by Chris Lockwood, Ph.D. Bodybuilding,com
If number of syllables translated into number of pounds of lean mass gained, hydrolysate would win the supplement game hands down. But that's the thing: Does that addition to the "whey protein" phrase actually mean anything, or is it just a bunch of fancy-sounding bro-science, designed to make you cough up few more bucks each month?
Good questions. I've got the answers, and more. Today's lesson concerns whey hydrolysate, a hot-topic product in the muscle-building world.
What Is Whey Protein Hydrolysate?
Milk is composed of two major protein types: whey and casein. In human milk, whey makes up approximately 90% of the protein during early lactation and then it levels-out to about a 60:40 and 50:50 ratio of whey-to-casein in mature and late lactation, respectively. Contrast that with cow's milk, which contains only 20% of its protein from whey, with the remaining 80% coming from casein.
The emphasis of whey protein in human milk speaks to its role in supporting rapid development and a strong immune system, and the abundance of casein protein in cow's milk seems to explain the great majority of the allergies associated with consuming dairy.
After cow's milk is pasteurized and other processing takes place, the whey and casein can be separated by several means. Sweet whey, which only contains about 30-to-40% of its contents as protein, is the most basic form of food-grade whey. The remaining 60-to-70% of sweet whey is predominantly lactose sugar and fat. Filtration and other purification processes concentrate the whey to provide higher amounts of protein and yield fewer carbs and fat. These are called whey protein concentrates. A whey that's 90% or higher in total protein is referred to as a whey protein isolate.
Regardless of the level of concentrate or isolate, all of these forms of whey are still composed of extremely large peptide structures. To reduce their size, enzymes in your digestive system have to break the bonds between select amino acid sequences to yield smaller peptides that your body can actually use. To speed up that process, whey manufacturers can "pre-digest" the protein to create whey protein hydrolysate.
A hydrolysate can be created from sweet whey all the way up to isolates. Also, the enzymes and reaction conditions used - as well as the number of available bonds that are broken - dictate the final composition of the hydrolysate. The greater the degree of hydrolysis, the smaller the number of amino acids per peptide ... and the more bitter-tasting the resulting protein. So hydrolysates can vary a lot more than concentrates or isolates.
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Who's It For, Anyway?
Whey hydrolysate is great for anyone looking for a high-quality protein source capable of helping them achieve their total daily protein goals and maximize muscle growth. Additionally, because of its significant effects on insulin and satiety, a hydrolysate is a great protein source for post-workout supplements or anyone looking to increase muscle mass while reducing body fat.
What Does It Do?
Whey protein is ideal for stimulating muscle growth. It has been demonstrated to provide the greatest anabolic response to weight training. Whey has been shown to elicit up to a 122% and 31% greater muscle protein synthesis response to exercise than casein or soy, respectively.
Whey contains 30-to-50% more of the amino acid leucine, the essential and branched chain amino acid responsible for stimulating muscle-protein synthesis. It's "bioavailable" and rapidly-digested, spiking blood amino acid levels after consumption. The faster the rise in blood amino acids, the greater the peak and total muscle protein synthesis response. In that regard, whey offers the most bang for your protein buck.
Additionally, whey protein has been demonstrated to improve exercise recovery and immune function, as well as increase thermogenesis, improve fat loss, and reduce hunger. So not only is whey great for muscle building, it's also a powerful fat-fighting fuel! Whey protein hydrolysate has been suggested to augment the beneficial effects of whey protein due to its ability to increase plasma amino acid levels faster, and to a greater peak concentration than normal whey. Although studies in humans have not shown these differences to reach statistical significance, the blood amino acid response to hydrolysate versus whey seem promising. My dissertation work revealed that people consuming 30 grams of hydrolysate twice per day significantly increased muscle mass and reduced body fat without significantly affecting total body weight.
Sounds Awesome So Far ... Are There Any Downsides?
Paradoxically, while the rapid spike in blood amino acids from hydrolysate is beneficial for stimulating protein synthesis, it also increases amino acid oxidation - that is, the breakdown of amino acids for energy.
Some people consider this increased oxidation a waste of amino acids, but that's a simplistic view of protein metabolism. Just because these amino acids are used for energy, rather than stored, doesn't mean they're "wasted." Whey is still more anabolic when compared to other protein sources that don't cause such a large increase in amino acid oxidation. If you think that's a downside, I've got some beachfront property in Utah you might be interested in.
Another potential downside - if you want to call it that - is that whey protein hydrolysate generally costs significantly more than normal whey protein. The greater the degree of hydrolysate, the greater the cost will be. Hey, you get what you pay for. As a customer, you have to "whey" the potential benefits against the increased cost.
How Much Why Protein Hydrolysate Should I Take?
Depends on your body weight, total protein intake, and whether you consume it alone or with other protein sources. Since whey hydrolysate is rich in leucine, you don't need as much of it to maximize muscle growth as you would from other protein sources. For example, for a 200-pound male looking to increase muscle mass, I'd recommend 25-to-35 grams of whey hydrolysate immediately post-workout or in place of your current protein supplement. Achieving that same effect with chicken breast might take 45 grams.
When Should I Take This?
Whey hydrolysate can be consumed any time of the day, but many people take whey hydrolysate both pre- and post-workout.
Consuming whey pre-workout ensures that an adequate supply of amino acids will be present in the bloodstream during the workout. Might it upset your stomach? Unlikely. Whey hydrolysate is easily-digested and gut-friendly.
Consuming it post-workout allows you to jumpstart recovery by maximizing the anabolic response to exercise and increasing protein synthesis. Research shows that whey hydrolysate can augment the growth response to weight-training sessions, reduce body fat and recovery time, and reduce muscle soreness.
How To Choose A Product?
I recommend looking for a product that contains an extensively hydrolyzed whey protein, of at least a 15-degree of hydrolysis. My study used a 32-degree derived from an 80% whey protein concentrate, which is about as high as you'll want to go because the bitterness becomes disgusting. If you want fewer carbs and less fat, then choose a hydrolysate derived from an isolate or 80% whey protein concentrate starting material. If you want smaller peptides, go with a 20-to-32 degree.
Are There Any Side Effects Lurking Around The Corner?
Though some people are allergic to whey, allergies aren't nearly as prevalent as it is with casein, soy or wheat protein. In fact, even those who might otherwise experience upset stomach, pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and other GI distress arising from a dairy allergy have been shown to have no significant adverse events from an extensively hydrolyzed whey of predominantly low-molecular-weight peptides.
Should Anyone Avoid It?
If you've been advised by your physician not to consume this product due to a health condition, then don't. While most people tolerate whey protein hydrolysate very well, those with very severe allergies to whey should use caution.
Take Me To The Bottom Line
Whey protein hydrolysate is an extremely high-quality protein that has myriad bodybuilding and health-related benefits.