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The Wonderful World of Protein (Part 1 of 2)

It remains clear that bringing new, innovative and more sustainable protein sources to the market offers significant opportunities for suppliers. In part one of this two-part series, Mark Becker reviews protein sources popular in today’s marketplace.

I have been racing endurance events for almost 35 years. I am far from a world-class endurance athlete. However, world-class athletes are few and far between. Therefore, I believe the information I'm going to present in this article will have mass appeal for athletes and “weekend warriors" everywhere.

Ironically, I began my endurance racing in 1982 at the age of 22 sitting in front of the television. That afternoon, I had my "it" moment. I saw a world-class triathlete, Julie Moss, stagger to the finish line in the 1982 Ironman Triathlon World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. I had never witnessed such determination, drive and a will to succeed. She would not be denied. She changed my world forever.

Fast forward 30+ years. During this time, two of my greatest passions became exercise and nutrition. I have been very fortunate to work in the natural products industry for the past 20 years. I have also had the great fortune a meeting so many brilliant people along the way which has only intensified my passion for health and wellness. My little boys laugh when they see all the bottles of supplements and canisters of powders I have in the house. Not too long ago, my 11-year-old son asked, “Daddy, why don’t you eat real food?" I had to think very carefully before I responded to that question.

Nonetheless, despite my little boy’s comment, one of the highlights of each and every day are the protein shakes I prepare for myself. I drink 2 shakes daily—one early in the morning before my workout and the other midafternoon. Interestingly, the industry trend for protein shows no signs of slowing any time soon. However, some suggest the demand for protein-rich foods is another in a long line of industry fads.

That said, it remains clear that bringing new, innovative and more sustainable protein sources to the market offers significant opportunities for suppliers. And there are increasing opportunities for alternatives to animal proteins. Whatever the protein of choice, formulators have a plethora of protein options to choose from including, among others:

Whey Protein: When it comes to protein supplementation, whey is the definitive leader. It has pushed aside milk-based protein supplements, egg proteins and soy proteins to totally dominate the field. Why? Because whey has an extremely high biological value ranging from 90 to 100 for whey concentrate and from 100 to 150 for whey isolate. It's also high in branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) and is very quickly absorbed.

Casein: If you are looking for a protein that will slowly breakdown over the course of several hours that can be used as a meal replacement, casein is a protein to consider. If you consume casein before bed you will stay anabolic throughout the night and will be able to utilize the protein in your body. Casein takes from 5 to 7 hours to fully break down, which keeps your body absorbing and utilizing the nutrients even while you sleep. Another positive to this source of protein is its high glutamine content. Glutamine helps boost the immune system and speeds up recovery.

Egg Protein: At one time, before sophisticated whey processing emerged, eggs were considered the optimum protein supplement. In fact, the whole biological value scale is based on egg protein ranking a benchmark 100.

Hemp Protein: For years, the mainstream media has alluded to the health benefits of hemp. First, 65 percent of the total protein content of hemp seed comes from the globular protein edestin, which is easily digested, absorbed and utilized by the human body. Additionally, the hemp seed is loaded with omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids that have significant cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory benefits. Hemp seeds can be used in protein powders, milk, butter and even soap.

Hydrolyzed Protein: This is the highest quality of protein available. It provides highly absorbable peptides that can have a great anabolic effect. Hydrolyzed protein is also much better on the digestive system compared to whey concentrates.

Milk Protein Isolates: Contains both casein and whey proteins. Milk protein isolates are loaded with amino acids. This type of protein is mostly used in protein blend formulas.

Pea Protein: Sadly, when it comes to perception, many people struggle with the idea of peas as a protein source. Truth be told, pea protein has a very mild, pleasantly sweet taste. It's one of the better tasting proteins. Pea protein is the concentrated natural protein fraction of yellow peas.

Soy Protein: A good source of protein for those looking for a vegetarian source of protein. Soy is rich in glutamine, arginine (vasodilation) and BCAAs (recovery). Soy contains isoflavones which supports healthy cholesterol levels. It has also been found to boost thyroid hormone output. By doing so, it speeds up the metabolism which aids in fat loss.

Spirulina: This is one of the great super foods. It is approximately 65 to 71 percent complete protein in its natural state. This is higher than virtually any other unprocessed food. Unlike most other forms of protein, the protein in spirulina is 85 to 95 percent digestible. Finally, since spirulina has no cellulose in its cell walls, it is extremely easy for the body to break down. In fact, its amino acids are delivered to the body for almost instant absorption.

Stay tuned—tomorrow, I’ll talk about newly available sources of protein.

Mark Becker is an account manager for Vivion, a raw materials distributor, based in Vernon, California. He has worked as a natural products sales and marketing executive for 20 years. Mark has written more than 300 articles and has hosted or been a guest on more than 500 radio shows. He obtained a bachelor's in journalism from Long Beach State University and did his Master’s work in communications at Cal State Fullerton. For more than 30 years he has participated in numerous endurance events, including more than 150 triathlons of Olympic distance or longer, 103 marathons and numerous other events including ultramarathons and rough water swims from Alcatraz to the mainland. He has relied on a comprehensive dietary supplement and homeopathic regimen to support his athletic, professional and personal endeavors. Follow Mark Becker on Facebook and Twitter. For more information, access www.vivioninc.com or www.EnergyatLast.com.

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