Whey Protein

Before you take another bite, read MICHAEL COLGAN’S advice on how to avoid a garbage body. He tells how “Whey concentrate builds more muscle than other protein extracts or whole food.”

Remember though that he is not coming from a whole food perspective, and he seems to have a fear of fat. Athletes following a whole food diet find they have excellent muscle growth and recovery eating raw egg yolks or raw liver after workouts, for example. So take of his rhetoric with a pinch of unprocessed sea salt. But heed his advice on avoiding incomplete vegetable proteins, powders with dodgy addtives, and anything that doesn’t digest well.

Eat GARBAGE proteins and you grow a garbage body. Protein is integral to your body, top to toe. The structure of your muscles, organs, brain cells, and genes is protein. The haemoglobin that transports your oxygen, and the thousands of enzymes that control all bodily functions, from the blink of an eye to the growth of a bone, are proteins.

Each protein structure is being constantly rebuilt. Yet your body has no protein store to draw upon, rebuilding day-by-day solely from what you eat. More than 98% of the molecules of your body are replaced every year. During the last month, your skin and mucous membrane have completely rebuilt themselves. During the last three months you got a whole new blood supply. During the last six months almost every molecule of the proteins in your muscles has been replaced. You can get away with eating garbage fats and carbohydrates. Apart from essential fatty acids, they are only temporary supplies of energy quickly in and out of the body. But every time you eat garbage protein, it builds right into your structure.

Fat and sedentary Mr and Mrs Average hardly notice. When your biggest exertion every day is to open the door of the fridge, garbage muscles don’t restrict you. But for athletes aiming for glory, building the wrong protein into your body will shatter your dreams. Before you take another bite, learn about the best protein.

Beware of myths

I’M WEARY of whacking again and again the obsolete protein equivalency ratio, and net protein utilisation index, favoured by the meat industry and still quoted in muscle advertisements as measures of protein quality. Relying on the obsolete science of the amount of protein consumed, rather than the amount of protein absorbed, they are about as accurate at assessing human needs as the Victorian practice of phrenology (feeling the bumps on your skull). Next time you see a steroid monster tearing into a steak, realise that his size has nothing to do with carnivorous drool.

I’m wearier still of the United States Food and Drug Administration’s new, tongue-twisting protein digestibility corrected amino acid score, which has spawned hundreds of documents from unthinking health authorities, that are sapping the spunk of America with third-rate proteins. Amino acid composition of a protein is only one of the attributes that render it good or ugly

Biological value

THE FIRST step in protein quality is biological value which measures the amount of protein retained in the human body per gram of protein absorbed. When the measure was first developed, all other foods scored lower than the whole egg, which was therefore rated 100%, other proteins being given their relative percentage scores below it. But new technology in the 1980s produced a variety of whey peptides that score up to 159. So the percentage tag became meaningless and dropped out. Nevertheless, biological value scores remain directly comparable, so a score of 150 for example, has twice the biological value of a score of 75. If you want to excel at sport, eat foods in the high-number range of biological value every day.

Vegetable proteins

DON’T rely on vegetable proteins. They have health attributes, but their biological values put them at the bottom of the list for athletes. Your body has a hard time incorporating vegetable proteins into lean tissue. You have to eat a mountain of beans or soy isolate to get the same protein retention as a modicum of first-class proteins.

Eating big on beans brings the added bane of their sugars, stachyose and raffinose. Western bodies don’t digest them well, so they ferment in your gut with odorous results. A vegetarian sprinter I know, used to think multiple explosions during races enhanced his speed until I changed his diet to omnivore and he really started to run fast. You can stop the gas with products that contain the sugar digestive enzyme alpha-galactosidase, which also works well for gas problems with the sugars in vegetables such as broccoli, and in wheat and other whole grains. But you can’t stop the detrimental effects of a vegetarian diet on muscle. Soy and gluten proteins increase your thyroid hormones triiodothyronine, and thyroxine to muscle-destroying levels.

People with low thyroid levels lose fat rapidly when given the hormone, thyroid. Because they were ignorant of the biochemistry many bodybuilders also took it. They lost fat but couldn’t understand why they also lost muscle. Excess thyroid is catabolic to all tissues. So catabolic, that in 24 years of sports nutrition, working with many thousands of athletes, I have never seen a single vegetarian athlete in power and strength sports who has even come near his potential.

What about those champions who exult in their “cult of the cuddly” vegetarian status. All those I know are “ovo-lacto vegetarians”, that contradiction used by the unintelligent to claim they are vegetarian and therefore not exploiting animals. Downing high biological value milk and egg proteins by the shovelful, they have unwittingly hit on the premium diet for athletes.

Meat doesn’t make it

THE biological values of meats and fish are not much higher than casein. So, despite their traditional use – and the spurious description of great athletes as lions, tigers, panthers, and other carnivores – meats are not the muscle foods they are cracked up to be. Another problem is the amino acid alanine. During and after weight training, the muscle branched-chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine are catabolized to make alanine and glutamine, which are then lost from the muscle.

The chicken, fish, and egg whites beloved of many athletes, however, contain negligible alanine. Only beef, sheep, and milk contain appreciable amounts. You can of course eat more red meats, but then you have the problem of their lower biological value and high fat content. You can also take supplementary branched-chained aminos to provide a substrate for alanine and glutamine. That’s the main way branched-chain supplements are anti-catabolic. As a food base, the best approach is whey proteins, which not only contain a lot of alanine, but heaps of all three branched-chain aminos too.

False Economy

WHEN buying whey proteins, you get what you pay for. The right stuff is hellish expensive to make, so to keep cost down, most companies blend it with a variety of cheap milk or soy proteins, then lull you into buying with pseudo-science. Beware especially those flashy brands that list their proteins as a “proprietary blend” It has nothing to do with keeping the trade secret of a fabulous protein mix. It’s just a dodge to avoid revealing the percentages of each protein, so you can’t discover that the bulk of the powder is useless.

The worst blend we’ve found is less than 10% good proteins, and over 90% cheap milk casein, soy isolate, or cheap whey. Unlike pure whey protein which is heavy and dense, all these powders are light and bulky, because they are loaded with sugars and other unwanted components, So you seem to be getting more for your money. A good rule of thumb is, the bigger the tub the bigger the scam. The giant tubs sent to the Colgan Institute for testing make such great trash cans, you can see right away that’s what they were designed to hold.

Explosive proteins

BREAKING wind is a guide to the quality of the protein you buy. Explosive intestines are a sure sign of garbage proteins. The lactose in casein and cheap whey, and the sugars in soy isolate are difficult to digest. The bulk drops into your bowel and ferments furiously. Even worse for gas are those fraudulent brands that make no attempt at all to provide protein. Recently the Canadian Health Authorities tested eight supplements sold in Canada and the United States. Six were labelled as amino acid products derived from protein hydrolysates. The other two were labelled as 100% pure crystalline free-form amino acids. Every one was promoted in glowing terms as the best, the purest, the latest science, and the greatest boon to muscle building since creation.

None was true to label. The total protein/amino acid content of the products varied from a meagre 30% to 82%. Four products contained mainly what appeared to be cheap gelatine powder. Two products contained only a single amino acid, L-lysine, plus large amounts of ammonia, an explosive combination. To avoid the crooks of the supplement marketplace, buy only from companies with a reputation to lose. Ditch any protein that makes you break wind. Otherwise you’re just blowing your money away.

Destroying Protein

THE BEST proteins for athletes are high biological value whey proteins. But in whole milk they are tightly bound to many times their weight of fats, sugars and other components. Old methods of breaking these bonds use acids and high heat to extract the proteins. Both processes remove the fats and sugars very well. The amino acid profile is unchanged. But the integrity of the protein molecule is shot.

This destruction of protein is a recent discovery. Many manufacturers are still unaware or unconvinced of a problem, or bound by cost to retain the old technology. Don’t allow your athletic dreams to be bound by anything. If I knew 30 years ago what science has revealed today, I would have made it to the Olympics. Here’s the guts of protein nutrition that will help your shot at glory. The worst damage to protein by heat and extraction methods is destruction of the bonds between pairs and trios of amino acids. The unique chemical shapes these bonds create, are information keys that fit the enzyme locks in your body to switch on protein functions. Without the keys to open the doors of the cells, you can throw all the denatured proteins you like at your muscles, but hardly any gets retained.

That’s also why all those mixtures of pure singular free-form amino acids are virtually useless for building muscle, even those whose amino acid profile exactly matches that of ideal proteins. Despite all the promotional hokum and untold millions in sales over the last 40 years, amino acid blends are virtually useless, because they lack the chemical keys that fit your body locks. The only way your body can use them is by piggybacking on any spare keys provided by the food proteins you eat.

To be fair to amino promoters, science revealed these protein mechanisms only in the last decade. I detail the research in my book Optimum Sports Nutrition but briefly, the unique chemical shapes created by di-peptide and tri-peptide bonds are the keys to optimum protein metabolism. Your body recognises and absorbs di-peptides and tri-peptides by a special pathway that cannot be used by single amino acids. Most aminos in your blood are in di-peptide and tri-peptide form. Peptide protein formulas that preserve the essential bonds, allow the body to retain twice the protein retained from whole protein foods, and up to seven times the protein retained from blends of singular amino acids.

Let’s look at the di-sulphide bond in the tri-peptide formed by glutamine and two molecules of cysteine. This glutamine-cysteine key is crucial for both protein retention and immunity. Most common proteins don’t contain these di-sulphide bonds. Unprocessed egg white has a small amount. Unprocessed whey protein contains a bundle. But they are completely destroyed by usual extraction methods that use heat and acids.

Stack this denatured whey protein concentrate up against whey protein whose di-sulphide bonds are protected by ion-exchange methods, and there’s no comparison. Ion exchange whey protein causes sustained increases in glutathione, one of your most important antioxidants, and confers resistance to a variety of diseases and carcinogens. Denatured whey protein has no effect at all. If you want the right stuff for muscle and strength, with a bonus of the strong immunity that is crucial for athletes, then ion-exchange and crossflow membrane whey protein concentrate is the whey to go.

Michael Colgan is a former senior member of the Science Faculty of the University of Auckland. He is an author, lecturer and head of the Colgan Institute of Nutritional science in the United States. 


Click here to check out the quality of some of the brands of whey protein available.