With so many supplements and brands available to athletes, it can be very challenging to make decisions around what you really need, and what is actually a high quality product. With no regulation in the supplement industry, it's difficult to find those that are pure, effective, and good value for money. The aim of this article is to explain the differences between basic and premium whey protein power so that you can make a more informed decision.
If you like to lift, play a power sport, or enjoy endurance activities like running or cycling, you’re using more energy and creating more muscle damage than a sedentary person, and so need between 1.6 and 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. This can be difficult to accomplish through your diet alone, so you might consider taking a protein supplement. There are also situations in which it’s inconvenient to consume high-protein foods – such as immediately after you train or when you grab lunch on the go – which is when protein powder may be more convenient. But not all protein supplements are created equal, so let’s look at some of the difference makers. Here are 6 questions you can ask when deciding which protein powders to take.
1. What is a Complete vs. Incomplete Protein?
There are 20 different amino acids that make up protein, of which your body can produce 11. This leaves nine: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine – that you need to either source from food or a supplement. With this in mind, there are basically two kinds of protein sources. The first offer all nine essential amino acids and so are complete, and the second provide eight or less, and so are incomplete. Animal-based options (meat, fish, and dairy) are usually complete, while soy and most other individual plant-based proteins are incomplete, though some protein supplements can combine two protein sources like pea and rice to offer a complete amino acid profile.
2. Why Go with Whey Isolate?
When it comes to supplemental protein, whey is the gold-standard of the complete, animal-based options. For starters, it is the most heavily researched of all nutritional supplements, giving it a track record of proven efficacy. Second, whey not only contains all nine essential aminos but is also a rich source of Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) that contribute to muscle repair and growth after exercise and, according to a study published in the American Journal of Physiology, limit muscle tear-down during it.[i] Third, whey is highly bioavailable – meaning that your body can readily absorb and utilize it.
Lower-quality powders are usually whey protein concentrate, which has a bioavailability score of 104. This is pretty good, particularly when you consider that eggs – one of nature’s richest protein sources – score 100. Yet it pales in comparison to the whey protein isolate found in more premium formulas, which weighs in at a hefty 159.
3. How Do Digestive Enzymes Improve Protein Availability and Digestion?
Regular whey protein received a 1.0 PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score), the highest measurement on the rating scale. However, some people experience bloating, indigestion, and cramping after consuming certain whey supplements. To help make Momentous grass-fed whey protein more digestible and ensure that it’s readily absorbed by your body, we added 10 mg of a clinically-proven ProHydrolase® enzyme blend. This encourages pre-digestion of our grass-fed whey protein isolate, releasing the full spectrum of amino acids and forming smaller peptides that are more readily broken down by your digestive system.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study found that consuming whey protein with ProHydrolase provided 20 percent more amino acids than taking whey by itself, and reduced the level of c-reactive protein, an inflammation marker.[ii] Another study found that taking the whey plus ProHydrolase combination increased bloodstream levels of the muscle-building amino acid leucine by 33 percent and elevated the level of all essential amino acids by an average of 29 percent, compared to taking whey alone.[iii] The upshoot? If you want a protein powder that is easy on your stomach and delivers the most amino acid bang for your buck, opt for one that includes ProHydrolase.
4. What Advantages Do Grass-Fed and Naturally Flavored Whey Protein Offer?
When it comes to comparing whey protein options, ingredient sourcing is a major difference maker. Even if the main ingredient listed in a product is whey isolate, it might well be sourced from a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO). This is an intensively farmed feedlot in which cattle are often injected with antibiotics and growth hormones, kept in unsanitary conditions, and overfed with corn and other starches sprayed with pesticides. The result is an inferior supplement.
When formulating Momentous protein, we searched all over the globe to find a better source. This led us to Germany, where our whey comes from grass-fed cows cared for under stricter European Union guidelines that prohibit the use of hormones, antibiotics, steroids, and a much greater number of pesticides than the US. Grass-fed whey is also higher in fatty acids like omega-3 and CLA and has a greater mineral content than grain-fed alternatives. Another choice we made early on was to use all-natural flavors like cocoa and vanilla rather than the cheaper artificial options found in many protein powders.
5. Why Do Manufacturing and Third-Party Testing Matter?
When presenting to the International Society of Sports Nutrition Symposium, two scientists noted that when companies create whey protein isolate, their manufacturing process often causes some of the contents to become denatured. “The denaturation of proteins involves breaking down their structure and losing peptide bonds and reducing the effectiveness of the protein,” they wrote.[iv] This occurs due to the heating process that’s typically used. In other words, even though a supplement could be labeled as “whey protein isolate,” it might not be as high quality as the term suggests.
In contrast, Momentous uses cold processing to create our premium whey protein powder. This ensures that the amino acids you get in the container are all intact so that your body can make the most of them in the muscle repair and recovery process. This is just one element of our manufacturing that’s controlled end to end in keeping with the batch testing performed by both Informed Sport and NSF Certified for Sport®, which also ensures that our whey protein isolate is free of contaminants and banned substances.
6. What Benefits Does an Activity-Specific Formula Provide?
A final factor when choosing the right whey protein for you is finding one that’s tailored to how you train and live. Most companies only target strength/power athletes, but a paper published in Frontiers in Nutrition found that protein supplementation helps with “optimizing physical performance and positively influencing the subsequent recovery processes for both resistance training and endurance exercise.”[v]
That’s why we created our Recovery with added carbohydrates, electrolytes, and glutamine (an essential amino acid) to help you refuel after you hit your workout. For everyday use, there’s our Essential Whey protein. So no matter what today throws at you, there’s a Momentous grass-fed whey protein option to help you recover and reload to come back stronger tomorrow.
[i] D A MacLean et al, “Branched-Chain Amino Acids Augment Ammonia Metabolism while Attenuating Protein Breakdown During Exercise,” American Journal of Physiology, 1994, available online at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7810616/.
[ii] “ProHydrolase® Provides a Better “Whey” for Muscle Building, Says Clinical Study,” Deerfield, available online at https://www.deerland.com/gut/prohydrolase-provides-a-better-whey-for-muscle-building-says-clinical-study/.
[iii] Jeremy R Townsend et al, “The Effect of ProHydrolase® on the Amino Acid and Intramuscular Anabolic Signaling Response to Resistance Exercise in Trained Males,” Sports, February 2020, available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7077235/.
[iv] Jay R. Hoffman and Michael J. Falvo, “Protein - Which is Best?” Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, September 2004, available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3905294/.
[v] Harry P. Cintineo et al, “Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training,” Frontiers in Nutrition, September 2018, available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6142015/.