Knowing which type of protein to take and when to take it is important to ensure you maximise your training adaptations and promote recovery. Protein intake is essential to everyone, whether you’re looking to maintain or build lean muscle mass. Protein requirements(1, 2) for athletes have been recently suggested to be in the range 1.2 – 1.8 g/kg per day though this is dependent on your specific training goals. For example, when in energy balance and aiming to maintain both body mass and lean muscle mass, it is likely that protein requirements can be achieved within the lower end of the range. However, if your goal is to increase muscle mass or even maintain muscle when aiming to lose body fat, then it is suggested that protein requirements could range from 2-2.5 g/kg body mass per day. Regardless of your specific goal, you can benefit from knowing some key facts about the different types of protein that are available to consume. WHICH PROTEIN? The protein you choose should be high in BCAA’s (leucine, isoleucine & valine). BCAA’s are part of the ‘essential’ amino acids, meaning that they must be supplied by through dietary intake. These can help reduce muscle break down and ‘switch on’ muscle protein synthesis, which helps support training adaptations. Read more about the importance of protein for endurance athletes here. Whey Protein Concentrate Whey protein concentrate is made by removing the fat and carbohydrate from milk. This leaves only a small amount of fat and carbohydrates in the form of lactose, with the percentage of protein varying from 30% – 80%. All whey proteins have the fastest known digestion rates, making them ideal for use post-exercise(3). Whey Protein Isolate Whey protein isolate is a more purified version of whey protein concentrate. This does not affect the amino acid profile of the protein, but allows whey protein isolate to contain a higher percentage of protein – over 80%. This also means that there is less carbohydrate and fat. Whey Protein Hydrolysate Whey protein hydrolysate is an even higher quality protein source compared to whey protein concentrate and isolate. This allows a higher concentration of protein. This protein is hydrolysed, meaning that the bonds between amino acids have been partly broken down. This means that protein hydrolysate can be digested more rapidly. Milk Protein Milk protein contains 80% casein (slow digesting) and 20% whey protein concentrate (fast digesting). This protein digests more slowly, continuously feeding the muscles with protein while you sleep. This rate of digestion is around half the digestion rate of whey protein isolate alone. It has been suggested that when combined in a milk-based formula, casein can be digested more slowly, providing a continuous stream of protein and amino acids to the muscle When? The protein source that you should choose depends on the time of day and the type/ intensity of exercise that may have been performed. Throughout the day It is currently recommended that we spread our daily protein intake evenly throughout the day using a feeding pattern of approximately 20-25g of protein every 3-4 hours(5). Ideally, a fast digesting protein like whey protein should be taken throughout the day. WHEY20’s are the perfect solution to ensure you hit your protein goals. As an ideal, mid morning, afternoon or post workout snack, the convenient format reduces the need for shakers and water. Post Workout In the absence of consuming protein post-exercise, muscle protein balance can become negative meaning you are effectively breaking down muscle tissue. To help promote muscle recovery and ensure a positive protein balance, it is recommended you consume protein immediately post-exercise. This makes whey protein hydrolysate (the main protein source of WHEY20) an ideal post-workout protein source, rapidly feeding the muscles with essential amino acids needed for muscle rebuild. Alternatively, an Advanced Isolate+ shake will provide fast digesting protein (with 5g of leucine), in addition to fluid to help promote hydration. Before Bed Taking protein before bed is a good way to ensure you hit your target intake. If lean muscle mass is your goal, the prolonged rise in amino acids in the blood stream will help to stimulate the production rate of new muscle protein. If you have had a particularly tough training day or competition, a milk protein source like that in Overnight Protein will help to maintain and even grown lean muscle mass. Recent studies have even shown that consuming protein prior to sleep increases muscle mass and strength gains(6). References: Pasiakos, S. M., Cao, J. J., Margolis, L. M., Sauter, E. R., Whigham, L. D., McClung, J. P., & Young, A. J. (2013). Effects of high-protein diets on fat-free mass and muscle protein synthesis following weight loss: a randomized controlled trial. The FASEB Journal, 27(9), 3837-3847. Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2016). American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 48(3), 543. Reidy, P. T., Walker, D. K., Dickinson, J. M., Gundermann, D. M., Drummond, M. J., Timmerman, K. L., & Jennings, K. (2013). Protein blend ingestion following resistance exercise promotes human muscle protein synthesis. The Journal of Nutrition, 143(4), 410-416. Churchward-Venne, T. A., Snijders, T., Linkens, A. M., Hamer, H. M., van Kranenburg, J., & van Loon, L. J. (2015). Ingestion of casein in a milk matrix modulates dietary protein digestion and absorption kinetics but does not modulate postprandial muscle protein synthesis in older men. The Journal of Nutrition, 145(7), 1438-1445. Areta, J. L., Burke, L. M., Ross, M. L., Camera, D. M., West, D. W., Broad, E. M., & Hawley, J. A. (2013). Timing and distribution of protein ingestion during prolonged recovery from resistance exercise alters myofibrillar protein synthesis. The Journal of Physiology, 591(9), 2319-2331. Snijders, T., Smeets, J. S., van Vliet, S., van Kranenburg, J., Maase, K., Kies, A. K., & van Loon, L. J. (2015). Protein ingestion before sleep increases muscle mass and strength gains during prolonged resistance-type exercise training in healthy young men. The Journal of Nutrition, 145(6), 1178-1184. Written By Ted Munson (Performance Nutritionist) Ted is a Performance Nutritionist here at Science in Sport.