Ideal is a great word. It means the best, the perfect, or model. For protein there are quite a few different
types out there, but out of all of them which is the best for bodybuilders? What is the ideal protein that you should be taking in?
Let’s review some of the basic protein types and compare them a bit.
Top Protein Choices
A rating scale called the Biological Value or BV scale was created to help rate protein types. The scale is based on the percentage of a particular food your body can actually use along with how easy it is to digest.
- Whole Eggs – 100
- Egg Whites – 88
- Chicken and Turkey – 79
- Fish – 70
- Lean Beef – 69
- Milk – 60
- Rice – 58
- Peanuts – 55
- Peas – 55
Whole wheat, soy beans, corn, dry beans, and potatoes all have a BV under 50 but over 34.
Generally speaking anything with a BV rating of 60 or higher should be used as the basis for your protein intake. You can get protein from other sources but they should only comprise about 20% at most of your total intake to ensure you are getting a higher quality.
Speaking of higher quality, how does manufactured sources of protein fare?
- Whey Protein Isolate has a BV of 159.
- Whey Protein Concentrate has a BV of 104.
- Casein Protein has a BV of 77.
- Soy has a BV of 74.
Obviously the Whey Protein Isolate has the best BV and that makes it an ideal protein choice. The concentrate is an excellent option as well as it still rates over 100, but it is more of a mix and less of a pure product. Of course it is also less expensive.
So is whey protein the ideal protein choice? The answer is yes and no.
Balance is the Hidden Key
You simply can’t just consume whey protein isolate in all of your meals. Instead variety is important to ensure your body has a balance of protein source because of the other nutrients contained within those foods. Fish adds extra Omega-3’s while red meat provides vital iron for example. While some people might contend that you can simply add supplements to cover those as well, do you really want to have a diet comprised of only pills and powder?
Additionally protein has variable absorption rates into your system. While most of the time fast is better, there are also specific times, such as right before bed, that a slow release is preferred.
Whey isolate typically absorbs at a rate of 8 to 10 grams in an hour. If you drink a 30 gram shake you can expect it to be gone 3 to 4 hours later. On the other hand Casein absorbs at a rate of 6 grams per hour so you would get a solid 5 hour burn. Egg protein goes even slower at 1.3 grams per hour so if you popped a few hardboiled eggs they could digest slowly all night or all morning.
That is an important thing to consider because your body needs protein even at night. Since you don’t want to wake up every 4 hours to eat something, having access to slower digesting options is ideal.
The Bottom Line
So what is the ideal protein for bodybuilders? The true answer is a mix. You want high quality fish, lean red meat, and chicken or turkey along with whey isolate protein during most of the day. Then before bed or first thing in the morning Casein and egg protein can be very useful for a slow release to help keep your body fully stocked.