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Protein Quality – The Pros and Cons

Obesity is one of the pressing global public health concerns. It is commonly associated with several co-morbidities and can be treated effectively with a high protein, low fat and low carbohydrate diet for successful body weight loss and maintenance. It is extremely important to ensure the quality of protein used in a calorically restricted diet will provide the necessary amino acids to maintain muscle mass and overall health in subjects.

 

Below is a list of proteins and the pros & cons associated with each.

 

Whey Protein:

The Pros

 

The most noted strength of whey protein is that it is a “complete” protein, meaning it possesses all 9 essential amino acids (the ones not naturally produced by your body). Whey has the highest level of the amino acid leucine, which helps give your muscles the fuel to dominate your workout and build muscle.

It is one of the most used protein sources because it is a water-soluble milk protein. An article published by Nutrition and Metabolism outlines how milk proteins, like those in whey and casein, can help to preserve lean muscle mass and improve metabolic health during weight loss.

 

Whey Protein:

The Cons

 

What serves as a benefit for some people is a drawback to others when it comes to whey protein. Because whey is a milk derivative, it is not an ideal choice for anyone who struggles with dairy. The level of lactose in some whey protein can cause digestive distress in people who are intolerant to milk sugar and lactose. People who are unable to properly synthesize this enzyme will experience abdominal pain, gas and even diarrhea.
 

 

Soy Protein:

The Pros

 

 

Soy protein contains higher amounts of the amino acids glutamine and arginine, which have been linked to improved immune function, better digestive health, and even an increase in cognitive function. It is also considered a complete protein, possessing all of the necessary essential amino acids.

Supporters of the “soy camp” have noted that soy protein is the most effective plant-derived source for people who are working to build or maintain muscle mass. However, this is a somewhat controversial notion, since the other “camps” might argue the same of their protein source.

 

Soy Protein:

The Cons

 

Although the jury is not yet in, many research studies have shown that soy is not an ideal source of protein for women with a history of estrogen-related cancers and men with lower testosterone levels, as it does effect the production and absorption of estrogen in the body.
Vegan Protein:

The Pros

 

The most common sources of vegan protein (aside from soy) are pea, rice or hemp formulas, or a combination of more than one source of protein. Vegan or plant based protein are largely considered more slimming than milk-derived proteins. This is in large part because they are naturally fat and cholesterol-free.These types of proteins are looked upon as the most hypoallergenic of all protein powders. Vegan protein is lactose and gluten-free, making it ideal for the growing number of people living with food sensitivities. Plant protein is not associated with bloat unlike many other protein powders, and their formulas tend to skip artificial sweeteners and chemicals.

While the battle for which protein is best for building muscle mass rages on, a 2013 study published in the University of Tampa Nutrition Journal found that rice protein was just as effective as whey in building muscle and strength among men who worked out frequently.

 

Vegan Protein:

The Cons

 

The biggest argument against vegan protein is that single plant-based varieties are not complete proteins. However, if a plant-based, hypoallergenic protein source is your goal, you can opt for a formula that combines two sources, such as pea and rice to ensure you get all the nutrients you need.

 

What Does This Mean for Protein Needs?

Ultimately, which protein source depends upon the person’s personal goals and the way their body functions best. It is important to focus on a protein source that is clean and is made from clinically proven ingredients.

 

Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S., Lemmens, S. G., & Westerterp, K. R. (2012). Dietary protein–its role in satiety, energetics, weight loss and health. British journal of nutrition, 108(S2), S105-S112. HealthWise blog, Know Your Proteins.

Lesley AsendorfProtein Quality – The Pros and Cons