Getting enough protein in your diet is essential for your body to function properly, as it’s found in every single cell! Protein is primarily used in the body to build, maintain and repair body tissues, and is most commonly recognized for its ability to help build lean muscle mass in the body. In addition to these functions, protein helps to increase immunity and is considered an essential nutrient.
Whenever we eat protein, our body uses the 20 amino acids found in protein to affect virtually every tissue in the human body. Of these 20 amino acids, 9 are considered essential – when a protein source contains all 9 of the essential amino acids, it is considered a complete protein. Along with being made up of different amino acids, the rate at which different proteins are absorbed also varies. This absorption rate is measured and reported as a Biological Value (BV).
High-protein foods take more work to be fully digested, metabolized, and used as energy, which means the body burns more calories processing them. The slow rate of digestion also means that protein takes longer to leave the stomach, helping you feel fuller for longer.
While lean meat, legumes, nuts, seeds, and sprouted grains are excellent food sources for protein, many people choose to add protein to their diet through shakes and snacks! The 3 most common protein sources that are used for adding more protein through shakes and snacks are whey protein, soy protein, and casein protein.
Health Benefits of Whey, Soy, and Casein Proteins
Whey protein is a mixture of proteins isolated from whey, the liquid material created as a by-product of cheese production. Having the highest possible BV score of 100, whey protein contains all of the 9 essential amino acids that are necessary for body to function properly, is considered a complete protein, and is easy for the body to digest and absorb!
Soy protein is a plant-based protein made from soybeans that have been dehulled and defatted. Like whey, soy protein is considered a complete protein as it contains the 9 essential amino acids. The body absorbs soy protein at a slower rate than it absorbs whey protein, making soy less helpful for rebuilding muscle you already have, and excellent for forming new muscle!
Casein protein is another complete protein that is derived from dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt and cheeses. The body is only able to digest casein protein slowly, which means that it provides a slow and steady release of the essential amino acids into the bloodstream. According to a 2009 study done in the Netherlands, participates who increased their casein protein intake had a higher metabolic rate while sleeping, and had a better overall fat balance!
With the added options on the STEP Food List, you have more options than ever to find your favorite protein sources! It’s important to remember that nothing can be a perfect substitute for a balanced meal plan based on real, healthful foods; however, supplementation can be extremely helpful to ensure you’re getting the recommended amount of each vital nutrient.