OUR NUMBER ONE MUSCLE BUILDING ALLY
The history of protein supplementation is long and storied. Esteemed nutritionist and physical culturist Rheo H Blair (formally Irvin Johnson) kickstarted the industry in the 1950s with his famous Rheo Blair Hi Protein mix, which consisted of calcium caseinate and sodium from skim milk powder, whey and dried whole eggs.
Ahead of its time, Blair’s concoction delivered 17.5 grams of protein per 1/4th cup serving and with its rich complement of milk and eggs defied the then-current industry standard, soy (now regarded to be inferior protein source). Blair determined that the best way to build muscle was through diet rich in eggs and milk and, for his time, before the modern whey protein era, he was right.
From the 60s through to the present day, the protein supplementation industry has exponentially grown to where it is now a multibillion dollar enterprise. For much of its history, the protein industry standard was milk, egg, and soy, taken separately but usually combined. Bodybuilders being bodybuilders would try anything to gain muscle and in the early days the protein formulations were extremely crude, of a chunky consistency, virtually unpalatable, and just plain ineffective.
Iron pumpers of the 60s would, for example, force down Bob Hoffman’s Protein from the Sea, a vile concoction of seaweed and other questionable ingredients, which tasted like dried fish scales. It was however an extremely effective emetic (vomit inducer).
EVEN AS LATE AS THE EARLY-90S, BODYBUILDERS WOULD SEEK THE ANABOLIC EDGE THROUGH THICK, CONGEALED, MILK-POWDER HEAVY PRODUCTS OF DUBIOUS EFFICACY.
The argument that whole foods nutrition trumped targeted supplementation in the muscle building stakes was likely a valid one until the next wave of protein supplementation hit stores. Now, with the advent of decidedly more potent protein blends featuring various grades of whey (unquestionably the current gold standard in muscle building nutrition) and casein, the iron community are treated to products that not only work fast and effectively to add quality mass but which also taste great, mix well and provide a host of additional health benefits.
Because bodybuilders require higher than average levels of protein to recover and grow from strenuous training and advanced levels of muscle microtrauma, they must consume a minimum a one gram of protein per pound of body weight, per day. Not only must hard training bodybuilders (and indeed all strength athletes and high performing sportspeople) achieve a sufficient daily protein intake, but the protein they consume must be of the highest possible quality (try putting diesel in your Ferrari and see how far you get).
IT IS FOR BOTH OF THESE REASONS THAT WHEY PROTEIN HAS BECOME THE GO-TO SUPPLEMENT FOR SERIOUS BODYBUILDERS.
Derived from the cheese making process and containing high levels of all of the essential amino acids (those that must be provided in the diet, unlike the nonessential aminos, which can be manufactured through the breakdown of proteins in the body) and a superior ratio of the branched-chain amino acids (which account for 35% of all amino acids found in muscle tissue and which are crucial for optimal muscle building progress), whey builds muscle faster than any other protein type.
Furthermore, of all protein sources whey contains the highest levels of the amino acid cysteine, which assists the biosynthesis of glutathione, an important antioxidant and liver detoxifier which helps to prevent muscle cell damage.
Importantly for bodybuilders who require rapid protein assimilation at key intervals, whey protein is designed to be absorbed thoroughly and quickly; such rapid absorption is important in that there is less wastage and more of the anabolic goodness can reach the muscles to aid growth. In fact, of all the different protein sources, whey protein comes out on top for its digestibility and utilization, or Net Protein Utilization (NPU), the percentage of protein retained by the body after digestion (whey clocks in at 92% while eggs, another bodybuilding staple, rank second at 88%).
Aside from its superior NPU, whey also scores highest in Biological Value (BV) and Protein Efficiently Ratio (PER); respectively, the percentage of a protein that is absorbed and utilized, and the rate at which an individual protein can sustain growth. The BV for whey protein isolate is 159 compared with eggs (100) and chicken (79)
while whey’s PER is assessed at an impressive 3.9 in comparison to eggs (3.1) and chicken (2.7). Indeed, all evidence points to whey’s superiority as the perfect protein source for muscle repair and growth.
In addition to its clear muscle building advantage, whey has also been shown to promote fat loss, suppress appetite, increase strength, counter stress and depression, and boost immune system integrity, making it an ideal supplement for all who seek health along with lean mass building benefits.
Despite the seemingly endless introduction of many new protein formulations (for example, hemp, rice, pea, beef and others including the reemergence of the tried and tested milk and egg), whey protein’s popularity has continued to grow. It remains an unchallenged protein supplementation leader, and for good reason: it is vastly more effective than anything else on the market. With hundreds of whey products to choose from, bodybuilders and general fitness folk are spoilt for choice. While all whey brands to an extent honor their bright and bold label proclamations, there are degrees of efficacy among the market leaders.
Which whey to go?
Of the three different types of whey protein that are available (whey concentrate, whey isolate, and whey hydrolysate), each can be used to serve different purposes. While whey concentrate (29–89% protein by weight) is the cheapest form and good for bodybuilders on a budget, it can also be mixed with superior forms and taken with meals to increase the amino acid profile of each.
Next highest in effectiveness is whey isolate (90%+ protein by weight), which is essentially whey concentrate that has been processed (via the cross flow, ion exchange, cold filtered and other such methods) to remove fat and lactose. A little more expensive it nevertheless provides more of an anabolic kick and is thus superior to whey concentrate.
Whey hydrolysate is enzymatically predigested thus affording it the highest rate of digestion of all protein types. As well as being rapidly absorbed into muscle tissue (the body normally hydrolyses proteins before they can be properly assimilated but with whey hydrolysate this step is already taken care of) whey hydrolysate also activates the glucose transporter GLUT4 in muscle cells to encourage greater muscle glycogen uptake. This means more energy for intensive training and less stored as body fat.
As a potent, convenient, cost effective and natural way in which to increase muscle protein synthesis and to promote the growth of lean muscle tissue, whey protein can be taken at any time, but is particularly beneficial first thing in the morning to provide an anabolic boost following the fasting period otherwise known as sleep, and directly after resistance training
TO NOURISH PROTEIN HUNGRY MUSCLES (POST TRAINING WHEY CONSUMPTION TAKES ADVANTAGE OF THE SO CALLED ‘GOLDEN’ WINDOW, DURING WHICH NUTRIENT ASSIMILATION IS SIGNIFICANTLY OPTIMIZED).
So important is protein replenishment for growing muscle tissue that to neglect this fundamental bodybuilding requirement is to sacrifice muscle gains. While whole foods nutrition certainly plays a key role in providing the raw materials needed for optimal muscle recovery and growth (and, yes, milk and eggs are still excellent protein choices).
IT IS WHEY THAT IS LEADING THE WAY IN BUILDING BIGGER, AND BETTER, BODIES.
Whether it is used to round out the protein balance of whole foods meals, as an early morning anabolic kickstart, or post training to commence the protein synthesis process (preferably all three for optimal results), whey is a crucial addition to any good muscle building regime.
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