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Functional dairy protein supplements for athletes

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By David Liu, PHD

Saturday Aug 26, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- A review article in the Australian Journal of Dairy Technology suggests that functional dairy protein supplements such as milk protein, whey protein concentrates and whey protein isolates are important for elite athletes who need not only to maintain the normal skeletal muscle mass, but also maintain it in a way that allows them to have best sports performance.

From the review article written by Ross Crittenden and colleagues, the following may be interesting to readers who want to keep their muscle healthy and have best performance, particularly, elderly people and those who engage in endurance exercise or simply want to build some muscle to attract attention from females or simply want to lose some fat.

1) Protein is needed to replenish glycogen stores and promote muscle repair and accretion and maintain normal muscular function or performance.

2) Individuals engaged in regular exercise training need more dietary protein than those who are sedentary. Dietary proteins provide building blocks for muscle proteins and amino acids activate the anabolic pathways leading to muscle hypertrophy in response to an exercise stimulus.

3) Timing of dietary protein supplementation is important in maximizing muscle growth, minimizing muscle damage, and promoting strength recovery.

4) Commonly used proteins include soy and dairy protein isolates.  Supplements are available with or without other ingredients such as electrolytes, carbohydrates or vitamins etc added.  Not all proteins are equally effective.  Even the processing conditions such as protein hydrolysis may have an effect on the effectiveness of a particular protein.

5)  Dairy proteins are safe and effective in improving sports performance.  Dairy proteins have been used by body builders to increase muscle mass for a long time.

6) Both casein and whey protein supplements are commonly used but they behave differently once ingested.  Casein is digested much more slowly than whey proteins.  Because of this, whey proteins provide free amino acids faster than casein for muscle protein synthesis.  Ingestion of amino acids at the time of exercise promotes muscular protein synthesis.

7) Different formula with dietary proteins may affect the muscle differently.  

To increase strength: Using branched chain amino acids including leucine, isoleucine and valine can not only stimulate muscle anabolism but also inhibit exercise-induced muscle protein breakdown and help muscle repair after intense exercise. B-lactoglobulin is relatively high in branched chain amino acids, greater than 26% (w/w), compared to only 20 percent in milk protein isolate.   Immediate supplementation following exercise enhances the leg strength gains in healthy non-strength training young men.

To improving recovery: Intense exercise causes muscle damage leading muscle soreness and loss of strength that can last a few days. Protein hydrolysates can help tissue repair following exercise and may be used to accelerate recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage.

8) Some interesting formulas from studies as reviewed: 

To improve lean body mass: 60 g of milk protein per day for 12 weeks with resistance training improves fat free mass.  Or 60 g of whey protein per day for 8 weeks with resistance training increases limb circumference and cross-sectional area in trained limb.  Or 20 g of whey protein per day for 8 weeks with resistance and anaerobic training led to increase in lean body mass.

To increase power:  60 g of whey protein per day for 8 weeks with resistance and plyometric training led to increased peak anaerobic power (vertical jump and cycle power).

To increase speed: 60 g of whey protein per day for 8 weeks with training led to improvement in sprint performance.

To improve endurance: 60 g of whey protein per day for 8 weeks led to improvement in time trial performance.

To improve recovery: 60 g of whey protein per day for 8 weeks plus endurance running training improved maintenance of peak running speed during second bout of running to exhaustion after 20 min passive recovery.

To have stronger immunity: 10 g of whey protein per day for 10 weeks and 5 days of high intensity training protected against drop in immunity following the training.  In another study, 26 g of protein adjusted skim milk per day for 12 weeks increased salivary IgA levels.  Another study found 20 g per day for 2 weeks plus training increased salivary IgA. Still another 60 g of whey protein per day for 8 weeks plus training reduced incidence of upper respiratory tract infection.

In summary, taking 60 grams of whey protein or 75 grams of whey protein concentrates (80% protein) or 63 grams of whey protein isolates (95% protein) for 6 to 12 weeks plus reesistance or endurance training can help muscle. Take the whey protein supplements 20 minutes prior to the start of your work.

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