Top 5 Protein Sources and Best Protein
Protein – it’s what dreams are made of. Bros far and wide preach its benefits and necessity, but it seems only a select few understand the science behind the hype. If you ever wanted to know what protein is, why you need it, and where you should get it from – read on.
Protein 101: The Basics
The muscles we all work so hard to strengthen and build every time we step in the gym are literally made of protein – so what it is it exactly?
Protein is an essential nutrient found in every part of your body from your biceps to your blood. Next to water, it’s the most abundant (and probably most important) substance in your body.
Proteins are made up amino acids arranged in specific orders. There’s no end to the possible combinations, so there lots of different types of protein out there. Endless combinations means that not all proteins are created equal, especially when it comes to bodybuilding.
Depending on their structure, some proteins can be broken down and used more efficiently by the body than others. Other proteins have one or more “essential” amino acids, which are the eight amino acids that the body can only get from food – it can’t make them on its own.
A nice fat steak or lean juicy burger will get you all of the essential aminos your body needs. Animal proteins are packed with these essential aminos. Plant proteins contain these essentials as well, but the amounts are limited, so these proteins are not as nutritive.
Protein’s basic job is to build, maintain, and repair body tissues. Does that sound like something that might be of help in the gym? You bet your sweet protein-filled balls it does.
The amount of protein a person needs varies pretty widely. Depending on your age, sex, diet, and goals, you could need anywhere from 20 to 200 grams per day. For bodybuilders, a common guideline is to aim for 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
While we’ve found this to be a good starting point, it’s important to understand that you are a beautiful and unique snowflake, and your protein requirements are probably equally unique. It’s worth putting in the time to experiment and see how your body reacts to higher or lower doses.
The Official Top 5 Sources of Protein
Now you know what protein is and why you need it, but what about where to get it? Nowadays there are a ton of supplement options out there, and each one boasts protein from a different source. We’re going to cover some of the common ones to help you make a better decision next time you stock up on supps.
#1: Whey Protein
Whey is the king of all proteins, and number one on our official list for good reason. One of the two proteins that come from milk (casein is the other), whey is a very high-quality protein that does wonders for muscle growth, recovery, and health in general.
One of the reasons why whey is so celebrated in fitness and bodybuilding communities is because it has an absurdly high Biological Value (BV). BV is a number that measures how efficiently a protein can be absorbed and used by the body for growth. Whey protein isolate can have a biological value rating of 120+, while other proteins like fish and beef top out at a mere 75. This means your body gets more for its money every time you ingest whey, as it is easily digested and used by the body to build and repair muscle (among other great things, like reducing disease risks).
Whey protein also received a perfect Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid score, which is the standard measurement of protein quality used by the FDA and World Health Organization. These people know what they are talking about.
Several studies have confirmed the benefits of whey protein when it comes to muscle growth, showing increases in lean body mass vs. no supplementation, as well as strength increases vs. other forms of protein supplementation. The bottom line here is that whey should absolutely be the staple of your protein supplementation plan. It’s effectiveness has been proven time and time again by both bros and scientists alike.
Top 5 Whey Protein Supplements
- Optimum Gold Standard 100% Whey: A true fan favorite, this has to be most highly recommended protein in the world.
- MusclePharm Combat Powder: Awesome product that has a blend of fast, medium, and slow-digesting proteins.
- BSN Syntha-6: One of the rare whey protein supplements that actually tastes pretty damn good.
- Dymatize ISO-100: 100% whey isolate mixes easily and is fat-free.
- Optimum Platinum Hydro Whey: Hydrolyzed protein is quickly absorbed, great for post-workout shakes.
Eggs are a delicious and powerful source of high-quality protein.
Earning a perfect PDCAA score and boasting a biological value of 94, egg protein is yet another high-quality option in your protein arsenal. Like soy, egg protein also delivers all of the essential aminos your body needs, including a superb amount of leucine, a key amino for increasing muscle mass.
Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of egg protein is the fact that it is a lactose-free protein source, which is BIG NEWS for anyone who’s ever nearly shit their pants after drinking a whey protein shake. If you fall into this group, egg protein is going to be your new best friend.
Top 5 Egg Protein Supplements
- Optimum Gold Standard 100% Egg: Get the nutritional value of 7 egg whites in one serving.
- Egg Whites International 100% Pure Liquid Egg Whites: Tasteless, odorless liquid egg whites are safe to drink in a protein shake.
- Healthy n’ Fit 100% Egg Protein: A pretty delicious Strawberry Passion flavor if you’re looking to try something new.
- Universal Nutrition Milk & Egg: A good low-fat supplement that has a mix of milk and egg proteins.
- Rose Acre Farms Dried Egg Whites: Unflavored so you can add it to any drink to get your protein fix.
#3: Soy Protein
Isolated from soybeans, soy protein earns top marks for packing all 8 of the essential amino acids we talked about earlier. It has a biological value of 96 and a PDCAA score of 1.0, which means it is on par with the quality and digestibility of whey protein.
Soy protein does have a controversial history among bodybuilders, with some claiming that it leads to unwanted decreases in testosterone that make it harder to gain muscle. Luckily, recent studies have debunked these bro science myths, showing that not only is soy protein just as effective as whey protein for building lean muscle mass, but that testosterone remains unaffected by soy intake.
Other benefits of soy protein include price (it’s almost $2/lb cheaper than whey), as well as a variety of general health and fitness benefits like improved muscle recovery due to the decreased production of free radicals during exercise.
Top 5 Soy Protein Supplements
- Optimum 100% Soy Protein: Made with high-quality non-GMO (genetically modified) soy protein.
- MHP Probolic-SR:”Sustained release” mix provides metered doses of protein throughout the day.
- MHP Macrobolic MRP: A meal replacement option that has a balanced blend of protein, carbs, and fat.
- NOW Soy Protein Isolate: 100% isolate means high bioavailability and good digestibility.
- Twinlab Vege Fuel: Can be used as a flour substitute to add high-quality protein to your favorite meals.
#4: Casein Protein
A close cousin of whey, casein is another milk protein that bodybuilders have enjoyed for years. The one remarkable feature of the casein protein molecule is its ability to form a “gel clot” in the stomach, which takes longer to digest and creates a sustained slow release of amino acids into your blood. If you put two and two together you’ll see why so many fitness freaks supplement with casein before bedtime. Eight hours without protein can’t be a good thing – slow releasing casein fixes that problem right up.
Casein is the last protein on this list to earn a perfect 1.0 PDCAA score, and it’s biological value scores around 80.
Top 5 Casein Protein Supplements
- Optimum Gold Standard 100% Casein: Micellar casein is the slowest-digesting form of casein, perfect before bed.
- Bodybuilding.com Foundation Series Casein: A good bulk deal on casein from a reputable retailer.
- Dymatize Elite Casein: Goes down real easy with flavors like Cinnamon Bun and Cookies n’ Cream.
- MusclePharm Casein: Mixed with additional digestive enzymes to ensure you get the most out of this product.
- BSN Lean Dessert Protein: Replace your cheat desserts with flavors like Chocolate Fudge Pudding and Whipped Vanilla Cream.
#5: Animal Protein
No protein list would be complete without the bloody meats of the world on it. Not only are animals a great source of quality protein, they are also the most delicious option available. Unfortunately, animal proteins often come with other animal pieces, like fat and cholesterol. But if you consume animal proteins sparingly, and aim for lean cuts and low-fat sources like fish and chicken, you’ll be all set.
Top 5 Animal Protein Sources
- Beef: Go for lean cuts like tenderloin and eye of round to skip the fat and cholesterol.
- Chicken: Low fat and high in protein, chicken is always a winner.
- Fish: Comparable to chicken, comes with the added bonus of heart-healthy omega oils.
- Buffalo: Comparable to beef, but sweeter and less fatty. Try it out if you’re bored of beef.
- Ostrich: An underrated red meat that’s lower in calories, fat, and cholesterol than chicken. Tastes like prime beef.
Types of Protein – Just For The Sake Of Science
The human body contains about 50,000 unique proteins. Hell, even a single cell of E. Coli bacteria has about 3,000. Here are some of the most common types of protein, including their functions, and why a bodybuilder should care about them.
Defensive Proteins: These specialized proteins help fight off foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. They keep you healthy so you can actually show up at the gym.
Contractile Proteins: As the name suggests, these proteins are involved in muscle contraction and movement. Without them, you wouldn’t be able to breathe, much less bench press.
Enzymes: These proteins help speed up chemical reactions. A common example is pepsin, an enzyme active in the stomach that helps to break down food. When these are functioning well, you’ll get the fuel you need and the muscle you want.
Hormonal Proteins: These proteins are “messengers” that help coordinate bodily function and processes. Insulin, for example, regulates sugar concentration levels in your blood. Human growth hormone is another hormonal protein you’ve probably heard of.
Structural Proteins: These fibrous proteins provide structural support for connective tissues like ligaments and tendons, not to mention the integrity of every cell in your body. Absolutely necessary for even the most basic of movements.
Storage Proteins: These bad boys store excess amino acids for a rainy day. They also store metal ions so you don’t have too much floating around your body at once. Storage proteins ensure your body will have nutrients you need, when you need them.
Transport Proteins: The Jason Statham of the protein world, these transporters move precious cargo around the body. These are the ones that make sure your muscles have oxygen, among many other things.
That’s all she wrote folks – if you’re looking for trusted sources of high-quality protein (and you should be), you cannot go wrong with any of these options. If you listen to any bodybuilding nutritional advice at all, please let it be our adamant advice that you add protein supplements to your daily routine. You will not be disappointed.
For a further in depth view regarding protein consumption and timing we recommend:
Layne Norton PhD on protein: how much and how often?