Author: Abigail Everson
For the last few decades, protein has become one of the most talked about supplements for athletes. Protein stimulates muscle protein synthesis, the building and repair of muscles and tissues. Protein is also needed for a variety of hormonal and metabolic activities (Campbell 2008). For this reason, protein bars, shakes, and other supplements have become an important part of exercising and strength training. In recent years creatine has been rising in popularity and it has been shown to improve performance and lean body mass. Although creatine is newer, both protein and creatine seem to have the similar impacts on lean muscle mass in athletes.
We know that protein is important, but does it matter what type of protein is used? A large analysis of nine different studies compared the impact of soy protein supplements and animal protein supplements on strength and lean body mass in response to resistance training (Messina 2018). All of the studies analyzed were conducted for longer than six weeks, trying to see the effects of long-term usage. Four studies compared soy protein to other proteins from animals (milk, beef, or dairy protein). Five studies compared soy protein to whey, the protein found in the watery part of milk that separates from the curds during the process of making cheese. The analysis determined that supplementing resistance training with soy protein or whey significantly increased strength, but there was no difference between the two groups. There was also no difference between soy protein and animal protein. These results indicate that supplementing with whey, animal, and soy protein produce similar strength gains and lean body mass response to resistance training.
The protein type does not seem to impact strength or lean body mass, so let’s move on to intake dosage. Some athletes believe it helps to take more protein supplements to increase strength and gains. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day for individuals that lift weights regularly or is training for a cycling or running event (Cataldo). A study was conducted that compared very high protein intake with low intake on muscle mass(Lemon 1992). The study took 12 men and had them each complete a month of protein supplements and a month of carbohydrate supplements, with a break in between. The protein supplement was 2.26 grams of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight taken daily, and the carbohydrate supplement was 1.35 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight. The protein supplement was more than 0.5 grams more than the recommended amount and the carbohydrate supplement was in the recommended range. While the protein requirements increased, the results of the study determined that the increase in protein intake did not increase muscle mass or strength gains. This study was conducted for 4 weeks on each supplement, so it is possible that a longer-term studywould find greater results. Now we know why protein is an important part of anathlete’s diet, but what about the newer supplement creatine?
Over the last decade and a half, creatine has become the rising star of supplements and one of the most popular nutritional supplements for athletes. Creatine has been deemed the gold standard of supplements; what others are compared to. Creatine is
known to improve performance and increase lean body mass and has been proven to be
safe when the recommended dosages are consumed (Campbell 2008). The American
College of Sports Medicine’s recommended dose of creatine in adults is 20 grams per
day for five to seven days, followed by 2-5 grams per day after that (Wadsworth). In
several studies, one of the consistent results observed in males, females, and the
elderly is weight gain in the form of lean body mass. Exercise physiologists and
scientists are not sure about exact physiological mechanisms of how creatine works,
they just know that it does.
There are many different reasons why athletes take supplements, and they sure
do know what they are talking about! Studies have proven time and time again that
protein and creatine will help improve lean muscle gains and performance. There is no
significance is using one source of protein over another; soy, whey, and animal protein
have all been found to give the same results. For protein dose, increasing the protein
intake more than the recommended dose did not increase muscle mass or strength.
With all of the fuss about the newest supplement, creatine shown to live up to the
hype. As of now, there have not been any studies directed at comparing the
effectiveness between protein and creatine.
Campbell, Bill. “Muscle Mass and Weight Gain Nutritional Supplements.” Nutritional
Supplements in Sports and Exercise, 2008, pp. 189–223., doi:10.1007/978-1-
Cataldo, Donna, and Matthew Blair. “Protein Intake for Optimal Muscle Maintenance.”
American College of Sports Medicine, www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-
Lemon, P. W., et al. “Protein Requirements and Muscle Mass/Strength Changes during
Intensive Training in Novice Bodybuilders.” Journal of Applied Physiology, vol.
73, no. 2, 1992, pp. 767–775., doi:10.1152/jappl.1922.214.171.1247.
Messina, Mark, et al. “No Difference Between the Effects of Supplementing With Soy
Protein Versus Animal Protein on Gains in Muscle Mass and Strength in Response to
Resistance Exercise.” International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise
Metabolism, vol. 28, no. 6, 2018, pp. 674–685., doi:10.1123/ijsnem.2018-0071.
Wadsworth, Tyler. “Nutritional Supplements.” American College of Sports Medicine
Team Physician Course, forms.acsm.org/TPC/PDFs/14%20Wadsworth.pdf.