Understanding the Label on Your Protein Supplement
Recently I wrote an article called The Straight Scoop on Using Protein Supplements to Optimize Nutrition, in which I introduced you to the basics of using protien as a nutrition supplement. Maybe you have decided you want to incorporate a high quality whey protein into your lifestyle. You may have even considered a few brands. Did you get swayed by pretty packaging? Or did you look further, to the label? Did you understand what you were reading? If you are like me, you may find the fine print a bit overwhelming. New terms like amino acid profiles, isolated whey, ion exchange processing, and Glutathiones were “mind benders” for me in the beginning.
Understanding what’s inside a good whey protein supplement can be a little complicated, so I wrote this article to help you make an informed decision.
It turns out Little Miss Muffet who sat on her tuffet made a superb choice by eating her “curds and whey”. Whey is the milk based by-product from the cheese making process. This “once discarded” liquid contains some of the best quality protein on the planet.
Whey protein is an outstanding source of protein for individuals of all ages, including babies, because it is easily assimilated and digested. It provides numerous benefits in areas including sports nutrition, weight management, immune support, bone health, digestive health, cancer prevention, and general wellness. Ongoing research continues to uncover new benefits of whey.
Whey protein has a high biological value (BV) which means that the amino acid profile is complete and it is highly absorbed by the body. Because it is a complete protein, it contains everything the body needs to generate new proteins. And, it is gentle enough on your digestive system that, taken in the right quantities, it can help regulate with regulation. Scientists have known this for years and that is why whey protein is widely used in baby formula.
The bottom line is that our bodies easily assimilate and digest whey protein. It’s an excellent form of protein to include in your diet.
Whey protein comes in two forms—isolate or concentrate and there is ongoing debate about which is better. I believe it comes down to individual preferences.
Whey is processed through an ion exchange or microfiltration process to remove the fat and lactose in varying degrees. Hydrolyzed whey has been put through a filtration process to further break down the protein peptides into shorter chain amino acids so they are better absorbed by the body. This can lead to a bitter taste. So manufacturers using hydrolyzed whey protein carefully balance the ratios to maintain taste.
Concentrated whey is the least processed of the two. On average about 50% to 70% of the byproducts have been removed. The brands containing higher fat and lactase amounts on the labels most likely use concentrated whey. Some experts believe this is better because it is less refined and processed. Other recommends isolated whey.
Think of whey isolates as “extreme” whey concentrate. The highest possible amounts (up to 90%) of the by products have been removed. This is more expensive process, but a great option for those with food sensitivities and for folks looking to cut down on extra fat and lactose. They also pack the highest amount of pure protein into the smallest amount of supplement powder, which stretches your dollars, and gives the body builders the high amounts of protein they are seeking.
There are other considerations when comparing the labels.
The Amino Acid Profile:
Every protein supplement I have seen has one on the label. It is a box that shows the quantities of amino acids contained in one serving of their product. What you must understand is that some of the amino acids are essential, meaning our bodies cannot produce them but we must get them in our dietary protein. Others are non-essential which means our bodies can produce them.
Following is chart that shows each. The label of your protein supplement should include the essential amino acids which are:
Here is a chart of the daily recommended amounts of amino acids for an average adult. The recommended daily intakes for children aged three years and older is 10% to 20% higher than adult levels.
|Amino acid(s)||mg per kg body weight||mg per 70 kg||mg per 100 kg|
|M Methionine+ C Cysteine||10.4 + 4.1 (15 total)||1050||1500|
|F Phenylalanine+ Y Tyrosine||25 (total)||1750||2500|
Important amino acids for athletes are as follows:
- Glutamine has an effect on body composition, regulation of body weight and the immune system.
- Branched Chain Amino Acids known as Isoleucine, Leucine and Valine promote protein synthesis, serve as muscle fuel, combat fatigue and strengthen the immune system.
- Arginine has a positive effect on weight loss and body fat loss; and serves as a precursor for creatine which may increase the size and strength of muscles.
- Lysine releases growth hormones.
If you are an athlete, body builder or under intense stress, you’ll want to make sure your product has higher quantities of Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s). Otherwise, I look for products that will provide you the recommended daily amounts based on the number of servings per day.
Another important factor is Aminogen: Aminogen is a patented enzyme system that can liberate free-form amino acids from any protein-containing food. Imagine if you could eat less protein but actually absorb more of the amino acids needed to build tissue. That’s what Aminogen does and that is why high quality protein supplements contain Aminogen. On a comparative basis, it even works better than your body’s natural processes, which is why it is so beneficial. And it makes the amino acids that are already in your supplement work better, eliminating the need for buying expensive free-form amino acids. It also improves the process of protein digestion.
And finally, Glutathione:
Glutathione is one of the most powerful anti-oxidants in the human body and it is contained in all cells. It is like the queen bee of anti-oxidants, but it is not absorbed well in supplement form. The best way to boost your glutathione levels is to exercise regularly and eats foods that help our bodies generate glutathiones, like raw milk and eggs, certain veggies, and whey. Since most people do not like raw milk or eggs, and most people do not eat enough veggies per day, whey protein is a painless way to boost glutathione levels. Taking in a high quality whey supplement and maintaining healthy levels of exercise will help you produce glutathione naturally.
I hope this information has better prepared you to make a decision that is right for you. Now it’s time to take action. Go put your newfound knowledge to work. Study those labels with newfound confidence and select a whey protein that will help you attain optimum health.
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