All the “Whey” Up

A Brief Insight on Protein and It’s Supplementation

Being fitness enthusiasts, we are well aware that adequate protein intake is crucial for recovery and building muscle. The word protein comes from the Greek word proteios, which means something along the lines of “first,” so it seemed fitting to cover it before the other macronutrients. To cover the vast information on protein would take much more than one article  to cover. So, the focus of this post is going to be on how much you need and distinguishing some protein supplements.

How much do you need

The RDA for protein is .36 grams per pound of body weight per day (g/lb/d). I would like to note that the RDA is the amount the average sedentary person needs to meet basic nutritional requirements. So, someone weighing 150 pounds would need ~54 g/lb/d to prevent health problems associated with protein deficiency. Back in 2015, there was a Protein Summit in which a bunch of smart people (nutrition scientists, health experts, and nutrition educators) from around the world got together to discuss the role of protein in human health. They leaned more towards a .45 – .54 g/lb/d for healthy metabolic function. 

If you are reading this, I would make the assumption that you are anything but the average sedentary person. I would go as far as to put you in the moderate to highly active category. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be wasting your time reading about protein intake. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, the majority of individuals engaging in exercise should consume at least .64 – .91 g/lb/d for the optimization of exercise training induced adaptations [1]. They note there is even evidence that consuming as much as ~1.4 g/lb/d may be beneficial to body composition. 

So all I’ve done thus far is throw a bunch of numbers at you. Let’s try and make some sense out of this stuff. First, I have to feed you the line that everyone is different, blah, blah, blah, but it is true. People respond differently. My wife is highly allergic to whey and casein protein (types of protein we’ll dive into later) and doesn’t like meat, but can build muscle, strength, and endurance easier than most. Age, sex, and activity level are factors, along with over overall calorie intake. 

To start, what are your goals? To come up with an appropriate daily protein intake it’s important to look at what you are trying to achieve. If you are trying to lean up while maintaining muscle mass, you would want protein to make up a larger portion of your daily caloric intake, roughly 30-35%. 

What is the best type of protein

To better understand what type of protein is the best we need to take a deeper look. That starts with amino acids, the building blocks of protein. There are 20 protein forming amino acids in which the body uses. Of the 20, the body can synthesize 11 of them. We generally refer to them as non-essential amino acids. The other nine are called essential amino acids (EAA). Below is a list of all 20, with an asterisk beside the EAAs. 

TyrosineAspartic AcidGlutamic AcidArginine

This is important to review because some protein sources can lack EAAs. Animal based protein sources (eggs, dairy, fish, poultry, beef) are often referred to as “complete proteins” as they contain all the EAAs. Plant-based proteins often lack a couple of the EAAs. But don’t fret, you can combine certain plant-based protein sources to get all the amino acids you need. Example is oats + peanut butter or rice + beans. The only thing to consider is the amount of the protein source you have to take in to meet your needs (ex. 100g of chicken breast has ~30g of protein vs 100g of chickpeas have ~7g of protein). 

If you are going to add a protein supplement to your diet, it’s nice to be able to distinguish between the multitude of options out there. 

ALL the Whey

Whey protein is quickly digestible, high content of EAAs, and has an abundance of bioactive peptides. Fun fact, it’s the byproduct when making cheese. At your neighborhood supplement store, you are generally going to run across three types of whey protein; concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate. 

  • Concentrate consists of 70-80% percent protein. 
  • Isolate is 90-95% and is better tolerated by people with dairy issues because of it’s extremely low lactose content. 
  • Hydrolysate is “pre-digested” via heating with acid or the use of proteolytic enzymes. The claim is since the digestion process is already started, the protein can get into your system faster. 

Plant Based Proteins

I will admit that my experience with plant based protein is minimal. With the exception of soy protein, there has not been very many options until more recently. I was a bit skeptical of soy because of the stigma that soy protein is not ideal for men as it would affect testosterone levels, but according to an article published in the journal of American Society for Reproductive Medicine, soy had no effect on hormone levels in their male test subjects [2]. Now there is pea, hemp, nut, rice, seed (chia, pumpkin), or a combination thereof. As stated earlier about EAAs, the combination helps to ensure the content of EAAs.

Here is a side by side comparison of a whey protein’s amino acid protein (Naked Nutrition) and a plant based protein’s (Garden of Life) profile per serving. 

Whey Profile                        Plant Based Profile

I believe the most important consideration is the quality of the protein. The supplement industry is a $40 Billion dollar monster with lots of competition. When the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) was put in the hands of the FDA, the industry was less than 1/10th the size it is now. Dietary supplements fall into the food category and not drug category, in which they are not subject to the same effectiveness and safety testing. With all that being said, there are a few things you can look for when purchasing. There are testing and certification programs/agencies out there that vet supplements. (NSF), Informed-Choice, and Informed-Sport are my top three. Some of the things they check for:

  • What is printed on the label actually matches the content
  • Unsafe levels of contaminants
  • Banned substances by major athletic organizations
  • The products are manufactured at a Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) registered facility


Jäger R, Kerksick CM, Campbell BI, Cribb PJ, Wells SD, Skwiat TM, Purpura M, Ziegenfuss TN, Ferrando AA, Arent SM, Smith-Ryan AE, Stout JR, Arciero PJ, Ormsbee MJ, Taylor LW, Wilborn CD, Kalman DS, Kreider RB, Willoughby DS, Hoffman JR, Krzykowski JL, Antonio J. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Jun 20;14:20. doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0177-8. PMID: 28642676; PMCID: PMC5477153.

Hamilton-Reeves JM, Vazquez G, Duval SJ, Phipps WR, Kurzer MS, Messina MJ. Clinical studies show no effects of soy protein or isoflavones on reproductive hormones in men: results of a meta-analysis. Fertil Steril. 2010 Aug;94(3):997-1007. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2009.04.038. Epub 2009 Jun 12. PMID: 19524224.

Aragon AA, Schoenfeld BJ. Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window? J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Jan 29;10(1):5. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-5. PMID: 23360586; PMCID: PMC3577439.

Manninen AH. Protein hydrolysates in sports nutrition. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2009 Sep 28;6:38. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-6-38. PMID: 19785737; PMCID: PMC2761917.

Wilborn CD, Taylor LW, Outlaw J, Williams L, Campbell B, Foster CA, Smith-Ryan A, Urbina S, Hayward S. The Effects of Pre- and Post-Exercise Whey vs. Casein Protein Consumption on Body Composition and Performance Measures in Collegiate Female Athletes. J Sports Sci Med. 2013 Mar 1;12(1):74-9. PMID: 24149728; PMCID: PMC3761774.

Bolke L, Schlippe G, Gerß J, Voss W. A Collagen Supplement Improves Skin Hydration, Elasticity, Roughness, and Density: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Blind Study. Nutrients. 2019 Oct 17;11(10):2494. doi: 10.3390/nu11102494. PMID: 31627309; PMCID: PMC6835901.

Oertzen-Hagemann V, Kirmse M, Eggers B, Pfeiffer K, Marcus K, de Marées M, Platen P. Effects of 12 Weeks of Hypertrophy Resistance Exercise Training Combined with Collagen Peptide Supplementation on the Skeletal Muscle Proteome in Recreationally Active Men. Nutrients. 2019 May 14;11(5):1072. doi: 10.3390/nu11051072. PMID: 31091754; PMCID: PMC6566884.

Gorissen SHM, Crombag JJR, Senden JMG, Waterval WAH, Bierau J, Verdijk LB, van Loon LJC. Protein content and amino acid composition of commercially available plant-based protein isolates. Amino Acids. 2018 Dec;50(12):1685-1695. doi: 10.1007/s00726-018-2640-5. Epub 2018 Aug 30. PMID: 30167963; PMCID: PMC6245118.

Mark Braithwaite

Mark has competed in Bodybuilding, Triathlon, CrossFit, Weightlifting, and Strongman. He is dedicated to maintaining health and overall wellness while navigating the day to day grind and enjoys helping others along their journey.