Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Is Hydrolized Whey, the New Way to Go? 12 Week Human Study Suggests: Yes, If Your Goal is to Ward Off Oxidative Damage. No, If You Want to Build Muscle & Lose Fat

The typical soccer player is no longer a stick on muscular legs, these days. The sport has changed and so have the physiques of the players.
I guess ever since I published the article "The Glucose Repartioning Effects of Isoleucine: Falsely Underappreciated BCAA and Its Dipeptides Maximize GLUT-4 Expression and Ramp Up Muscular Glucose Uptake" (read it) that discussed the beneficial effect of the small isoleucine peptides in hydrolized whey on glucose metabolism, some of you may have been wondering, whether theh previously sneered at even more insulinogenic fast-digesting, bad-tasting, highly-processed whey protein hydrolysates (WPHs) may not be an alternative, if not the better alternative to whey concentrates or isolates.

Personally, I have always favored the "whole" over its individual parts, but the evidence that there is something special about WPH is accumulating.

"So what kind of new evidence is accumulating here?"

That being said, the latest evidence that would support this notion comes from the Universidade Estadual de Campinas in São Paulo, Brazil (Lollo. 2013). Where Pablo Christiano B. Lollo et al. investigated the effects the provision of whey protein (WP), hydrolysed whey protein (WPH), or a non-protein placebo (maltodextrin, MALTO) would exert on selected biochemical, anthropometric and performance parameters in 24 soccer player over the course of 12 weeks.

The iso-caloric supplements which contained 0.5g of protein (or placebo) per kg of body mass had to be before and after each training session, as well as on rest days (i.e. on Monday). The overall protein intake was relatively low (typical of a sport with a clear endurance focus) and was designed so that the protein of the diet plus that of the supplement would represent 15% of the total daily caloric intake. Both, the diets, as well as the sleep and training schedule were standardized. The intensity and training volume were identical for all individuals having plaing the same position (e.g. striker, defender, etc.). And the amino acid content of the two whey supplements was identical, so that the only difference between the WP and the WPH group was the chain-length of the proteins and peptides in the drinks they ingested.
Figure 1: Changes in markers of exercise induced damage (left) and body composition changes (in %) over the course of the 12-week study period (Lollo. 2013)
As you can see in figure 1 this minute difference was yet enough to result in significantly different responses to the protein supplement in the WPH and WP groups.Only, in the former, i.e. the whey protein hydeolysate group did the scientists observe significant decreases in the muscle damage indicators, creatine kinase (-42%) and lactate dehydrogenase (-30%). The minimal changes in the whey protein group, on the other hand, were not superior to the maltodextrin control.
"The foremost features of this investigation were greater than 40% and 30% decrease in CK and LDH, respectively, obtained after 12 weeks of supplementation with the hydrolysed whey protein. This outcome contrasted even more with the increase of CK, which was approximately  +35% obtained by supplementing with maltodextrin alone." (Lollo. 2013)
As you would expect there were no apparent adverse effects observed in either of the groups whose total total protein intake remained below 2.3 g/kg per day. The renal function and protein metabolism parameters, uric acid and creatinine remained within the physiological limits of normality in all groups. 

WPH the whey for elite athletes? 

In their discussion of the results, Lollo et al. make an interesting point, when they compare their observations to those in previously conducted studies and state:
Right from the archives: "Looking at Fast, Slow & Total Protein Intake. More Than 2g/kg Protein = Madness?" (read more)
"Since studies of the effects of protein supplementation have normally been carried out with non-athlete volunteers in acute experiments (Bolster et al., 2005; Pennings et al., 2011; Tipton & Ferrando, 2008), it was interesting to note that the data collected from elite athletes engaged in a real championship pointed to hydrolysed whey protein being the only form of supplement that effectively diminished the levels of muscle damage biomarkers.

Those results could be understood in light of the high antioxidant capacity of the hydrolysate." (Lollo. 2013)
If that could be confirmed for other elite athletes and highly trained gymrats, as well, the question I raised in the headline of this article may well be answered affirmatively: "Yes, for elite athletes with a high training workload, hydrolized whey proteins may in fact be the better way to go."

If you take a closer look at the data in figure 1 (right hand side), you will have to concede that this could well be a question of the kind of athlete we are looking at. A bodybuilder for example would fare better with regular whey. While soccer training is an allegedly bad model for bodybuilding, the way in which regular whey has the most favorable effects on body composition, i.e. a statistically significant 3.4% increase in muscle mass and non-significant 6% decrease in fat mass, is something I personally would not ignore (on a side note, you did see that the fat loss maxed out and reached statistical significance with the pure maltodextrose, right?). 

Metabolic ward study shows: Higher than RDA protein intake turns weight loss into a fat loss diet, yet still it's not the more the better (learn more)
Bottom line: Despite or maybe even due to its high anti-oxidant prowess whey hydrolysate may not be the ideal protein for the average gymrat trying to build muscle, lose fat and improve his overall body composition. Allegedly, a study in soccer players and above all one with only 24 subjects is certainly not a reliable gauge, but why would you quit using what has worked for you before, if the evidence that the alternative may be good, but not exactly conducive to your primary goals?

Moreover, let's not forget, if you are simply trying to pack in some additional protein into your diet, price and taste are certainly things you want to consider, as well. And let's face it the taste and mouth-feel of the few true hydrolysates out there (most supplement producers mix various forms of whey and will still sneak a "hydro" into the name) are not exactly what you would expect from something you'd consume as a "liquid snack", right?

  • Bolster DR, Pikosky MA, Gaine PC, Martin W, Wolfe RR, Tipton KD, Maclean D, Maresh CM, Rodriguez NR. Dietary protein intake impacts human skeletal muscle protein fractional synthetic rates after endurance exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2005 Oct;289(4):E678-83.
  • Lollo PBC, et al. Hydrolysed whey protein reduces muscle damage markers in Brazilian elite soccer players compared with whey protein and maltodextrin. A twelve-week inchampionship intervention. International Dairy Journal. August 2013 [epub ahead of print]
  • Tipton KD, Ferrando AA. Improving muscle mass: response of muscle metabolism to exercise, nutrition and anabolic agents. Essays Biochem. 2008;44:85-98.
  • Pennings B, Koopman R, Beelen M, Senden JM, Saris WH, van Loon LJ. Exercising before protein intake allows for greater use of dietary protein-derived amino acids for de novo muscle protein synthesis in both young and elderly men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Feb;93(2):322-31.