Lean Muscle Repair and Recovery: Whey Protein Vs Food

Studies reflect that lean muscles repair and recovery can be enhanced by consuming protein and/or amino acids before, during or after physical exercises far more efficiently than through consuming animal and non-animal foods. Protein and amino acid supplements like the Whey Protein are convenient sources to provide these ingredients to athletes or those doing workouts, a study on Protein for exercise and recovery states. The same study suggests that “adequate intake and appropriate timing of protein ingestion has been shown to be beneficial in multiple exercise modes, including endurance, anaerobic, and strength exercise.” But with this said, a question that people often ask is, why can’t we have these ingredients for animal or non-animal diets from our daily food?

While leaving the rocket science aside for researchers and scientists, I will put the plain facts in ordinary speech here as a health and fitness professional who has worked in the industry for nearly two decades and helped 100s of individuals do workouts without getting grounded because of fatigued lean muscles.

What are Amino Acids?

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins that are necessary ingredients for the growth of human beings. They form the major ingredients in the formation for proteins. Though there are 20 amino acids in common use, there are other two amino acids that are supposed to be rare.

Image Source: Compound Chem


What is the relation between Protein, Amino Acids and Lean Muscle Repair?

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and proteins are the building blocks of life itself. Amino acid molecules are joined by peptide links to form the long chain molecules that make up proteins. Different types of proteins form the human body.

The human body contains 100s of different proteins responsible for nearly every function. And as said above Amino acids are the building blocks of tissue, specifically lean tissue or muscle. Apart from ingesting protein powders, you can get these amino acids directly from consuming animal products or combining non-animal foods.

Protein Vs Animal Food: The way it is

When we can get all the required protein from daily diet, why should we resort to protein powder? Well that’s a question that most people ask me around. As a health fitness professional who has worked around in the sector for nearly two decades, here are some facts about getting proteins from Animal foods:

  1. Animal foods take hours to completely break down and become available for the body to utilise.
  2. Animal foods contain anywhere from low to high levels of saturated fats, which may contribute in body’s cholesterol levels.
  3. The availability of nutrients and absorption of these nutrients into our body from animal foods (specifically nutrients from protein) is poor in comparison to digestion and absorption of whey protein powder. This is referred to as bioavailability.

Please note that I have only mentioned the down sides of consuming animal foods/products, in comparison to consuming whey protein powder, simply so that I can drive my message home. Keep in mind that animal products have a decent amount of nutrients that are also highly important. Todays’ article aims at explaining the difference from a protein angle only.

Apart from ingesting protein powders, you can get these amino acids directly from consuming animal products or combining non-animal foods.

Whey Protein Vs Food for Lean Muscle Repair

 Breaking it all down, here are 3 good reasons that place whey protein powder in pole position over animal and non-animal food sources:

  1. Animal Foods take time to come into action:

Animal sources of protein such as white meat, chicken, fish (let’s include eggs here) take approximately 2-8 hours to be broken down, digested and absorbed by our body. Red meats such as beef and lamb generally take up to 24 hours to be broken down and digested, sometimes longer. Your body cannot use the nutrients of these foods until those nutrients have been properly broken down and are ready from absorption. Animal products, second to whey protein powder, contain the highest available protein nutrients.

  1. Complete Amino Acids and Protein Profile

Protein from non-animal foods such as vegetable proteins are only classed as complete proteins (a complete protein is one that contains all 9 essential amino acids) when consumed in combination. Therefore, you need to combine vegetables to receive complete protein. Rice and pea protein are both not complete forms of protein on their own. It is only when you consume a combination of both rice and pea protein that are receiving complete protein (as all essential amino acids are present when combining the 2 proteins), and can safely say you have nourished your body’s protein requirements. These foods unfortunately also contain amounts of starch and sugars.

  1. Whey protein powder gives instant action

Whey protein powder depending on the type (whey protein combined with fats, WPI, WPC or other combinations) takes around 30 minutes for digestion and absorption. So an hour after you have taken your whey protein, your body is already utilising the amino acids contained in it, and has commenced the recovery process. Similar to animal products and unlike vegetables, whey protein powder contains all the 9 essential amino acids that are required to be a complete protein. Only ‘complete proteins’ can provide you with the nutrients you require to recover, repair and rebuild lean tissue.

It is extremely important to receive most of your nutrient intake from foods, but more often than not, in today’s convenient driven society with junk foods and fast foods dominating the market place, it means you need to be prepared. If you are not prepared and are searching for food that will nourish your body properly, whey protein is a substantial option for you.

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