Protein goes way beyond your post-workout shake. As complex structures made up of amino acids, proteins provide ingredients for tissue growth, enzymes, hormonal construction, and more. In this article, we’ll cover protein’s role in the human body, why you should invest in protein powder and the benefits of choosing grass-fed whey protein isolate.
What Is Protein And Why Do We Need It?
Different foods contain different proteins, which means they come with varying amino acid profiles. Just think of this analogy - proteins are the sentences to any language, and amino acids are the words. You can string a sequence of amino acids to make a protein... just like I'm connecting these words to make a sentence. Add up a bunch of words and sentences together, and you get a paragraph, article, or even an entire book. Connect them differently, and you get a completely new story.
That’s what protein provides. Your body takes the proteins from food, breaks them down into pieces called amino acids, and re-organizes them into new structures as needed.
The Benefits Of Protein Powder
Now, don’t get me wrong - most of our protein (and diet in general) should come from all-natural, whole food. Things like steak, brown rice, chicken, yogurt, and even nuts contain plenty of micronutrients, fiber, and other ingredients that benefit our nutrition. Food should always be considered as a whole, never solely for its individual parts.
If that weren't the case, we'd all just take a pill in the morning and call it a day. But that's just some unrealistic sci-fi stuff from The Jetsons or the Matrix.
However, that doesn’t mean protein powder doesn’t have its benefits. Sometimes, we can’t stomach an entire meal. Or we’re in a hurry to get to work and need a quick shake. Or it’s right after our workout, and we don’t want to eat six hard-boiled eggs on the gym floor.
That’s where your handy-dandy protein powder comes in. The benefits of a good protein powder include:
- Reduced hunger
- Insulin control
- Accelerated muscle growth
- Better recovery (and next-day performance)
- Reduced inflammation
- Healthy enzyme and hormone production
Start by choosing something that’s clean, tastes good, and doesn’t include any banned substances. If you do that, you’ll be fine.
But why be just fine when you could have something great?
Like all high-quality supplements, great protein powders isolate the nutrients you need to get specific results. For protein powder, in particular, it’s really the amino acid composition that matters.
The Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate Difference
While there are 21 amino acids to choose from, the human body can’t create them all. Those that we CAN synthesize on our own are called non-essential amino acids. However, nine of these, known as essential amino acids, have to come from our diet. Plenty of studies show that a higher dietary protein intake correlates with faster recovery, muscle gain, and increased athletic performance.
The essential amino acids are as follows:
Now, you might be thinking - “Why should I care about these specific amino acids? I just want to know which protein to take after my workout.”
That’s completely fair. But, in order to understand the benefits of grass-fed whey protein isolate, you need to understand that not all protein is created equal.
The Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score
In 2013, a new "gold standard" for measuring the protein quality of food came to light - the Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS). It takes a protein-rich food, such as chicken, tofu, or milk, and determines the amino acid digestibility at the end of the small intestine. Then, that number is compared to the essential amino acid requirements in humans to reveal a score from 0-1 (some of which even go over 100%).
In short, it tells you which protein-rich foods give you the best “bang for your buck”
According to recent research, here’s a brief comparison of scores across common foods:
- Whole Milk -1.14
- Egg - 1.13
- Whey protein isolate - 1.09
- Chicken breast - 1.08
- Soy protein isolate - 0.90
- Pea protein concentrate - 0.82
- Cooked rice - 0.59
- Tofu - 0.52
- Almonds - 0.40
And what’s near the top of that list? Whey protein isolate.
Sure, you'd be slightly better off drinking milk or eating an egg. But if you're counting macros or cutting calories, quite a bit of fat and/or carbs come along for the ride. That's why whey protein isolate is the best choice for physique-conscious athletes - you get essential amino acids without the extra calories/macros. That way, you’ll recover and build muscle while staying on track with your goals.
Even more, whey protein isolate makes for the perfect peri-workout shake due to its massive BCAA profile. BCAA's trigger muscle protein synthesis, a process critical to rebuilding broken-down tissue after a workout. In particular, the post-exercise anabolic effect is largely due to strong leucine content. Whey protein not only contains tons of leucine, but it’s also rapidly digested. Studies show that plasma leucine levels peak within 30 minutes of ingestion, which helps shift your body into recovery mode ASAP.
Grass-Fed Nutrition - The Added Bonus
In case you’re completely in the dark about grass-fed cows, here’s the rundown.
Whey isolate originally comes from milk, which comes from cows. Dairy cows spend most of their lives growing up and eating grass anyway. It’s only when they get older that farmers shift from feeding them grass to grain/feed. While many dairy cows continue to eat grass, a portion of their diet comes from a mix of corn, soy, or other feed products.
Why? It provides more energy per pound for the cow and is, therefore, cheaper for the farm. It also makes for an easy option during harsh winters where grass may die.
Grass-fed cows, however, spend their entire lives eating grass. As such, their food source contains significantly less energy, taking longer to yield the same amount of milk. Hence, the higher price point of grass-fed products.
But if you care about the environment, it’s a small price to pay. You see, mass-produced corn requires a ridiculous amount of chemical fertilizer. And that fertilizer requires a huge amount of oil. Experts estimate that an adult cow could consume over 280 gallons of oil in its lifetime. And that’s one cow. Multiply that times… the entire dairy industry, and you get a LOT of fossil fuels burning.
Conclusion - How to use your Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate
Research shows that athletes need anywhere from 1.2-2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight every day. In truth, elite CrossFitters might need more. It all depends on your muscle mass, training load, and additional macronutrient intake. We do know that drinking a protein shake after a hard training session can be critical to recovery. If you want to hit a new PR, enter a competition, or simply be able to walk after a leg-heavy day, grass-fed whey protein isolate is your new best friend.