T Nation

Double Take: Protein Battle

[b] T-mag and the T-forums are growing at an astounding rate. That’s great, but our previous issues section is getting so large that it’s almost impossible for the newbies to catch up. To help them out and to breathe some life back into our older articles, we decided to “reprint” a few here on the forum in this resurrected Double Take feature.

This article (posted below) first appeared in T-mag #117 and covers all the basics regarding the different kinds of protein. [/b]

Battle of the Proteins
What’s the best protein for building muscle and losing fat?
by Cy Willson

The Thrilla in Vanilla!

What’s the best type of protein for those of us who want to build muscle and lose fat? That question ranks right up there with “Who’s really behind the Kennedy assassination?” and “Dude, do you think those puppies are real?” Honestly, the answer isn’t that difficult to figure out. The truth, as they say, is out there.

The various issues related to protein have been debated for years in an effort to reveal the optimal amount of protein to be consumed, the perfect time to ingest it, and finally, the best type of protein to use. What would happen if we answered all these questions correctly? Well, the two most coveted effects would be experienced: You could build more muscle and lose more fat.

I’ll reveal the best types of protein, or proteins, in terms of providing optimal effects. Basically, I’m going to put all the various proteins into the ring and let them slug it out. Then we’ll finally see which one will come out the undisputed champion of the world. As boxing referee Mills Lane says, “Let’s get it on!”

In This Corner?

While there are many different types of protein, we’ll just stick with the types most commonly consumed by bodybuilders. They are, in no particular order, casein, whey isolate, whey concentrate, soy, then eggs and various meats. I’ll give you a quick “fight profile” on each of them.

Casein: The Number One Contender

Casein has often been the overlooked protein through the years, often brushed aside by the supposedly superior whey isolates. That is most unfortunate, because, as I’m about to show you, this feisty underdog just may be the best protein by far! Let’s check out the data that supports this idea.

The first study consisted of sixteen young, healthy subjects (average age 24) who were given either a protein drink containing casein or whey. They then measured the rates of protein synthesis and breakdown. What happened? In the subjects consuming casein, whole body protein breakdown was progressively inhibited for 300 minutes by 34%. Whey, on the other hand, had no effect. Wham! Whey takes a hard left and is driven into the ropes!

However, in whey’s favor, it did stimulate protein synthesis by 68%, whereas casein stimulated it by only 31%. So, whey must have caused the greater protein balance, right? Nope. In fact, although whey did increase protein synthesis to a higher extent, this effect didn’t last long. You see, when researchers measured synthesis rates at 100 minutes, the above was indeed true. However, when they measured the rates again at 300 minutes, synthesis rates returned to baseline levels with whey, but they were still significantly elevated with casein!

Whey also caused a significant increase in oxidation of protein. For those of you who believe that your body becomes more efficient at breaking down protein when oxidation increases (and I, for one, don’t), you might want to reconsider your choice of using whey, or at least reconsider taking it by itself.(1)

So, let’s recap the main points learned from this study. Number one, casein ingestion results in a greater deposition of protein than whey. In other words, more muscle! Also, after whey protein is ingested, the rate of protein synthesis increases quickly and to a high degree, but not for a long period of time. It causes an increase in protein synthesis and oxidation, but no change in protein breakdown.

In comparison, casein slightly increases protein synthesis and inhibits breakdown to an extreme degree while causing just a slight increase in oxidation. The authors also gave a reason as to why these results occurred. They concluded that since casein clots in the stomach to form a sort of gel, it causes a slow, but prolonged release of amino acids into the bloodstream, thereby increasing synthesis slightly and inhibiting breakdown to a large degree. Whey protein, however, is rapidly emptied from the stomach causing large amounts of amino acids to be released. This results in a large and swift increase in synthesis and oxidation, but no change in breakdown.

Here’s another study in casein’s favor. This one was a randomized, twelve week study using either whey in a calorie restricted diet with resistance training (whey group) or casein in a calorie restricted diet with resistance training (casein group). There was also one group receiving nothing, but still training and dieting (diet only group).

Researchers used 11 normal, healthy men who all had weight training experience for each protein group along with 10 guys in the “diet only” group. The average age was 34. They then measured body fat, lean body mass, and strength during weeks 4, 8, and 12. After 4 weeks, it was noted that fat mass had decreased in all groups; however, lean mass and strength gains were only significantly increased in the casein group. After 12 weeks, lean mass gains were doubled and fat loss increased 50% in the casein versus whey protein group!(2) Ouch, whey falls to the mat and gets a standing eight count! He’s looking shaky and his corner men are looking around for the white towel!

But the fight’s not over. The casein group also increased muscle strength in all three exercises (chest press, shoulder press, and leg extension) more rapidly and to a greater degree than the whey group, with a 59% increase in strength for the casein group and only a 28% increase for whey. Bam! Whey takes a stiff uppercut to the chin!

At the end of the study, the casein group lost 7.0 kilos or 15.4 lbs of fat while gaining 4.1 kilos or 9.02 lbs of muscle on average! All the while, the whey group only lost 4.2 kilos or 9.24 lbs of fat while gaining 2.0 kilos or 4.4 lbs of muscle. The “diet only” group lost 2.5 kilos or 5.5 lbs of fat while gaining 0.4 kilos or .88 lbs of muscle. At this point, whey is bleeding freely and his left eye is almost swollen shut.

Still not convinced, Mr. Cynical Sid, of casein’s weight advantage and longer reach? Maybe I should let you know about a study where burn patients (who demonstrate extremely high metabolisms and protein oxidation rates) were given a casein supplement of 70-75 grams a day combined with a nutrition and exercise program. The patients increased lean mass twice as fast as another group using the same program but using 75 grams of whey instead.(3) I may be going out on a limb here, but if these patients were able to gain more muscle using casein than whey, in spite of extremely high metabolisms, maybe casein should be the choice protein for the “hypertrophy challenged” guys with metabolisms equivalent to my sexual performance times. (In other words, extremely fast.)

Oh yes, and for you health conscious guys, casein also has some beneficial effects. (Honestly, the following benefits don’t intrigue me that much since I’m 19 years old and therefore, seven feet tall and bullet proof, but it’s nice to know casein is also good for me in the long run.) Casein has been shown to increase HDL levels,(2, 3) inhibit platelet aggregation, and even has some opioid like peptides, which could help to ease pain of muscles and joints.(4,5,6,7) Casein also has a high ratio of tyrosine/trytptophan, about 5 to 1, so it won’t make you feel groggy. Plus, it has the highest amount of glutamine out of all the most commonly consumed proteins.

So, if I had to give casein a fight profile, it would look like this: 250 lb, 4% body fat and one mean bastard. Not only will casein kick Mr. Catabolic’s ass, he keeps doing it for hours at a time! He enjoys kicking ass! To me, casein is the ultimate warrior, Mike Tyson meets Royce Gracie with a little Shaft thrown in to get the attitude right. But, could we tweak casein a little and get even more benefits? Read on and see for yourself.

Whey Concentrate: The Tired Former Champ

After all that bragging about casein and dogging on whey, I bet you think I’m really down on whey and avoid it like Don King avoids a hair brush. Not really. In terms of muscle building and fat loss, there’s only one thing missing that’s keeping whey from climbing the ranks and winning the title bout: It doesn’t provide any inhibition of protein breakdown.(1)

Is there a solution to this problem? Sure, you can either consume your whey supplement every two hours in order to keep amino acid levels elevated or you could slow its absorption by either eating some carbs and fat with it. Combining it with casein would also be a viable solution. It’s the rate of absorption that primarily determines the amount of lean tissue accrued. The above studies demonstrate that even though whey is a higher quality protein with a Biological Value of 104, it’s absorbed too rapidly, consequently, casein (with a BV of 77) is able to outperform whey because of it’s slow rate of absorption.

The logical solution would be to combine the high BV of whey with the slow absorption rate of casein. This cross breeding, so to speak, would produce the most potent protein supplement around. Plus, casein’s high glutamine content would make up for whey’s lower levels.

Whey also has some very potent immunological benefits as well as other healthy effects. It’s been shown to increase HDL, decrease triglycerides, and decrease blood pressure in healthy men.(8) Not only that, but it’s been shown to increase glutathione concentrations as well.(9)

So, the fight card for whey concentrate would look like this: 210 lbs at 6% bodyfat, kicks Mr. Catabolic’s ass a lot at first, but then fizzles out and quits in the later rounds. If, however, he unites with casein, they’re an unstoppable tag team from hell.

Whey Isolate: Hollywood Pretty Boy

The isolated version of whey isn’t any better in terms of muscle growth or fat loss than his twin bro concentrate. Proponents of isolate claim that it has more protein per gram. Well, I’d hope so, considering the fact that it’s “isolated”! So, what’s the advantage exactly? Not having to take out as many scoops? The quality is the same, but the price sure as hell isn’t.

So, my profile for isolate goes as follows: He’s identical to whey concentrate, but wears fancy trunks and expensive leather gloves. In other words, he’s a pretty boy who spends more money, yet produces about the same ass kicking results on Mr. Catabolism!

Soy Protein: Glass Jaw Joe

Soy protein: Well, it’s a protein. That’s about as far as my compliments go for this skinny amateur. It can’t match the effects of whey or casein in terms of protein breakdown and synthesis.(10) Not only that, but it’s been shown to actually lower T4 levels.(11) Here comes the worst part: Soy has been shown to have an inverse relationship with Testosterone levels!(12)

Well, at least soy is “healthy” right? Nope. It was actually shown to increase lipoprotein levels in normal men.(13) Plus, it was shown to decrease HDL levels!(4) I can’t think of any good reason to even touch soy protein. That is, unless you’re a woman going through menopause. Then, it’s okay.

As far as the profile for the soy fighter goes: He’s 132 lbs at 39% bodyfat. He has saggy breasts and loves to eat chocolates while watching The View. He has a history of not even showing up for fights because he doesn’t like aggressive behavior.

Eggs and Various Meats: Old School Brawlers

As far as eggs go, they’re a great protein source and are fairly inexpensive. They yield a good BV and have long been a staple of many bodybuilders’ diets. They have and always will be a good way to get in your protein requirements for the day.

The various meats, like chicken, tuna, and lean cuts of beef, while having a lower BV, still provide a slower release of amino acids, thereby increasing muscle growth to a good degree. Plus, in most cases, they’re pretty cheap as well.

The fight profile for these sources is as follows: These old boys are 210 pounds at 9% bodyfat. They’ve earned a lot of respect and can still give a good ole fashioned beat down to that Mr. Catabolism fellow. Neither are very fancy or too glamorous, but they get the job done every time.

And The Winner Is?

Well, in the end, the saying of “five men enter, one man leaves” just doesn’t suffice for the protein warriors. No one protein is going to score a knockout punch or even a well placed “accidental” head butt. In the end, it’s my true belief that a combination of both casein and whey protein concentrate is indeed the most effective and cost efficient contender out of all the dietary proteins.

However, if you really want just one, then casein would win in a close decision by the judges, or at least this judge. Next up would be whey with some carbs and a slight amount of fat added in to create a slower rate of digestion and gastric emptying (which may mimic the effects of casein by itself.) Properly timed and taken in sufficient amounts, the right combination of proteins will help you see a marked improvement in your bodybuilding endeavors. If you’re lucky, it might even help you score with one of those cute round card girls.

I wonder what y’all think of egg white powder as opposed to the live, squawking version?

Great idea, guys. I think sometimes it’s easy for those who’ve been around awhile to assume that just because they’ve read it once, it’s safely locked up in their heads…

But to take a look at some of those previous articles again, and to combine that information with new knowledge, can send your training/nutrition in a new direction!

Gotta say that I was glad to see this article again. I wholeheartedly agree with Mamann…just because we read it once, doesnt mean we retain the info! Question though…to whomever,
I know milk is a great source of casein…but whenever I drink it…I seem to get that “bloated” feeling! Is it possible to purchase casein in a powder form? See ya…Tony G


Have you tried cottage cheese?

TG, my man, that bloated feeling, that’s likely lactose intolerance. If you’re experiencing gas and diarrhea along with it, then it’s definite.

I agree with Stella the Stellar, try cottage cheese.

Lactose intolerance is due to the fact that you don’t have the ability to produce the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose into galactose and glucose. In its absence, the lactose just sits there in your GI tract fermenting and causing all that other crap.

Cottage cheese usually contains less than 1/3 the lactose that milk does, so it’s not only a better option in that right, but it’s also got more protein.

Oh yes,
I eat non-fat cottage chesse. A tub a day!!! GREAT STUFF! A few weeks ago I was adding skim milk to some bran cereal…and I think that was the culprit…damn it!..haha.

Keep those old articles coming! Personally, I must have missed this one before, so I was glad to see it here.

According to this article, there’s no diffrence in quality between whey concentrate and isolate. I thought Isolate was faster digesting, therefore a better choice post workout?

I was wondering why no mention was made of milk protein isolate? I’ve been using it for years.

As far as whey concentrate/isolate goes, concentrate always seems to give me more digestive trouble than isolate does. If I consume a lot of concentrate, you better stay away, cause those protein farts will kill ya…but if I take isolate, no trouble at all.
Any of you other guys experience this?

Whey protein concentrate is no different of a whey protein than ion-exchange whey, cross-flow microfiltration whey, isolate whey, etc. etc. etc. Compare Whey to water. Water comes in its raw form, or distilled, filtered, softened, reverse osmosis, etc. but it’s still just plain essential water. The raw materials left in raw water or even in whey concentrate is what can cause people problems. You really have to determine the best value for your money when it comes down to it. (cross-flow whey is one of the best forms of whey, if i remember correctly, because its ratio of junk/whey per gram) i really wished they had tubs of casien and milk protein powders.

Agree that the milk thing is probably lactose intolerance. I know that in my own case, my body changed VERY quickly from liking milk to not being able to process it. Happened when I was 18, and in the space of about two months.

About this type of thread: I also think that it’s a good idea. However, this thread (and any subsequent ones) will eventually be pushed down and be lost, so I was thinking that maybe there could be a “newbie” section added to the forum? Not another separate forum per se, but a space where, once these threads become “obsolete” (for want of a better word) again, they would be archived there.

If there was something like this it’d be a GREAT resource not only for us vets who might’ve forgotten some of the stuff we’ve read, but for the newbies who are confused about where to find things. Maybe Biotest could hire TEK to run it… :wink:

Great article! But what I’ve always wanted to know is how long it takes these proteins to get into the bloodstream:

(I’m going to list them in the order I think are from fastest to slowest. Someone correct me if I’m wrong)

Whey protein hydrosylate (20 minutes)
Whey protein isolate (40 minutes)
Whey protein concentrate (60 minutes)
Egg protein (90 minutes)
Calcium caseinate (2 hours)
Micellar casein (4-7 hours)
Meat protein - chicken,beef,egg (???)

Now, from what I understand, the speed of assimilation depends on how fast or slow the proteins digest in the stomach/small intestine. Once it reaches the bloodstream as protein peptides/amino acids, they all behave the same?

I’ve also read that micellar casein can last up to 7 hours. Can that be true?

And which is slower digesting? Casein or meat? I have a hard time believing that a liquid meal (casein) can digest slower than whole food (meat).

Did you know that when the Vikings came to North America (centuries before Christopher Columbus)- they gave the Indians cheeses and other milk products. Of course, the Indians were Lactose Intolerant as they had never been exposed to milk, so they became ill from the milk and thought the vikings were trying to poison them. This is why there was so much anymosity towards the Europeans when they came later.

Nib High football rules.

According to A7 post,
Concentrate would be less effective then isolates in timming correct?
so wouldn’t this make isolates a better chioce postworkout?

BUMP. Anyone? Anyone?

Ryan - Yes, isolates would absorb faster than concentrates.

Hydrolysates would be best for post-workout though.