Which Supplement Is Better For You?
Whey protein is the most popular supplement in the market.
If you want to be sure, do a quick Google keyword search. “Whey Protein” comes out higher than any other supplement.
Why is whey protein so popular? There are many reasons.
For one, protein is an important macronutrient for enhancing recovery and repair of damaged muscle tissue.
Two, whey protein has the highest Protein Efficiency Rating or PER of any protein source.
A high PER score is indicative of the quality of the protein.
Three, whey protein is the fastest protein to digest. Studies have shown that whey protein is assimilated by the body within 30 minutes of ingestion.
Finally, whey protein does not contain protein alone. There are brands that include other ingredients such as creatine, glutamine and amino acids.
Of these amino acids are of greatest relevance because these are the building blocks of protein.
When protein is consumed, it releases amino acids. So why do whey protein supplements still contain amino acids?
There are 100 amino acids found in nature but humans use only 20 of them. These are categorised as essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids.
Essential amino acids are those that the body cannot synthesise on its own and must obtain from food sources or supplemental form.
Non-essential amino acids are those which can be produced in combination with other amino acids and substances.
Amino acids perform specific functions such as:
- Produce hormones to regulate metabolism;
- Produce anti-bodies needed by the immune system to protect the body;
- Produce hemoglobin to help transport oxygen to vital organs;
- Transport proteins and other substances to specific organs.
There are brands of whey protein that carry these 20 amino acids in their formula.
If you read the labels carefully, the proportions or content of these amino acids may vary.
So why shouldn’t you just supplement with amino acids rather than buy whey protein if amino acids are the building blocks of protein anyway?
Are you better off with an amino acid supplement or whey protein?
In a study conducted in 2008 by a group of protein researchers led by Aarsland A. Wolfe, they tested the increase in protein synthesis of 15 grams regulated whey protein supplement, 7 grams essential amino acids and 8 grams non- essential amino acids over the course of 3.5 hours.
The purpose of the study was to find out if simply ingesting essential amino acids would result in the same level of protein synthesis as whey protein.
The result of the study showed there was no change in protein synthesis with the non-essential amino acids.
There was a slight improvement with the test group that took the essential amino acids but there was a significant increase with the subjects who took whey protein.
The conclusion of Mr. Wolfe’s group was the increase in protein synthesis in whey protein was not directly the result of amino acids but of other ingredients in the formula.
Based on the study alone, you may be better off buying a whey supplement brand that contains all 20 amino acids.
It may give you other benefits that amino acids when taken on its own cannot.
Keep in mind that the primary objective of whey protein is to get protein into your muscles as fast as possible after training to jump start the recovery process.
It is first and foremost a supplement intended to help you attain your daily baseline macronutrient requirement for protein.
Whey protein is convenient, easily digested and affordable. You can also benefit from the other ingredients listed in the formula.
Some brands of whey protein contain casein which takes longer to digest and provides your body with a more steady supply of amino acids.
There are also whey protein brands that are blended with other types of protein to give you a more varied amino acid profile.
In the end, your decision will come down to your budget and fitness goals.
If you have the budget to accommodate amino acids then by all means, go for it!
Just remember to follow the directions on the label and to keep track of your performance as well as changes in your health.