How to Pick Your Protein Sources for Maximum Results

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Don't throw away your hours of grind and sweat. Quality of protein is just as important as the amount of protein, if not more. Find out which protein sources on the market are the best and which ones are a waste of time.

Imagine this for a second. You just completed your workout. You are feeling that good kind of sore. In fact, you remember that cool saying: "Sore. The most satisfying pain." The endorphins are doing their magic. You are feeling happy. Maybe even proud. You grab that protein bar or shake. The package claims "30g protein" or "20g protein". You feel great thinking that the body is going to absorb that much protein or close to it. Right? And this should help you in your muscle recovery and growth. Right?  Well...not really.  When it comes to protein absorption, nothing could be farther from the truth. And this can make a major difference in your health goals. Read on to learn helpful tips on how you can avoid the pitfalls and pick protein sources that give you the best results.

1. The Protein Truth That They don't Want You to Know

Not all sources of protein are created equal. Recent research shows that protein "bioavailability" of the foods on our plate has a larger impact on how much lean mass we pack on. 

This also impacts those people who are trying to lose weight. During the weight loss process, you aren’t losing only fat, you’re also losing water and muscle.And when you lose muscle, your body loses its toned look. Plus, your maintenance calories go down since muscle needs more energy than fat. The result? You’ll have to deal with being skinny-fat, and you’ll have to eat even less just to maintain your current weight. 

So if you want to avoid weak results from lifting weights, or losing weight only to end up with a skinny-fat body, read on.

2. What is Protein Bioavailability?

A protein source is considered bioavailable if the body can absorb and utilize the protein from the source after consuming it. The more the body can absorb and utilize, the more bioavailable a protein source is. 

3. How to Measure Protein Bioavailability

There are several methods to analyze the quality of protein by looking at the amino acid profile and how well the protein is utilized. We won't go into all of them but focus on two in particular that are most commonly used:

  1. PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Scoring): Up until couple of years ago, this was the most widely used and accepted protein scoring system. 
  2. DIAAS (digestible indispensable amino acid score): This was more recently proposed by FDA as a more accurate measure of protein quality measurement. Given the increased credibility of this scoring system we will use it as our reference to look at popular protein sources below.

4. Ranking of Popular Food Sources by Bioavailability

Below is the protein bioavailability scoring of popular protein sources using the DIAAS method. The below data is obtained from here:

As you can see, not all protein sources are created equal. The rule is simple. Eat the protein sources that are higher in DIAAS values.

What if I am a vegan? Good question! You can consume multiple protein sources so that you are absorbing enough protein. But be careful of over consuming calories just to be protein-adequate. It is a fine act of balance.  But if you are a vegan living in this cruel non-vegan world, then I take it that you already have the resolve and the discipline to do what it takes.

Back to the DIAAS scores. It would follow that simply chugging a whey protein shake or plant based isolate shakes should be enough, right?  Wrong. Here's why.

5. Great Protein Sources Are Often Spoiled by Terrible Fillers

Whey concentrate and whey isolate are some of the most popular protein sources for supplements. From shakes to protein bars and diet ice creams, these two ingredients are everywhere, making it seem like no matter what product you buy, as long as it has one of these two ingredients, it must be good. Sadly, there’s a big difference from one brand to another, and most of the time, it takes more digging than just reading the label. 

When you choose a protein supplement, look out for the following: 

● Bean gum and guar gum 

● Artificial sweeteners 

● Source of the whey

● How was the protein processed

In an ideal world, all whey concentrate would come from grass-fed cows, and all whey isolate would be minimally or cold processed. At the very least, whether it is an isolate or concentrate, all whey should come from cows not treated with antibiotics. In reality, many manufacturers pinch their pennies by using the cheapest available source of whey.  Which means most whey comes from cows that are fed with antibiotics and hormones. 

6. How to Get Quality Protein When You're on the Go 

By now you know what sources of protein can give you higher bio-available protein and you can cook your meals accordingly. But what should you do when you are on the go?

Life happens, and preparing a high bio-available protein diet is simply not possible. 

In such situations, follow the below guidelines when buying your protein snacks:

  • Eat protein bars & shakes that do NOT have sucralose. This is recommended not only for the reasons given above in previous section, but also because of recent discoveries of sucralose instability. Sucralose when exposed to high heat becomes unstable releasing special hydrocarbon compounds that are known to cause cancer. This may not be an issue if you are having a sucralose containing snack that is cold and was never pre-treated with heat. But if you are eating protein bars with sucralose in them, then be careful. Many people heat protein bars in a microwave to make them softer and gooey. Or they could leave protein bars in hot conditions like a car dashboard. If such protein bars have sucralose in them, then it becomes a dangerous proposition. The safe option is to stay away from bars containing sucralose or other artificial sweeteners.
  • Avoid protein bars containing egg whites or collagen when the source is not specified. Recent independent studies on a protein bar containing egg whites showed that the suppliers were using factory farmed chickens cooped up unhealthily (not to mention unethically), and stuffed with antibiotics and hormones. 
  • Ensure better whey concentrate source. If the bar or shake has whey concentrate in it, ensure that the whey concentrate comes from grass-fed cows. 
  • Ensure better whey isolate. If the bar or shake has whey isolate in it, ensure that the isolate is cold-processed or minimally processed.
  • For vegan proteins, eat snacks containing at least 2 to 3 diversified sources of vegan protein. Example, buy a protein shake that has hemp, pea and rice proteins instead of the one that has only pea protein. This way you have a higher chances of getting a more bio-available vegan protein.
  • Try Oorja bars. If you want to make the switch to a superior protein source, a good example is Oorja nutrition bar. Oorja nutrition bar is a tasty, all-natural, protein bar. It has the highest combination of protein and fiber compared to leading natural bars. It is free of artificial junk and sweeteners.Oorja contains a blend of the most bio-available sources of protein to allow higher absorption by your body. Protein sources include cold-processed whey protein isolate, grass-fed whey protein concentrate and milk protein isolate. The whey comes from cows not fed with harmones or antibiotics.

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