Protein – the When, the Why & the Whey of it

Protein is commonly referred to as the building blocks of life. 


That’s because protein helps with repair and growth of our tissues; including muscle repair, ensuring we have healthy glowing skin and even strong healthy hair.  Protein also helps to regulate and maintain our bodies functions and is used in the production of essential hormones.


So ensuring we have enough protein in our diet is pretty important.  Protein can be found in both animal and plant sources, so everybody consumes protein in some for or another. But the majority of people do not consume enough protein.


Base recommended daily intakes for protein are 0.8 -1g per kg body weight per day.  However this number increases depending on age, activity levels, health and stress levels.  Yes, the older you are the more protein you need to consume. 


Consider a 70kg sedentary woman. Her RDI of protein is approximately 70g a day.  To achieve this she would need to consume approximately 200g of chicken or 13 eggs in a day.

An 85kg sedentary male would need to consume approximate 280g of chicken or 16 eggs in a day. Just to achieve base RDI


But what if they were physically active? This amount could increase up to 2.2g per kg body weight per day.

This would mean 154g and 187g of protein per day respectively.

Do the numbers.

For our 70kg female that’s 500g chicken or 28 eggs a day and for our 85kg male that’s around 600g chicken or 31eggs in a day


I don’t know many people who could do that, do you?


This is where supplementing with protein can be a great help for hitting those goals.

But with so many types of protein supplements on the market where do you even start?


It’s best to start by understanding a little bit about Protein Powders. 


The nutritional value of a protein supplement is determined by it’s amino acid profile.


Of all protein supplements Whey Protein is the most effective as it has a full range of Essential Amino Acids and is quickly digested and absorbed.


Plant proteins are a popular option for vegetarian/vegans and for those with allergies, however they are usually incomplete proteins, as they don’t contain the full range of Essential Amino Acids or are low in Essential Amino Acid levels.  When using plant proteins it is sometimes necessary to blend two or more together to provide a complete protein supplement. Such as combining pea and rice protein.


Before we go further, lets touch on Essential Amino Acids.

There are 20 Amino Acids that humans need.  Six of these are considered Conditionally Essential due to the fact the body can make them itself however under times of stress or nutrient deficiency/depletion they can become essential.

Five are considered Non Essential as the body can make them itself at any time, and nine are considered Essential Amino Acids as the body cannot produce them and they must be obtained through diet.

It is important when looking at the nutritional label of protein supplements that all
nine of the essential amino acids are present.

The hierarchy of protein supplements by Essential Amino Acid profile is;

1. Whey Protein Isolate

2. Whey Protein Concentrate

3. Whey Protein Hydrolysate

4. Casein

5. Soy

6. Egg Albumin

7. Beef Protein

8. Hemp

9. Rice

10 Pea



Whey protein is derived from the process of creating cheese and forms about 20% of protein found in cows milk. It has high levels of BCAA’s – particularly Leucine (which is highly efficient at stimulating muscle growth)

There are three types of Whey Protein

Whey Protein Concentrate. This has 70-80% protein by weight and has small amounts of carbs/fats with a rich Amino Acid profile. Particularly BCAAs and Glutamine

Whey Protein Isolate. This goes through more of a process then Whey Protein Concentrate where fats and carbs are extracted, and as a result is a more purer form of protein with approximately 90% protein by weight.  Because of the processing it is also more bioavailable and fast acting then Whey Protein Concentrate, but usually a little more expensive. 

Whey Protein Hydrolysate.  This has been partially broken down through exposure to heat. As a result, the chain of amino acids has been reduced in size, which suggests they may be more rapidly digested.

Casein  This is the main protein in cows milk and is approximately 80% protein . It is slowly digested and usually taken before bed as it has a slower release of amino acids which allow for continued recovery and reduced muscle breakdown in times of fasting (sleep)


As previously mentioned, if you are vegetarian/vegan it may be necessary to combine two or more protein sources to ensure you are consuming a complete protein in order to achieve maximum benefits.


Rice proteins have a full range of Essential Amino Acids but are low in Lysine, which means they are considered an incomplete protein. Combining a Rice Protein with a Pea Protein, which also has a full Essential Amino Acid profile but is low in Methionine will ensure you have a complete protein source.


Soy protein is another good vegetarian/vegan option that has a full Essential Amino Acid profile. Soy does contain isoflavones which are a type of 

phyto-oestrogen, so it is important to be aware of any hormonal imbalances/issues you may have.


When looking for the best protein for your personal situation, always read the label.

You want to make sure you have at the bare minimum, all nine Essential Amino Acids.

Also consider the serving/scoop size. If a scoop is 40g and only gives you 20g of protein it is a low quality protein.  Aim for 70-90% protein per serve.


So when is the best time to use a protein supplement.

First and foremost it is always best to get as much nutrients from food sources as possible.  A supplement is designed to boost/support a nutritionally sound diet – not as a meal replacement.

In saying that it is recommend to consume protein 2-4hrs after resistance training or intense exercise as muscle protein synthesis is elevated in this time. So having a protein shake after a workout can be beneficial.

Protein powder can also be added to smoothies and yoghurt for example to increase daily protein intake.


If you are new to supplementing, I recommend starting with a smaller dose. Around ½ scoop to begin with and increasing from there.