Whatever your fitness passion; be it weightlifting, running, cycling or aerobics, upping your protein intake is beneficial in several ways:

  • Encourages muscle growth
  • Shortens recovery time between exercise sessions
  • Improves energy levels and reduces fatigue after exercise
  • Reduces muscular aches

Good quality protein can be found in many foods, but in the quantities required by athletes it is more practical to supplement your intake with a protein extract. These come in several forms and in this article we briefly explore the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is extracted from a by-product of milk, specifically cow’s milk in most cases. Some supplements, such as The Native Whey, are taken directly from milk. This preserves many of the naturally occurring enzymes that aid digestion. Remember that humans are not naturally lactose tolerant as adults; that ability comes from a genetic mutation occurring in European populations. Even ‘ordinary’ adults may have some difficulty processing dairy products.

A more common way of producing whey protein powder is by using by-products of the cheese manufacturing industry. The result is whey protein concentrate or whey protein isolate - depending on whether just ultrafiltration is used, or if it undergoes an additional microfiltration stage. This keeps costs down but it also risks unwanted added ingredients from the cheese process ending up in your protein, something not many people are comfortable with. People who suspect a lactose intolerance should not use whey protein.

Plant-based Protein

Animal and marine proteins are unsuitable for vegans. Fortunately, there are now several high quality plant-based proteins that are a great source of protein for vegan athletes. The extraction process varies and different supplements have a higher protein content than others. A good quality whey protein will pack 90% to 95% protein by volume. With plant-based proteins you’re looking at an average of 80%, so go for high purity supplements and consider upping your intake if you are moving over from whey protein. Soya protein supplements are popular, although these are unsuitable for people with lecithin (soy) allergies. We recommend you try either rice protein or pea protein for an effective, dairy free supplement.

Marine Protein

Collagen supplements extracted from marine sources are a very good source of bioavailable protein. These contain 84% - 90% protein and are a great source of essential amino acids. When extracted from Krill, marine collagen powder is also a valuable source of antioxidants. Marine collagen supplements are not suitable for people with a fish, shellfish, milk or gluten allergy.

Performance Boosters

The fitness potential of a protein supplement can be enhanced by taking additional supplements. Collagen is a good complement when looking to boost recovery time. You can take collagen as a direct supplement, or encourage your body’s own collagen production by supplementing with the amino acid L-Proline. Keeping up your Vitamin C intake will also help you reap the benefits of protein supplements. Vitamin C helps maintain healthy connective tissues by encouraging collagen production, and aids bioavailability by breaking down protein molecules in the intestines.

Muscle performance and lean muscle growth can be encouraged by adding Creatine Monohydrate powder to your protein intake. Consult your Personal Trainer and/or doctor for advice on the right creatine dosage for your sport.

Decisions, Decisions

Are you unsure of which protein supplement is most suited to your fitness regime and dietary requirements? Have a look at our new e-book: The Native Whey Protein to find out how to get the best performance output and value for money. Click here to download a copy from our Health Hub.