A closer look at the label on your favorite protein supplement may reveal an expanded list of ingredients.
That’s because various factors are driving a transformative shift within the industry as more brands update their products and formulations to deliver the latest innovation in protein supplements – the multi-source blend.
While blending proteins is not a new practice, most manufacturers typically mixed different wheys for a more sustained amino acid release.
Whey blends typically contains a combination of two or more whey protein sources such as whey isolate, concentrate and/or hydrolysate.
Milk-derived protein blends might also include micellar casein and/or milk protein isolate for a combination of fast, medium and slower release protein sources.
Manufactures also regularly combine complementary plant-based proteins to deliver a complete amino acid profile from a single product.
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Combining protein sources
Multi-source blends were typically a speciality product line but these formulations have now hit the mainstream!
Multi-source blends Generally combine animal and plant protein sources to deliver a truly blended product.
The most common combination is whey, soy, and casein, which Provides a prolonged release of amino acids to support muscle recovery after exercise due to the differing digestion rates of these different protein sources.
While many gym-goers and athletes consider whey the premium protein option on the Market, research suggests that a blend may offer benefits over single-source protein products.
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For instance, a landmark 2012 clinical study published in the FASEB Journal looked at the effect of a protein blending versus whey protein ingestion on muscle protein synthesis following resistance exercise.
The researchers found that a blend of soy, whey and casein may provide the best post-workout protein shake for building muscle.
The protein blend used in the study was determined in a preclinical study and consisted of 25% isolated soy protein, 25% isolated whey protein and 50% casein.
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Prolonged amino acid release
These proteins all have different characteristics and the body digests and absorbs them at different rates.
More specifically, whey protein is a fast-release protein because it is rapidly metabolised and absorbed. Soy protein delivers an intermediate release of amino acids, while casein digests more slowly than both whey and soy.
The combination of these three protein sources resulted in ideal amino acid blood concentrations over a five-hour period.
This ensures that muscles receive a sustained supply of amino acidswhich prolongs the muscle-building benefit and supports enhanced tissue repair and recovery.
Timing your shake intake
Specifically, the protein blend used in the study Demonstrated muscle-building benefits when consumed during the post-workout “anabolic window”.
“This study confirms that consuming a blend of proteins (soy, whey and casein) versus whey protein alone provides a prolonged delivery of amino acids to the muscles, making it optimal for consumption following resistance exercise,” said senior study author, Dr Blake Rasmussen.
This characteristic makes a blend ideal for use following exercise when you have extended periods between meals or when you don’t plan to consume multiple shakes throughout the day.
For similar reasons, a blend is the ideal protein supplement to use first thing in the morning to break the night-time fast – whey serves as an immediate trigger to kickstart the anabolic process, while the soy and casein deliver a sustained release of amino acids for the rest of the morning.
Possible hormonal benefits
Blends also offer a more comprehensive amino acid profileproviding all the BCAAs and EAAs found in whey, as well as non-essential amino acids like arginine and glutamine found in soy.
This combination ensures you get all five amino acid classeswhich may aid the anabolic process by increasing growth hormone production.
The rising cost of whey protein due to global supply chain constraints, particularly shortages in raw materials, and higher demand also necessitated this product formulation innovation.
Whey prices increased by over 35% in December 2021, with additional increases expected in 2022 as pass-through costs force retailers to up their prices.
Blending cost-effective raw ingredients that are not in short supply, like plant proteins, offers a sensible way to mitigate future price increases without compromising on the quality and efficacy of protein supplements.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.