It is clear from research that additional protein consumption, beyond normal dietary protein intake, is beneficial for people of all ages who participate in resistance training .
It has been suggested protein requirements for resistance trained athletes is higher than normal individuals as extra protein/amino acids are necessary for the maintenance of skeletal muscle tissue and performance.
Variables beyond total protein intake must be considered when selecting proteins including the quality and source of the protein. Generally speaking, quality is determined by the essential amino acid content of the protein.
When it comes to losing fat and gaining muscle, what works best?
Animal and dairy-based products contain the highest percentage of essential amino acids and result in greater protein synthesis and muscle growth after resistance training than a vegetarian protein-matched control, which typically lack one or more essential amino acids .
There isn’t much research regarding the impact of meat-based protein sources on skeletal muscle adaptations .
Whey, Beef & Chicken
A recent study compared the effects of whey protein concentrate, isolated beef protein, hydrolyzed chicken protein and a maltodextrin control group on body composition, muscle performance, perceived recovery, and gastrointestinal symptoms in resistance-trained individuals during periodized resistance training combined with high-intensity interval training. The training protocol lasted for 8 weeks and utilized both men and women with at least 2 years of resistance training experience.
What did they find?
The primary finding was that protein supplementation, irrespective of source, improved body composition relative to the control group and further demonstrating that consuming protein post workout improved body composition results.
These results suggest that choice of protein did not impact muscular strength outcomes, as all quality protein sources (whey, beef and chicken) demonstrated significant improvements in maximum strength.
Only the whey protein concentrate group significantly increased muscle power output.
All experimental groups demonstrated a significant increase in lean body mass and a significant decrease in fat mass, whereas neither of these effects were seen in the control group.
What does this mean?
These findings underscore the importance of consuming protein post workout, but also shows that similar improvements in body composition profiles (i.e. increase lean body mass and decrease fat mass) should be expected if an athlete consumes beef protein, chicken protein, or whey protein despite limited research comparing different animal protein sources on body composition.
A unique outcome of this research is that there was no effect of protein source on muscle protein accretion, suggesting as long as athletes consume large enough quantities of a quality protein, the source is not as relevant.
This is consistent with previous research which suggests a “threshold” for anabolic benefits of protein supplementation that may peak as low as 20 grams .
Take home message
If your goal is losing fat and gaining muscle, bear these key points in mind:
- Differences in protein sources are of less relevance when protein quantity is high (46g) and comes from either meat or dairy-based sources.
- There was no gastrointestinal distress from any of the protein treatments reported in this study, even at a dose of 46g protein post workout
- Individuals looking to optimize body composition should consume ample protein post workout, but the source can be self-selected by the individual’s preference. Example is those with dairy or lactose intolerances can select animal protein sources free of these allergens and attain similar body composition and muscular adaptations.
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PhD, CSCS, CISSN
- Biolo, G., et al., An abundant supply of amino acids enhances the metabolic effect of exercise on muscle protein.Am J Physiol, 1997. 273(1 Pt 1): p. E122-9.
- Campbell, W.W., et al., Effects of an omnivorous diet compared with a lactoovovegetarian diet on resistance-training-induced changes in body composition and skeletal muscle in older men.Am J Clin Nutr, 1999. 70(6): p. 1032-9.
- Moore, D.R., et al., Ingested protein dose response of muscle and albumin protein synthesis after resistance exercise in young men.Am J Clin Nutr, 2009. 89(1): p. 161-8.