Today, there is an incredibly vast array of protein supplements: so vast that I couldn’t give satisfactory attention to them all in my last article! Here, I continue my discussion of alternative sources of protein–some you may be well-aware of, and some that you may never have heard of at all. If you haven’t read Part One, you can check it out Which are the Best Protein Supplements here!
What makes up a hemp protein supplement powder? Basically, it is a byproduct of hemp oil production: the oil is extracted from the hemp seeds, and the remaining seed meal is refined into the protein supplement powder we see on the shelves. Hemp protein powder has been hailed as “the perfect plant-based protein”. Why? For one thing, it contains both omega-3’s and omega-6’s, including the elusive gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 that has been shown to reduce inflammation. Omegas, in case you missed the memo, are essential for cognitive function, hair and brain health, regulate the metabolism, and are essential for the reproductive system. Hemp protein also has a relatively high fiber content in comparison to other protein supplement powders; and while there is a very small amount of THC in hemp protein powder, you will not get high from it (which may be good new or bad news).
Because of its fatty acid content, hemp protein in not a perfect protein. It also has a comparatively low leucine content, which, as discussed in my previous article, is essential for effective muscle protein synthesis–though many hemp protein powders are fortified with leucine and other BCAA’s. Unfortunately, not much scientific inquiry has been done on the relationship between hemp protein supplement powder and athletic performance, but one study found that in hypertensive rats, supplementing with hemp protein led to significantly lower systolic blood pressure. And being a protein source, it will help to gain lean mass (duh), but its calorie-to-protein ratio is pretty high in comparison to whey. So, if you’re looking to bulk up, hemp protein is a nice alternative to whey! But those individuals hoping to lean out may want to look elsewhere…
Hydrolyzed Collagen Peptides
In the world of protein supplements, hydrolyzed collagen is a personal favourite of mine–I’ve even got my mom on it! Hydrolyzed collagen peptides are made up of ground up animal parts, like bones and cartilage; this, admittedly, probably won’t sound too enticing to most people–especially if you are looking for a vegan protein source.
So, why do I like it so much? Let me count the ways: first of all, collagen is essential for our bodies: it holds us all together. Some studies have shown that by supplementing with collagen, we can improve the integrity of our joints, ligaments and tendons–our hair, skin, and nails will also benefit; one double-blind study found “statistically significant” improvements in skin elasticity in elderly women. Another study performed with sarcopenic, elderly men found that collagen peptide supplementation combined with a resistance training program was effective in improving body composition and increasing muscular strength.
Another enticing benefit of collagen peptides is the amazing calorie-to-protein ratio; for one 30 calorie tablespoon, you get 8-10 grams of protein! It is also flavorless, easily dissolved, and relatively inexpensive.
Pea Protein Supplements
Pea protein is another one of the alternative protein supplements worth noting. Pea protein is sourced from the yellow split pea and though it is not a perfect protein, it boasts a pretty impressive amino acid profile.
Fans of pea protein cite its easy digestibility and the fact that it is one of the most hypoallergenic of protein supplements.
It also has been shown to be similar to whey protein in its satiety factor; it is not as bioavailable as whey, meaning that it won’t reach your muscle cells as quickly. Another study demonstrated that pea protein has some positive effect on blood pressure; one Canadian study found after 8 weeks, rats with high blood pressure on a diet of pea protein had lowered their blood pressure by 20%. The same study found that pea protein may help to prevent kidney damage by increasing urine output, and thus helping to rid the body of toxins.
Casein is the other side of the whey protein coin; typically, dairy milk is 80% casein protein and 20% whey protein. A common belief promoted within bodybuilding communities is that by supplementing with casein at night, one can prevent muscle catabolism as you sleep, due what is considered to be its “slow” release–providing your muscles with a steady stream of amino acids that could last for hours–unlike whey, which has a comparatively fast bioavailability.
Recent studies suggest that casein deserves greater credit when it comes to its muscle-building potential; one study found that casein, in combination with a regular resistance training program, may be even more effective than whey in promoting lean mass and muscle strength. That being said, yet another study argued the opposite: that whey protein is more effective than casein in building lean mass.
Yet another study pointed out that supplementing with both whey and casein may provide the greatest muscle hypertrophy and strength benefits–as opposed to supplementing with just one or the other.
Confused? Your best bet is to get your protein from a variety of sources, including plant-based proteins, in order to achieve your full amino acid and nutrient potential. And, as always, protein supplementation is just that: a supplement. Most experts recommend that your food provides the greater share of your nutrients and energy–and that your food be whole, varied, and well-balanced.
I would add yet another disclaimer: every person and every body is different. Depending on your genetic profile, your environment, and your lifestyle, your body will respond optimally to specific nutrients and to a specific caloric intake. In order to maximize your body’s individual potential, it’s important that you educate yourself on the food that you’re putting into your body–and Infofit can help. We offer a comprehensive certified sports nutrition course for those looking to level-up on their fitness and their general health and well-being. Check it out here and get started today!
Wishing you all the best on your journey to optimal health!
Written by Theresa Faulder, Master’s in English, ACE-Certified Personal Trainer and Infofit fitness blog writer.
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