Why is protein so important for health and performance? Part 2


After reading the first part of this series, you will probably assess that you are not consuming enough protein to reach your aesthetic or performance goals for training. 


Examples of protein in a normal diet include eggs, all types of  meat (unprocessed) fish and many times of legumes. The protein value of each will vary across the board but there is no need to worry about the quality of protein one is consuming.   

In brief, protein is protein and as long as you are consuming 1.5 g per kg of your bodyweight (while training) from a variety of different sources your combined amino acid profile from each will be on par with the body's demands for growth and repair of lean muscle. 


What proteins should I eat? 

When it comes to protein consumption, variety is  the spice of life as implicated above. Organic lean (and occasional saturated fat meat) is what the human race evolved with during our early days of 'survival of the fittest'.  Of course, protein can be consumed from a variety of food types of which many serve an added function alongside growth and repair.  

For example, whey and casein protein powders are high in calcium for those who don't consume diary. Protein can be obtained from fish and fish oil is high in omega 3 which can help to have healthier blood vessels, a lower lipid count, reduced risk of plaque build up and even reduce cancer. Hemp protein has dietary fiber and soy isolate has weak phyto-estrogenic compounds that may help menopausal women etc. 


Although these sources vary in the bio-availability of protein, the combination of all provide optimum living and performance. 

It is worth re-emphasizing also that one size does not fit all. Over compensating on one protein to achieve a certain health goal is not the answer. However, even with the best intentions with a well balanced protein intake, it can be tricky consuming the volume of protein needed to achieve strength gains or muscle definition. 

Protein supplements provide a tasty, simple and practical way to fulfill protein requirements. They are also cheap on a cost per saving basis. While there are many protein supplements on the market (Hemp, Soy, Beef, Milk, Egg) the author has chosen the most popular (not to say the better) forms to briefly breakdown exactly what classifies whey and casein, their variations, how to re-align these with your strength goals and common myths surrounding the consumption of protein supplements thanks to the collective research of Examine.com (the world's first independent supplement research company). 


So which protein should you buy? 




Whey protein is a byproduct of milk dairy protein (approximately 20% of the protein content). Whey can come in its 'concentrated' form (35 - 80% of protein), an 'isolate' form (90% protein by weight) and an 'hydrolyzed' form (pre-digested with amino acids).   

Some 'concentrated' forms (80% Protein)  of whey come pretty close to their 'isolate' (90% Protein) counterparts in terms of protein content. Hydrolysate is a little different. The acid hydrolysis (pre-digestion) breaks down the amino acids faster and thus gets absorbed by the body quicker. The supplement reference guide created by Examine.com recommend this for people with immunity problems as it non-allergenic. This is the most expensive form of whey protein. 


Fact of the day: Whey protein has branded itself as the fast absorbing supplement to be consumed post workout  to give the body the quick shot of protein it needs to take advantage of the much publicized 'anabolic' window immediately after training. Interestingly, while this may be true (in part) to people who have fasted before their workout (ie before breakfast), it is not important for the 'fed' person who consumes an adequate amount of protein during the day. Infact, while training in a fasted state may improve protein synthesis (the ability to absorb protein), there is more evidence to suggest that training in a 'fed' state is far more conducive to building more muscle mass (examine.com 2014). 




Known as the bedtime protein supplement, Casein is comparatively a slower releasing protein supplement and has actually been proven to be slightly better than Whey at building muscle in the longer term. As Whey constitutes 20% of the dairy component, Casein comprises of the remaining 80% specifically the curds separated from the whey's in the cheese making process. It is traditionally taken at night to aid the body's metabolic processes to repair damaged muscle (the good kind) during sleep but can also be used effectively during the day to repel hunger. Casein has special properties to form gels once liquid is added  giving it that thick consistency making it ideal for a comparatively thicker protein shake or tasty accompaniment to porridge (mixed before cooking). 

Casein comes in 3 forms. Calcuim caseinate (basic form), micellar casein (purer form) and hydrolyzed casein (water soluble & pre-digested amino acids). The first 2 contain the gel thickening properties which helps the protein to be released slowly which may improve absorption and helps in keeping one satiated, thus eating fewer calories during the course of the day.  My clients who train for  fat loss and muscle gain have achieved great results with all forms of casein along with a carefully planned bespoke diet.   


Fact of the Day x2  hydrolyzed casein has actually been shown to be faster than hydrolyzed whey in protein absorption.


Author avatar

Chris Cahill (B/Sc, Dip)

Strength & Conditioning Coach, Health Consultant, Personal Trainer (www.chriscahillpt.co.uk)

Internationally educated sports scholarship graduate from Bournemouth University, Chris's personal training specializes in aesthetics and performance. He also works as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Queen Mary University and delivers bio-age consultations on behalf of Healthwise for corporate companies in the City. Currently he trains full time as an Olympic weightlifter.