Protein is the basic building block of all your cells and is therefore responsible for building bones, muscles, organs, and blood. In addition to the function of building tissue, proteins have other elementary tasks, such as the formation of hormones and the regulation of your immune system. Proteins are made up of chains of amino acids. There are a total of 20 different amino acids, with a distinction being made between essential and non-essential amino acids. While the body can synthesize non-essential amino acids itself, it relies on getting the essential ones from the daily diet.
The question becomes much more essential when it is asked by a physically active person: “Am I eating enough protein?” Compared to the average person who is not physically active, it has been proven that athletes have a particularly high protein requirement. Of course, this also applies to everyone who is physically strenuous at work or in everyday life. Miners, farmers, forest workers, construction workers, craftsmen, gardeners, and many other population groups can be affected.
It is not without reason that high-protein meals are so popular with competitive athletes and bodybuilders! In addition, protein-rich food is very tasty, satisfies the hunger for hearty food, and keeps you full for a long time. This presents them with special nutritional challenges. Every meal and every snack is almost inevitably made high in protein.
How you can calculate protein is clearly important. Depending on individual circumstances and lifestyle as well as diet and goals, a protein intake of 1.6-2.5 grams per kilogram of body weight is appropriate and recommended as a guideline. According to the concept of biological value, with an optimal supply of protein with maximum protein quality, you would only need half that amount. But be careful, because this is a purely theoretical value. The biological value does not take into account certain factors, e.g. the effective digestibility of proteins. Information about realistic meals is also not taken into account. Instead, you throw an egg and a half with 800 g of potatoes in a pot and speak of an adequate protein intake.
Athletes prefer to play it safe anyway. After all, protein has many other advantages in a balanced and wholesome diet (e.g. greater satiety effect, increased ability to regenerate). So if the planned protein intake during the day is not enough, for example, because you had to eat out or don’t have time to cook, supplements are used. And most protein powders actually provide a very high protein quality.
The health benefits of eating an adequate amount of protein are summarized below:
It’s a never-ending war: should protein powder be taken before or after a workout? Or even before and after? To approach an answer to this question, it is worth taking a look at the properties of proteins. Normal digestion of food usually takes longer than 24 hours. However, proteins are an exception. Your body is able to absorb proteins very quickly and make them usable. After just 45 minutes, the protein powder will take effect in your body and after another 45 minutes, it will be completely digested.
As you can see, it doesn’t make sense to drink a protein shake in the morning instead of breakfast that already covers your entire daily protein requirement. Rather, in this case, you have to exercise a lot of self-discipline and take 22 or 25 g (depending on gender) every 3-5 hours. Since proteins are metabolized so quickly, taking whey protein after training is also essential. Then the dose can be a little higher.
A higher intake of protein is not harmful to your body, but of course, there are situations in which protein intake via protein powder is particularly suitable. These situations include, for example, diets or phases of strength training. Even after a longer phase of intensive strength training, whey protein does not have to be discontinued but can continue to be taken in lower doses to maintain the muscles that have been built up. However, the supply depends on the composition of the protein powder.
In production, it is usually obtained from whey, which is a by-product of cheese production, by means of cold-gentle ultrafiltration. The gentle production at a low temperature ensures that all-natural protein fractions are preserved – in other words: the protein is not denatured. The whey concentrate obtained by means of various filtration processes achieves a protein content of 70-80%. The carbohydrates are still at a share of 7-8% and the fats at 3-5%. After the several filtrations pass, the whey concentrate contains an impressive amount of protein, but also some carbohydrates in the form of lactose, which makes it more difficult for lactose-intolerant people to digest than an isolate, in which the protein content – as the name suggests – is isolated.
The whey concentrate is suitable for competitive athletes and ambitious fitness athletes due to the high content of bioactive protein fractions. Due to the easy solubility and the creamy consistency, it doesn’t always have to be just the shake with water – it can also be used in porridge or for baking, for example. There are no limits to creativity here.
In order to obtain an isolate from the whey concentrate, further production steps are required in which the protein is almost completely isolated. The production of whey isolate takes significantly more time and requires special micro-filtration. Due to the targeted isolation of the protein, the isolate has particularly high purity. The end product contains an average protein content of around 90-95%, which means that both the fat and lactose content is negligible. Whey isolates are also suitable for people with lactose intolerance.
Isolates are particularly rich in essential amino acids. Due to the optimal nutritional values, the products not only support weight management but are also perfect as a companion for muscle building during the diet phase.
The amino acid pattern of both protein fractions is almost identical so that the body is supplied with the same amount of protein. With a protein content of around 90%, the whey isolate contains significantly more protein than the whey concentrate (protein content of around 80%). The higher the protein content, the fewer carbohydrates and fats are still contained. This means that the most important difference is in the distribution of macronutrients.
Which whey protein is best for you depends on your individual fitness goal and your lactose tolerance. The whey concentrate is suitable for both normal and ambitious (strength) athletes. If you have set your muscle-building goals higher, are on a low-carb diet, or have been training intensively for a long time, an isolate is a better choice for you.
Proteins are vital building blocks for our body – they are not only a determining part of hormones, enzymes, organs, the immune system, and all cells but also contribute to the increase and maintenance of muscle mass and the maintenance of healthy bones. So an optimal protein supply is and remains the be-all and end-all.