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What is protein?

Protein is the basic building block of all cells and tissues, consisting of amino acids. In the human body, it performs a number of functions, e.g. structural, transport, regulatory or protective. Together with fats and carbohydrates, it is one of the basic macronutrientswhose adequate intake should be ensured primarily by a varied diet.

In sports nutrition, however, protein refers to a food supplement (usually in the form of a powder) that contains at least 70 % protein. Protein powder is used to easily replenish protein in the human body, regardless of whether a person is gaining muscle, maintaining weight or losing weight.

Types of protein

One of the most important factors determining the quality of protein is its origin. From this point of view, two basic sources can be distinguished - animal and vegetable.

Animal protein

Animal protein is considered a better quality type of protein, mainly due to its better usability and protein quality, which is due to the complex spectrum of essential amino acids. Animal proteins can be further divided into:

  • Milk protein represents only a small part of cow's milk, which can be used in food processing to enrich products with protein or as a stand‑alone protein preparation. It consists of casein (80 %) and whey (20 %), the separation and further processing of which yields two different proteins:
    • Whey proteinWhey protein, also known as whey protein, contains 70‑95% protein and is one of the highest quality and most popular protein sources ever. It is available in three different forms - concentrate, isolate, hydrolysate - which differ in production method, content and properties. Whey protein is one of the fastest digesting protein sources, which makes it suitable for post‑workout.
    • Casein protein on the other hand, falls into the group of slowly digestible. It usually contains 70‑80% protein and increases the concentration of amino acids in the blood for a longer period of time. Due to its properties, it is particularly popular in the late evening (hence the name night protein).
  • Egg protein can be purchased in two different forms - liquid or dried. Dried egg whites contain around 80% protein, while liquid egg whites contain only 10%. Their advantage is the almost negligible amount of carbohydrates and fat, but the significant disadvantage is the taste.
  • Beef protein contains up to 90 % protein, and although it is an animal protein, its usefulness for building muscle mass is low. It contains fewer essential amino acids, which are a major factor in stimulating muscle protein formation.

Multi‑component protein is a special type in which several proteins with different digestion rates are combined. The usual combination is a mix of whey protein (most often concentrate and isolate) and casein protein, but the addition of egg or other proteins is no exception.

Vegetable protein

Plant proteins are a less valuable alternative to animal proteins, due to the absence of a comprehensive spectrum of amino acids - some amino acids are less represented and some are missing altogether (can be addressed by amino acid supplements). Due to the absence of the animal component, they are often referred to as vegan proteins. They are therefore also suitable for individuals with cow's milk protein allergy or lactose intolerance. The most common and best vegetable proteins include:

  • Soy protein is the most commonly used plant protein, which has comparable effects to animal proteins, but the dosage should be increased. Care should be taken when consuming high levels (more than 60 g per day) as it can affect testosterone levels in specific cases.
  • Hemp protein is currently one of the most popular plant proteins, as are most other hemp products. However, in terms of muscle building and strength development, it is not one of the highest quality.
  • Pea protein is one of the highest quality plant proteins. It is rich in fibre content and also leucine, as the amino acid with the highest anabolic potential. To achieve a full spectrum of amino acids, it is often mixed with other proteins such as rice protein. It is the combination of plant proteins that also increases their availability.

When to use protein?

Protein is most often taken around training (in this case it is ideal to mix protein with water), together with other substances that enhance performance or help with recovery and subsequent muscle growth. However, protein drinks can be drunk at any time of the day (now also in combination with milk) to supplement your overall protein intake. That's why it's a good idea to always have a protein shaker on hand. Find out more in the article in which we explain, when to drink protein.

Protein intake

The recommended daily intake of protein depends on age, gender, level of physical activity, amount of muscle mass, fitness goals and overall health. General recommendations include:

dietary minimum0,8‑1 g/kg body weight
endurance athletes1,4‑2 g/kg
reduction diet1,4‑2 g/kg
gaining muscle mass1,6‑2.2 g/kg

The need for increased protein intake is also found in pregnant women or seniors who are experiencing a loss of muscle mass in the body. However, in the long term, protein supplements should not account for more than 50% of daily protein intake. Find out more in this article, in which we comprehensively discuss daily protein intake.

Other protein supplements

Protein powder or a ready‑made protein drink are not the only dietary supplements that help with adequate protein intake. If you're sick of protein in liquid form, you can try other sources of quality protein:

If you don't know which protein to reach for, visit our magazine for advice how to choose the right protein. The most popular brands on our e‑shop are Vilgain, Nutrend or Extrifit. In terms of flavours, the most popular ones are vanilla, chocolate, strawberry or banana protein.