When it comes to protein, there is so much confusion out there that we feel truly compelled to clean it up, set the record straight and give you the real goods on this misunderstood macronutrient.
So, below we will tackle each of the major proteins out their and help you discover which ones will be best for you and your needs.
Plus, we will then answer a few of the most commonly asked questions about protein and hopefully dispel any misinformation out there on each of those protein-based topics.
Which Scales Or Values Are Used To Assess Protein?
There are a few obscure ones that no one except hard core researchers would ever use, so here are the most common ones in use today.
1. NUPS (Net Utilizable Protein Score).
This does just as its name indicates. It literally tells you how much of that protein source is actually bioavailable and that can be used by the body.
You might think, well, wouldn’t it be all of it?
No. And here is a perfect example that’s easy to see.
Let’s say you have a steak, and you throw it on the grill to barbeque it. Some of that flesh is going to be burned and some possibly even turned to char (burnt black).
The portion that’s burnt or charred is not utilizable by the body and is actually carcinogenic. You should not eat burnt flesh.
This would lower the NUPS of that protein source.
The same would happen if you had a protein powder that was processed in such a way as to damage the proteins utilization. This too would lower it’s NUPS.
2. PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score).
This score looks at how much protein can your body use after it digests the protein source.
This differs from NUPS in that this one is post digestion.
One of the easiest ways to see this one in action is that cartilage is also a protein source, but after you digest it, you’ll find that a much smaller amount can be used by the body than say egg albumin.
3. PER (Protein Efficiency Ratio).
This examines how efficient the protein is overall at being absorbed, donated to the nitrogen pool and then being recombined into various proteins as needed by the body.
4. BV (Biological Value).
This studies the protein as a whole to assess it total value on the biology of the creature ingesting it. Not just how much protein can be used, but how valuable is that protein as both a food source and a protein source.
Understanding these will be helpful as we discuss which proteins are the healthiest for humans to eat. There will be many other factors than these, but these will be used from time to time.
Are Eggs Really The Best Source Of Protein In The World?
Yes and no.
While whole egg protein does have a BV of 97 and a NUPS of 98 to 100 depending on whose literature you’re citing it does also have some drawbacks.
So, to be clear, whole egg protein is very good at helping the body to build and or recover with its optimized donation to the nitrogen pools.
However, its high levels of cholesterol may put certain people at greater risk of heart disease.
Then there is the argument that because the egg yolk contains phosphatidyl choline which mitigates the cholesterol, that the egg is still a perfect food.
And yes, even if there wasn’t any phosphatidyl choline the cholesterol should just be digested as any other protein would and thereby rendered harmless to the body by the digestive process.
There are contrary pieces of research showing both sides of the fence are correct. So, for now, to be safe, just presume that eggs do have some cholesterol that could somehow impact the overall cholesterol of the body.
Then, are eggs the best protein source? Let’s continue our discussion looking at other sources and find out.
Is Whey Protein Good For You?
Whey protein has also been touted in many circles as the ultimate protein for human consumption because of its insane biological value of 104 on a chart that was only designed to go to 100.
Early researchers figured they had hit the pinnacle after testing egg albumen and so they used this as the standard labeling it a perfect 100.
Then, when they tested ultra filtered whey protein that had been cold processed, they had no choice but to label it at 104 because its protein had several advantages over egg albumen.
Because the protein was originated from cows’ milk it’s amino acid profile unlike the milk itself was very close to human breast milk.
Then, because it also contained immunoglobulins (immune building proteins) it also elicited additional benefits that other proteins simply could not.
Whey protein has a very low possibility of being contaminated as it’s being produced in a completely sterile facility. Whereas eggs as an example come out of a chicken’s butt (yes, they only have one hole and birth and poo out of the same one) making then quite susceptible to toxins and salmonella.
These things make whey protein a pretty good choice for the best protein for human consumption.
Is Soy Protein Good Or Bad For You?
The complete answer to that is no, soy protein is not bad for you, or for men any more than women, but to understand why this is true there are a couple of things we will need to dive in to.
1. Soy has isoflavones that are incredibly weak estrogen mimickers which concern people. Will these isoflavones mess with your hormonal system? Will they cause women to go into menopause too early, will they cause men to grow man boobs?
These are the types of questions people ask about these isoflavones.
So, here’s the answer.
There is no credible science that shows any of these things happening in humans during the last several thousand years of soy production and consumption.
Here is a little fact for you that might blow your mind.
These same isoflavones are also found in bourbon and beer.
So, for all you guys out there that chug beer thinking it’s a manly act, but shiver at the sight of a soy dog, your fears are misplaced.
If the beer and bourbon aren’t causing you to grow breasts and dream of wearing little Sailor Moon costumes at the next cosplay, then neither will soy.
In fact, a guy who considers himself to be an average beer drinker could consume up to five times more isoflavones in one night of sipping pints than if you ate 30 grams of soy protein for each of breakfast lunch and dinner in that same day.
The next question is of course.
Is Soy A High Quality Protein For Human Consumption?
The Biological Value of soy protein is only a 74 which is not as high as some other foodstuffs such as whey protein as we discussed earlier.
This means that soy protein has a percentage of it that will not be used efficiently by the body to create proteins or donate to the nitrogen pools around the body.
It does not mean that soy protein is harmful, just a bit less efficient.
As an observational note: If soy isoflavones caused menopausal challenges in women or man boobs in men you’d see this as a massive problem all throughout Asia as their populations consume a considerable amount of soy products.
Since this is not the case, the empirical evidence does not show this across many countries that all consume copious amounts of soy in a large variety of ways.
What is Rice Protein Made From?
Rice protein is generally extracted from the husk of brown rice just like rice oil is as well. It is then put through a couple of refining processes to concentrate the amount of protein per 100 grams (or any measurement). It’s then milled into a general consistency and sold in many forms, not the least of which is rice protein powder.
Is Rice Protein Good For You?
Yes. Rice protein is well tolerated and has a reasonably high Biological Value of 74 and a NUPS of 73.8% which is also quite high.
Due to its current milling process it does have a rather rough texture that has to be overcome in beverages and not so much in foods that are baked or cooked.
If you choose to use it as a protein supplement, put it into a smoothie where you don’t have the expectation of something super smooth and silky. If you expect the smoothie to be a little rough, then this will meet your expectations much better.
Rice protein does have one slight drawback that should be taken into consideration and corrected. It’s a little low in the amino acid L lysine. This can be corrected by consuming rice protein blended with pea protein or even soy protein.
Is Pea Protein Good For You?
Yes, pea protein is generally recognized as safe and is well tolerated by most people. Its biological value is a little low at only 65. It is low in the sulfur containing amino acids but high in the amino acid L lysine. As such it is generally combined with brown rice protein which is high in sulfur containing amino acids but lower in L lysine so the two balance each other out rather well.
One of the challenges in formulating functional foods and beverages with pea protein is its challenging flavor profile. Most people cannot tolerate the taste without considerable work by the flavoring specialist to mask that distinctive profile.
One of the other reasons for it being used to such an extent is its low cost to produce. This allows you to be able to get a pretty decent protein powder at a reasonable cost.
Is Casein Protein Good For You?
Yes and no. Here’s why. It has allergy issues with a number of people as many people don’t tolerate the milk sugar lactose very well, many also do not tolerate casein well either. With a Biological Value of 70.8 it’s only right on par with the likes of corn protein.
There are also issues with whether or not it is a true aid in muscle building as one study showed that 52 grams of casein supplementation twice per day did not significantly increase lean tissue (muscle) growth.
Many other studies have shown that large amounts of casein may contribute to the random cross linking of collagen molecules which are known to cause wrinkling and signs of premature aging on the skin.
It may be a great base protein for the development of a baby cow, but it does not appear to be so hot for human development.
Because it’s relatively cheap to produce you’ll find casein protein in a number of foods as a cheaper protein base.
For a time, it was marketed to bodybuilders as a nighttime protein because it takes the body considerably longer to digest and the thought was that it would keep your nitrogen levels up through the night.
This turned out to be incorrect and it should not be used or marketed for this purpose.
3 Of The Top Protein Questions We Get On A Regular Basis
1. Is Protein Before Bed Good For You?
The answer is yes. However, it needs to be the right kind of protein. As we have shown, casein is not the best nighttime protein. Whey protein with its impressive biological value of 104 should be considered instead.
The reason protein before bed is a good idea is that up to 70% of your daily growth hormone is secreted within the first one hour after you pass REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. This is a prime time to have recovery aids at your bodies disposal so that it can repair from your day.
2. How Do Vegans Get Their Protein?
They get it from the same source as meat eaters, they just cut out the middleman. This is to say that; cows as an example get their protein from the grass, hay, oats, fruits and other plant matter that they consume. They break it down and convert it into their flesh which carnivores and omnivores then eat.
Vegans on the other hand just eat the plants and thereby skip the cow (as the example) being the middleman in the transaction.
All protein comes from plants originally, vegans just go to the source.
3. Is Protein A Molecule?
No. Protein is a group of molecules that form crystalline elements that form amino acids that form proteins.