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Informed athletes know that post-workout nutrition is essential to success. While fueling your body before exercise is obviously a key factor in boosting performance, ensuring that your body has proper nutrients for recovery cannot be overlooked. For this reason, many body builders and strength-training athletes insist on having a post-workout shake as soon as possible following their last set – no reason to let muscles go without nutrition any long than they have to. Thanks to its rapid rate of absorption, most athletes reach for whey protein for recovery; this type of protein has become the standard. But new evidence suggests that it’s not the best option out there. Unfortunately, you may be missing out and sacrificing muscular strength and size by following the pack.
Going the way of whey does have one thing going for it – whey finds its way into the bloodstream rapidly, so an anabolic, or muscle-building, state, can be established very quickly. However, using whey alone has some downsides. The quick absorption of whey means it moves through the body quickly, so your muscles will only be receiving amino acids (the building blocks of muscle) for an hour or two. Because of this, you’ll want a blend of protein that offers some quickly absorbed protein and some protein that offers a more sustained release – a study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicated that protein blends with a wide variety of absorption rates is preferably to ones that emphasize a narrow window of absorption (1).
Absorption rate isn’t the only factor, though. Different protein sources also have unique characteristics that can offer advantages to athletes. For example, whey offers a healthy dose of amino acids, such as leucine, which encourages recovery and anabolism. Unfortunately, it lacks arginine, another powerful amino acid that increases IGF-1 levels, promotes growth hormone production and encourages Nitric Oxide release, which expands blood vessels for superior nutrient delivery. Knowing this, the American College of Nutrition recently published an article promoting the benefits of a blend of whey and soy protein.
According to the report, soy protein supports training efforts just as well as whey protein does. In addition, soy protein contains arginine, which makes it a great way to fill in the gaps in whey’s profile. However, soy protein has a reputation for lowering testosterone levels. The ACN report, though, provided data from a number of research studies that indicated that it did not alter hormone levels in a significant way (2). And while you may not necessarily reach for a soy protein powder, many companies use soy protein in RTDs, protein bars and meal-replacement powders. If the ACN report is correct in its suggestions, mixing soy with whey could offer significant benefits.
1. Lacroix, M., et al. Compared with casein or total milk protein, digestion of milk soluble proteins is too rapid to sustain the anabolic postprandial amino acid requirement. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2006; 84(5): 1070-1079
2. Paul, G. The Rationale for Consuming Protein Blends in Sports Nutrition. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2009; 28(4): 464S-472S