According to a new study, whey protein stimulates new muscle growth better than either of two forms of casein protein.
Sarcopenia—the loss of muscle as we age- is a serious issue in aging. Losing muscle means losing strength and vitality. Studies suggest that our ability to synthesize (make) muscle in response to food intake is impaired in older adults. How well we create new muscle depends on the quantity—and to some extent the quality—of the protein we eat.
The objective of the current study was to compare three types of protein and see which one had a better effect on muscle protein accretion (in plain English, the researchers wanted to see which protein was the best at helping subjects build new muscle, thus helping to ward off the effect of sarcopenia.)
The clear winner was whey.
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In this study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a total of 48 older men were randomly assigned to ingest a meal-like amount of whey protein, casein (milk protein) or casein hydrolysate. Though the experiment only lasted one day, the researchers were able to monitor blood levels throughout the day and performed muscle biopsies to see what was really going on.
Sure enough, those consuming the whey protein were able to synthesize new muscle proteins at a significantly greater rate than those consuming the other two protein supplements.
The researchers suspect two things are at play here:
- The greater muscle protein response to whey is probably due to its faster digestion and absorption.
- The amino acid profile of whey protein is more conducive to muscle building due to its higher concentration of leucine, an amino acid that has been shown in other research to make a tremendous difference in the ability to put on muscle.
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Leucine has been shown to burn fat and spare muscle in studies by Donald Layman, PhD. “In studying exercise and how muscle develops, we found tha leucine has a particularly unique effect in tha it spares muscle proteins during weight loss, so you only lose the fat and not the muscle”, Layman told WebMD.