Protein is on the lips and in the fingertips of everybody, regardless if they are an endurance athlete or not. If I tell somebody I am a vegetarian, and now a days I tell them I am plant-based, they ask me where I get my protein. When I respond that I pick it up when I am getting my oil changed they look at me as if I have three heads. What difference does it make to them where I get my protein from, and better yet what difference does it make to them that I get protein? Of course, after that quizzical look comes the old comment of: you need protein and you can’t get it from plants. When I respond that the statement they just made is uneducated and I can prove that I not only get protein from plants but that I get enough they ask how. I inform them that I have been racing endurance sports for the past 3 years and last year alone I did 2 Ironman races and 2 Half-Ironman races. That quickly gets the nod of approval and the topic changes.
However, protein does seem to permeate all aspects of life. When I log onto my Instagram account I can quickly hit with pictures of:
- Protein smoothies
- Protein muffins
- Protein oatmeal
- Protein pancakes
The list can go on and one but I don’t want to make this a list of the pictures that I see but rather about two particular types of protein. Why two types of protein? These are the ones that permeate the pictures and one that I willfully subscribe to. The two types I am referring to are Whey and Casein. I am soundly in the camp of whey protein but removed myself from the casein protein camp over 5 years ago and have not gone back.
Whey protein is a mixture of proteins isolated from whey, the liquid material created as a by-product of cheese production. Some studies in rodents have suggested that whey protein may possess anti-inflammatory or anti-cancer properties. This isn’t why I consume a whey protein shake on a nightly basis though.
I make myself a shake every night because whey is an abundant source of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are used to fuel working muscles and stimulate protein synthesis. When leucine, which is key in starting the transcription of protein synthesis, is ingested in high amounts, such as with whey protein supplementation, there is greater stimulation of protein synthesis, which may speed recovery and adaptation to stress (exercise).
As I have written repeatedly in this blog, the key to being able to get out the door the day after a 5 hour bike ride is to recover as quickly as possible. Rest is a key component of that recovery process but so is nutrition and it doesn’t start and end within that 30-45 minute operation window immediately after exercise. Here is my routine after a long bike ride or a long run, and long being defined as 1.5+ hours of running or 3+ hours of biking. I also define it as anything over 2 hours when workouts are stacked. This means that if I swim for 1 hour and then run for 1 hour that is a 2 hour stacked workout and I follow this eating routine:
- Recovery shake based on the principle of 3:1 carb:protein ratio within 30-45 minutes if I am out on the road. This means I make my shake before I leave the house and put it into a cooler to stay cold.
- Within two hours of completing that workout I have a meal based on the same 3:1 carb:protein ratio that is typically waffles and fruit.
- Lunch that is fat and protein based approximately 3.5-4 hours later or when I feel hungry. I eat based on my hunger level not a clock.
- Dinner will be another fat and protein based meal that is 3.5-4 hours after lunch but again only based on hunger and not the clock.
- 8pm give or take, a whey protein shake with Suzie’s Thin Cakes spread with homemade nut butter and honey and topped with fruit and coconut.
By following this pattern I have been able to race those endurance events to the best of my ability along with training for them without getting injured or feeling physically beat up.
As I mentioned I removed casein from my diet long before I became a vegetarian. Why? I stopped taking in casein proteins when I stopped drinking milk and eating cheese and it was because I had read that it has addictive properties. Combine the fat in cheese and milk and my mind said: if you are addicted to casein and consuming these fat laced products guess what will happen. I have not done any research past that point and to this day I do not miss milk or cheese and my body seems to be functioning fairly well.
All of that is great but you are never to old to learn so I did a bit of research. What I found out does not lead me to believe I will be adding it back into my diet anytime soon but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t and you also have the right to know what it is good for. Casein has a wide variety of uses, from being a major component of cheese, to use as a food additive, to a binder for safety matches. As a food source, casein supplies amino acids; carbohydrates; and two inorganic elements, calcium and phosphorus.
Casein is extremely slow digesting, releasing protein and amino acids slowly which prevents muscle catabolism over a sustained period of 7 hours. Micellar Casein is not designed to be used instead of whey, it’s designed to be used with it. Whey and casein are completely different products and will help you build and maintain muscle in different ways.
Because of its ability to be sustained over 7 hours many are turning to casein as their evening protein shake of choice and it makes logical sense but I will continue to avoid and rely on the benefits of whey as I feel it allows me to stay closer to the non-dairy aspect of my lifestyle than casein. In addition to that, I still believe that there are addictive qualities to casein, especially when I hear comments like: I cannot give up cheese because I’m addicted. Further research proved that I am not off in my thinking:
Cheese is a special case. Yes, it’s about 70 percent fat, loaded with cholesterol and sodium, and smells like old socks. But many people are absolutely hooked on it, calories and all.
Here’s why: the main protein in milk and cheese is called casein. As you digest casein, it breaks apart to release opiates, called casomorphins – that is, casein-derived morphine-like chemicals. Shortly after you swallow a bite of cheese pizza, these chemicals enter your bloodstream and pass to your brain and attach to your opiate receptors.
Casomorphins’ natural function, presumably, is to provide a bit of feel-good sensation to a nursing calf. And because a calf is weaned very soon, the fat, cholesterol and sodium in milk products are not a problem. But humans who get hooked on these same compounds can easily run into trouble as the years go by.
Source: Dr Oz.
There are multiple types of protein but I focused on Whey and Casein as they seem to be the most prevalent in my every day circles. In addition to various types there are plenty of sources beyond meat so be sure to investigate your protein sources and question which ones are necessary for your lifestyle as not all proteins are made the same.
Which Types Of Protein Do You Ingest?