goals but practically all protein shakes will contain large amounts of either whey or casein protein.
Whey protein is derived from milk and is the most popular type of protein used in protein shakes. 20% of the protein proportion of whole milk is whey protein and it’s considered to be the best all-round choice in terms of taste, quality and cost.
It is also described as a “fast acting” protein as it is absorbed into the blood and used by body tissues rapidly once digested. This makes it critical for muscle growth and strengthening.
Casein is another milk protein derivative and makes up the other 80% of milk’s protein proportion. In contrast to whey protein, casein protein is considered to be “slow acting” as it is absorbed into the blood stream steadily, slowing down the rate of protein breakdown and is often taken just before bed to be processed in the body whilst sleeping.
Muscle growth is dependent on the balance of protein synthesis and breakdown. Therefore, many experts suggest to strike a balance between consuming both whey and casein protein to maximise the net gains in muscle mass. If the synthesis (whey) of new muscle protein is greater than the breakdown (casein) of muscle protein, net gains in muscle mass and strength are seen.