Which Protein To Consume? The Different Types of Proteins Whey Vs. Casein Vs. Beef Protein

Which Protein To Consume? The Different Types of Proteins Whey Vs. Casein Vs. Beef Protein

One of the questions I get approached with most in the gym is what kind of protein I recommend. In the vast world of supplements, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and not even know what kind of protein to start with. Though I recommend using whole foods whenever possible, sometimes it’s an inconvenience and whipping up a protein shake is the next best option. So the question at hand, what kind of protein is best; Whey, Casein, or Beef Isolate? To answer that question, we first need to take a look at a simple glass of milk.

Milk is made up of two proteins; casein and whey. Whey is found in the watery portion of milk and can be separated from the casein as a by-product of making cheese. Another example of the whey protein is in the form of the liquid that separates from a container of yogurt or sour cream. This liquid is extracted and processed to generally become what we recognize as a whey protein powder.

What is Whey Protein:

Whey is considered to be a complete protein and contains all nine essential amino acids, which the body must receive from diet, as they are not created by the body itself. The best studied use of whey protein is for the purpose of increasing muscle mass and strength, as consumption of whey can cause an insulin spike within the body.  This, combined with the body’s ability to quickly absorb it, is why it is most commonly used by athletes as a way to replenish after a workout. The peak absorption time for whey protein is in as short as 40 minutes, post consumption.

Whey is also high in leucine, which your body needs post-workout so that you don’t remain in a negative nitrogen balance and continue to burn muscle after you are finished working out. Leucine is known to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, and has ten times the impact on protein synthesis than any other amino acid. All of this said, whey protein may cause an issue with inflammation in those that have trouble digesting dairy.

Whey Concentrate Vs. Whey Isolate

When the liquid portion of milk is pushed through a filter to sift out the whey, the material left behind is dried and forms whey protein concentrate.  Whey concentrate contains varying amounts of fats, and carbohydrates in the form of lactose. The percentage of protein can vary greatly. So in short, whey protein concentrate is less adulterated than isolate, but it contains more components that may cause an inflammatory reaction, slow digestion, and it also contains more calories than whey isolate.

Whey protein isolate is filtered even more to remove the lactose, additional fats, and other compounds. It may lose some of the nutritional value that the whey concentrate retains, but it is a much more pure form of protein and contains less lactose, if any. That said, it is a great choice for those looking for a pure source of protein without additional components or minerals, and the risk of inflammation due to lactose is much lower.

What is Casein Protein:

Casein is a versatile and slow digesting protein. It is the most abundant protein found in milk and is what causes cheese to have the “sticky” quality. Essentially, casein slows down the digestion of all proteins in your stomach and after consumption, you will reach a peak in amino acids and protein synthesis in about 4 hours. In fact, if you were to consume both whey protein and casein at the same time in hopes to achieve both quick and slow absorption, the casein in your stomach would coagulate and bind to the whey, slowing down the absorption rate of that as well. Although caseins slow digestion may sound like a bad thing, it can also be viewed as a good thing, as the building muscle is more or less dependent on the balance of protein synthesis and protein breakdown. However, the slow digestion of casein is essentially blocking your digestive system, which may not be considered entirely healthy. That said, casein does have a negative side. It has been shown to release casomorphines, which are an addictive component that has an effect on the brain similar to that of morphine, and it is thought to be one of the the most relevant cancer promoters.

What is Beef Protein?

Beef protein is allegedly made from the actual bovine muscle tissue with the protein isolated from the fat and water of the muscle. Beef Isolate companies claim that it contains all of the essential amino acids, absorbs quickly, and has a higher concentration of creatine, arguably making it the best source of protein available to consume. However, many consumers believe that many of the beef protein isolates on the market may actually be made up of gelatin, derived from the wasted products in beef manufacturing, which would mean that it’s amino acid profile is much lower than if it were extracted from muscle tissue, so the companies then combine the gelatin with BCAA’s and creatine to complete the amino acid profile. All of this said, ensure that that the beef protein you are getting is obtained by use of extraction, and not in the way of gelatin.

So what is the best form of protein to have?

While casein protein has it’s place in the way of a supplement to take before bed, due to it’s slow digestion and sustained release of protein. While this may be great for building muscle, the risks associated with taking a casein protein religiously may be enough to prompt you to consume casein in moderation instead of on a regular basis.

Beef protein isolate could be one of the most pure ways to consume protein, granted that it is actually extracted from the muscle tissue of bovines, however, if consuming a beef derived protein is important to you, and given the assumption of many that beef protein isolate is simply made from gelatin derived from the by-products of beef manufacturing, you may want to stick with meal prepping and consuming whole, complete foods instead. But remember, this choice is up to you, and you may find that beef isolate is what works best for you and your body.

Whey protein remains one of the best forms of muscle building protein in powder form. If dairy is a non-issue, you have the least risk of side-effects with this option. Whey is absorbed quickly, contains leucine and has a complete amino acid profile. Your next choice is whether to consume whey protein isolate or concentrate. Most find that concentrate tastes better, while isolate is more pure. Of course, whenever possible, try to consume whole foods, but whey is a great option for getting that protein in when you’re in a pinch.

So there you have it. Whey protein is a great and safe option whenever possible, but it’s all about finding what works best for your body to align with what you are trying to achieve. Arm yourself with knowledge so you can make the best educated decision for your goals and your health. Happy shopping!