Nutrition Certification Blog

Not All Proteins Are Created Equal, Part Three (Choose Your Protein Wisely)

By: Lucho Crisalle

Finally, Part Three in the Protein Series addresses utilization of the protein sources.  So, what does all this knowledge mean to you and how can you apply it to choose your protein wisely?

Unless you are sick, the human body should be in a state of “homeostasis” or balance, which means that proteins are being broken down at the same time that they are being created.

Regardless of the sport or recreational fitness activities you are involved in, there is one commonality among them: emphasizing protein synthesis or anabolism over protein breakdown or catabolism. The best way to do this is to make differing types of protein available to you throughout the day. That is why understanding the different type of protein supplements available on the market is a must.

What Are Your Goals?

Just like protein formulations vary, your goals may also vary.  Regardless if you have a difficult time putting on muscle, are someone who has no trouble putting on muscle mass, or even if you are someone who is not interested in gaining a ton of muscle (yet want to maintain the muscle you have, such as an endurance athlete), giving your body adequate and high quality protein on a regular basis is a must.

If your goal is to gain or maintain muscle, adequate and steady amounts of amino acids in your blood stream can be beneficial in preventing muscle breakdown or catabolism.

The same applies if you are involved in high intensity sports such as cycling, running, marathons, triathlons, spinning, etc. A single source Casein (calcium or potassium caseinate) throughout the day can help you maintain the muscle you have and minimize muscle loss.

Let’s Look at Caseinates

picture2Caseinates have a slow gastric emptying time (they leave the stomach slowly) and therefore help maintain elevated levels of amino acids for longer periods of time. These higher levels of amino acids in the bloodstream prevent muscle breakdown. A multi-source protein with Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) and Caseinate being among the first ingredients (to help prevent muscle break down) would also be a great choice.

Regardless of your sport, you want to prevent muscle breakdown (or catabolism) while maintaining hard earned muscle.

If your focus is hypertrophy, or muscle growth/gains, you also want to capitalize on anabolism or muscle building. Unfortunately, WPC and Caseinates do not do much for anabolism. Recent studies have shown much greater benefits of small molecular sized single source proteins (such as Whey Protein Isolates and Hydrolyzed Whey Protein) on muscle building.

Whey Protein Isolates

picture3Whey Protein Isolates are a great choice for supplementing pre and post workouts. By taking them pre-workout, you ensure a steady stream of amino acids into the bloodstream for approximately one hour. Strength workouts should not last longer than an hour and that is why a high quality WPI is a perfect choice.

During exercise, five hormones are released:

  1. Growth Hormone,
  2. Epinephrine,
  3. Nor-Epinephrine,
  4. Glucagon, and
  5. Cortisol.

These five hormones are known as “insulin blocking hormones” because when they are present in high levels in the blood stream, insulin is not secreted.

The opposite is also true: when insulin is present in high amounts, the other five hormones are not secreted.

Insulin’s job is to STORE glucose in muscle cells in the form of glycogen, and the other five hormones are in charge of BREAKING DOWN glycogen back into glucose (in cortisol’s case, breaking down muscle to turn it into glucose).

You may not be aware of this, but Insulin is the most anabolic hormone known to date. One of the challenges with insulin is that it too can store excess glucose as fat, so knowing how to “manipulate” insulin correctly can set you apart from the crowd.

Try This Concoction

After your next HIGH INTENSITY workout, try this – to make full use of insulin’s anabolic properties, wait approximately 15 to 20 minutes after your workout (this gives Growth Hormone, Epinephrine, Nor-Epinephrine, Glucagon, and Cortisol levels time to decrease) and have the following:

  • 20 grams of small molecular sized single source proteins (such as Whey Protein Isolates or Hydrolyzed Whey-we recommend Proto Whey)
  • 70 grams of high glycemic carbs (we recommend Vitargo)
  • 10g Glutamine (we use and recommend Machine)
  • 10g Creatine (we use and recommend Machine)
  • 20g Branched Chain Amino Acids (we use and recommend Machine)
  • 300mg Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA),
  • 1000mg Vitamin C, and
  • 400-1000 IU’s Vitamin E
  • Blend it all together with 32-40 oz. of water

The high glycemic carbohydrates will make your blood glucose levels skyrocket, while the Alpha Lipoic Acid will aid in insulin secretion.

The increase in insulin due to the high amounts of carbs plus the action of the ALA will shuttle everything you combined with the high glycemic carbs into the glycogen depleted muscles forcing needed nutrients (vitamins C and E to fight free radicals); glutamine, creatine, branched chain amino acids, and whey protein isolates/hydrolysates  for incredible recovery and growth.

Thirty to forty five minutes later your blood sugar levels will come crashing down because insulin has stored all the glucose produced by the high glycemic shake. This is the perfect time for a regular meal such as chicken breast and brown rice and steamed vegetables which will help prevent hypoglycemia and maintain your blood sugar levels within normal limits.

If you have no problems putting on muscle mass, you may not need to rely on either a single source Casein (calcium or potassium caseinate) or a multi-source protein, consisting mostly of the slow-digesting, slow-releasing proteins throughout the day to prevent catabolism.

You will however benefit from following the above-mentioned protocol of using a high quality WPI or HWP pre-workout for sustained amino acid levels during your workouts, and post-workout along with the insulin potentiating effects of the high glycemic mixture for maximum growth and recovery.

It should go without saying that if your weight training workouts are not high intensity (stomach cramping, can’t walk after doing legs, side aching-intense), you should NOT use the protocol above as it will only make you put on body fat.

“This protocol is only to be used when you are certain your muscle glycogen has been depleted due to a highly intense workout-as in working out to failure… where you can’t even push the empty bar on your last set.”

If you use the mirrors in the gym to see if your outfit matches, you most likely do not qualify as a candidate who would benefit from the above concoction.

Please note** If your main interest lies in endurance sports ranging from marathons to triathlons, obstacle course races and all other extreme racing events, you too will benefit from this protocol with one slight change: do not add creatine into the mixture as it will increase your body weight considerably. Creatine can increase body weight anywhere from 5 to 15 pounds.

It would make no sense for a cyclist or triathlete who spends well over $6,000.00 to $8,000.00 on a bike that is half a pound lighter than the previously owned one, to take a supplement that would increase their body weight five to fifteen pounds.

If you are an endurance athlete, it would be okay to use creatine during the off season if and when muscle gains are wanted and beneficial. Now that I think about it, it also makes no sense that most  endurance athletes do not consult with a dietitian to reduce THEIR excess weight as well… it can be a lot less expensive than that new bike, and make them a lot faster.

Several of my clients are top class competitive cyclists and have seen faster recovery and better power output by incorporating the protocol mentioned.

Multi-Source Protein

There are as many reasons to use a multi-source protein as there are to use a single source protein. These vary as widely as the people using them.

It is difficult to specify exactly which protein supplement and regimen would be best for you as an individual without having more information on your training schedule, training intensity, ability to arrange your schedule, and many other factors.

I do not believe in a “one-size-fits-all” mentality to nutrition or training. I believe that you should monitor your results weekly to see if what you are doing is working for you. Here is a chart I use to determine if my clients’ training and nutrition programs are designed correctly, and how to adjust them if they are not:



↑ ↔

Meal Plan is Perfect

Eating too many calories

Not eating enough calories

Not eating enough protein

In looking at the table above, the top three scenarios are easily understood by most people. The bottom one does need some explanation.

If we see that a client is losing muscle AND losing fat, it typically means that they are not eating enough protein… however, it can mean that they ARE eating enough protein, but are unable to digest, absorb and utilize that protein.

The only way to figure that out without having to do a blood test is to put that client on a digestive enzyme regimen and continue to monitor them on a weekly basis.

Another possibility is that the client is training above their anaerobic threshold, which would cause them to break down muscle tissue, and a third is that they may be under a lot of stress, which causes an increased secretion of cortisol, and as mentioned above, cortisol is responsible for breaking down muscle.

A final possibility is a combination of all of these: not eating enough protein, unable to digest, absorb and utilize the protein they are eating, exercising at too high of an intensity, and under stress.

Protein Efficiency Ratio or PER

Finally, I would like to address a common term used in protein research known as Protein Efficiency Ratio or PER. PER is a measure of protein quality assessed by determining how well a given protein supports weight gain in laboratory animals: namely, rats.

The PER is probably not the best rating system because it overestimates methionine needs due to the greater need for methionine in rats for hair production.

Protein Efficiency Ratio is based on the weight gain of a growing rat divided by its intake of a particular food protein during the test period.

The formula I shared with you earlier in this article of dividing the grams of protein in a serving by the total grams in a serving is referred to as “protein yield per serving” and a very useful tool to determine if your protein supplement is mostly protein or mostly useless fillers.

This formula is to be used either with multi-source proteins or single source proteins and not to be used with meal replacement powders (MRP’s) or other blends that may contain many beneficial ingredients such as essential fatty acids, creatine, glutamine, glycine, flax seeds, fiber, complex carbs and the list goes on and on.

Again, best results, regardless of your fitness goals, will be seen by incorporating additional protein to your eating plan or diet. Keep in mind that you want a quick and fast emptying protein pre and post workout; pre to prevent/minimize muscle breakdown and post for recovery purposes, and a slow emptying protein for satiety and hunger control.

In Conclusion

The combinations and ways of using and benefiting from these products is as diverse as the population reading this article. Arming you with the information and knowledge to be able to make an educated purchase and know what to look for in a label is as priceless as your satisfaction will be once you reach your fitness and nutrition goals.

For more information about customized nutrition programs and recommendations for specific protein sources and supplements, you may visit our website at

© 2020 Lucho Crisalle, CEO, Exercise & Nutrition Works, Inc.

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