4

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Whey powder: Protein Efficiency Ratio versus Insulin Response - what is the end game?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created July 21, 2010 at 10:18 PM

Hi folks, I was wondering if anyone knew if there was a published relationship between a protein sources bio-availability, or more specifically, its protein efficiency ratio (PER) and its associated insulin response. Whey has a really nice PER - in fact it is taken up by muscle tissues very well when eaten immediately post exercise (particulary anaerobic exercise), but it also causes a relatively high insulin response (AFAIK).

So really my question is whether or not its high PER is a result of the high insulin response (e.g. insulin acting as a carrier for the protein into muscle cells), or is it more of a side effect of the body trying to convert the whey into glucose and the insulin responding to the resultant glucose increase? Or third, am I completely off base on that, and it is lactose or other associated milk sugars that are still present in the whey protein isolate that cause the insulin spike?

What I am working up to here is whats the end game with whey? Is it a great supplemental protein source for us despite its insulin response, at least post exercise? Or, is the insulin response damning to the point of avoid it - go with egg albumin?

Thanks!

PS: The reason I even take powders is I do lot's of heavy weight lifting, 90 minutes a day, with a 2 day on 1 day off cycle. I do want to build more muscle - and have gone paleo not so much from a weight loss perspective, but more from being diagnosed with insulin resistance (and I definitely am not overweight - its just a genetic thing apparently). And I really agree with the whole philosophy of it as well! Paleo just makes sense;)

535633b57c4a4940d1e913e7a12ee791

(1013)

on April 16, 2011
at 09:20 PM

Chris...Great Post. On workout duration I just want to add that the #1 mistake weight trainers make is over-training. To many exercises, sets and workouts per week. LESS IS MORE. Weight and strength gains are made only during rest, exercise is only the stimulant.This is 40 years experience talking.

5e36f73c3f95eb4ea13a009f4936449f

(8280)

on December 17, 2010
at 06:15 AM

I assume you're talking about their supplement they make. ALR Industries is are correct in everything they are say. Their research backs them up as well. However, the important thing is what they DON'T say, and what their research DOESN'T do. They talk about taking Whey regularly and not post workout where people usually use it. Post workout, the muscles are depleted of glycogen and the body needs to repair damage. The Whey gets used for that is not shuttled to fat storage. They say nothing about this and their research specifically avoids testing this...

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on December 16, 2010
at 02:54 AM

Riveted: The subjects of that study were 50+ sedentary individuals, and exercised with 40-80% vo2max. In younger and less sedentary individuals, 90%+ intensities show superior results. I've updated some links in my response showing such.

5de2fffda92c0bf2be7ede10cad55546

(1781)

on December 15, 2010
at 03:45 AM

The best way to quickly and directly get into the muscle is using BCAA's. Whey needs to be digested and takes quite a while to get to the muscles while BCAA is absorbed directly and is there within seconds. Very anabolic/anticatabolic and used for energy directly by the muscle instead of glucose.

5de2fffda92c0bf2be7ede10cad55546

(1781)

on December 15, 2010
at 12:38 AM

@Eva, from my understanding of the muscle exercise/rebuild process is that it's not as simple or quick as this. Reading Dr Doug Mcgruff in "Body By Science" the process of tearing down the damaged muscle and rebuilding it stronger takes several days, up to a week, so the need to do anything much immediately after exercise is irrelevant as the muscle hasn't even begun to break down yet let alone be rebuilt. The disassembly and reabsorbing of the cells can take days.

Medium avatar

(3259)

on December 14, 2010
at 07:25 PM

Chris...sorry. Am I missing something? The conclusion of the Intensity study you cited seemed to be "an exercise prescription that incorporated an exercise duration ~170 min of exercise/wk with a frequency of three to four sessions per week improved insulin sensitivity significantly more than a program utilizing ~115 min of exercise/wk and a frequency of three sessions per week, regardless of exercise intensity and volume." Doesn't that argue for longer vs. shorter sessions and dismisses the issue of intensity?

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on July 22, 2010
at 08:51 PM

David, protein does not need to be complete to stimulate the insulin response, leucine alone will do it. He's insulin resistant, not necessarily diabetic, and it most certainly is his lifestyle that resulted in insulin resistance. Or maybe you think if he ate fish, coconuts and breadfruit his entire life with regular periods of fatsting he would still be insulin resistant?

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on July 22, 2010
at 07:24 PM

David, protein does even have to be complete to stimulate the insulin response, leucine alone will do it. He's insulin resistant, not necessarily diabetic, and it most certainly is his lifestyle that resulted in insulin resistance. Or maybe you think if he ate fish, coconuts and breadfruit his entire life with regular periods of fatsting he would still be insulin resistant?

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on July 22, 2010
at 06:30 AM

Exercise also increases appetite. You may burn an extra 150 cals but you will also crave an extra 150 cals or, for some people, maybe even more. The body is not so stupid as to not notice the extra caloric need and act accordingly. However, I do think exercise is healthy for other reasons. Just that proper diet is probably the best way better way to lose weight, not exercise.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on July 22, 2010
at 06:04 AM

Chris, while any complete protein will stimulate insulin response, it has been shown that whey produces a higher insulin response than other forms of protein. One explanation for why this is so is that particular amino acids determine the extent of the insulin response. The article which you cite says just that. It's also an oversimplification to say that aris' diabetes is "from diet and lifestyle" not "from genetics." Epigenetics has been shown to play a key role in insulin resistance, so it's wholly possible that most people with his lifestyle wouldn't become diabetic.

48f9bb680fbc1bc1bd0d9cb09ee10273

(230)

on July 22, 2010
at 03:38 AM

I am definitely on that! Recently been adding lots of coconut milk the past few days- still on the fence on butter though. I was low fat pre-paleo too:/ Its interesting, I read the cites above- seems the JAMA pub was a cross sectional study based on retrospective recall? Hard to tell from the abstract- if so it's probably why the EEE-Si correlation was so meagre. The other two articles are golden- I wonder if there's a follow up done on the different action mentioned between aerobic vs resistance training. Maybe glucose being burned for energy versus glucose used to replenish muscle glycogen?

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on July 22, 2010
at 03:23 AM

Yeah, but so many unknowns, BMR varies a bit based on exercise and habits, macronutrients, fat composition of diet. I tend to think calories are pretty unimportant.

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on July 22, 2010
at 03:17 AM

Interesting from the endocrinologist, sounds a bit complicated. Check out saturated fat for raising your testosterone levels. http://jap.physiology.org/cgi/content/full/82/1/49

48f9bb680fbc1bc1bd0d9cb09ee10273

(230)

on July 22, 2010
at 03:10 AM

Hey, every half hour counts;) Seriously though, I thought I had read a few nutrition texts a few years back which indicated each 1 lbs of lean muscle added would burn an additional 15 calories per day, so putting on 10 pounds of muscle would increase caloric consumption 150 cal, which is slight perhaps, but that's 5% of a 3000 calorie daily intake. 5% isn't great - but over months and years, it's going to make a difference right? In contrast - caloric restriction or muscle catabolism or just not weight lifting will reduce lean mass, thus reducing BMR, making it harder to stay lean, right?

48f9bb680fbc1bc1bd0d9cb09ee10273

(230)

on July 22, 2010
at 03:01 AM

Oh, I wanted to add: The endocrinologist said the only reason I didn't have diabetes was the exercise - and that the excess insulin had blocked most of the testosterone sites on my pituitary, resulting in not only low FSH, LH, but also low test - hence my recent focus on heavy squats and bench (and the longer workouts). I am wondering how my blood-work will look in 4 months when I go in for my next follow up. I am interested to see the lab results - I have had insulin, hormone, and complete hematologic labs from before going paleo, and will get the after for comparison.

48f9bb680fbc1bc1bd0d9cb09ee10273

(230)

on July 22, 2010
at 02:56 AM

Thanks Chris, I appreciate the links and will give them a read. On the insulin resistance diagnosis, genetics is just what the endocrinologist told me; I see your point, and the whole grain thing could have been the cause (I was a high protein AND high carb eater before). I don't think lifesyle was a factor in my case though (avid athlete, lean, don't drink, plenty of sleep - just nothing there I can identify). But my pre-paleo SAD diet definitely could have driven it.

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on July 22, 2010
at 02:54 AM

Take BCAA's preworkout?

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on July 22, 2010
at 01:37 AM

Lean muscle mass doesn't affect BMR significantly, and heavily lifting has very short term impact on plasma testosterone levels (increases are short lived, generally under half an hour)

48f9bb680fbc1bc1bd0d9cb09ee10273

(230)

on July 22, 2010
at 12:34 AM

Thought I would mention - weightlifting is actually very beneficial metabolically from the standpoint of general health - increased lean muscle mass drives up the basal metabolic rate and hence the resting caloric consumption, and for men in particular, heavy weight lifting helps increase natural production of testosterone - something us aging guys worry about! You are right though - in the serious circles they get into some very unhealthy practices (frighteningly unhealthy really).

48f9bb680fbc1bc1bd0d9cb09ee10273

(230)

on July 22, 2010
at 12:29 AM

Your hit on my question perfectly! Essentially - I was wondering if the insulin response that whey causes could actually be a beneficial effect for a strength oriented athlete taking in whey post exercise.

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6 Answers

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48f9bb680fbc1bc1bd0d9cb09ee10273

(230)

on July 22, 2010
at 02:56 AM

Thanks Chris, I appreciate the links and will give them a read. On the insulin resistance diagnosis, genetics is just what the endocrinologist told me; I see your point, and the whole grain thing could have been the cause (I was a high protein AND high carb eater before). I don't think lifesyle was a factor in my case though (avid athlete, lean, don't drink, plenty of sleep - just nothing there I can identify). But my pre-paleo SAD diet definitely could have driven it.

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on July 22, 2010
at 07:24 PM

David, protein does even have to be complete to stimulate the insulin response, leucine alone will do it. He's insulin resistant, not necessarily diabetic, and it most certainly is his lifestyle that resulted in insulin resistance. Or maybe you think if he ate fish, coconuts and breadfruit his entire life with regular periods of fatsting he would still be insulin resistant?

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on July 22, 2010
at 03:17 AM

Interesting from the endocrinologist, sounds a bit complicated. Check out saturated fat for raising your testosterone levels. http://jap.physiology.org/cgi/content/full/82/1/49

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on July 22, 2010
at 06:04 AM

Chris, while any complete protein will stimulate insulin response, it has been shown that whey produces a higher insulin response than other forms of protein. One explanation for why this is so is that particular amino acids determine the extent of the insulin response. The article which you cite says just that. It's also an oversimplification to say that aris' diabetes is "from diet and lifestyle" not "from genetics." Epigenetics has been shown to play a key role in insulin resistance, so it's wholly possible that most people with his lifestyle wouldn't become diabetic.

48f9bb680fbc1bc1bd0d9cb09ee10273

(230)

on July 22, 2010
at 03:01 AM

Oh, I wanted to add: The endocrinologist said the only reason I didn't have diabetes was the exercise - and that the excess insulin had blocked most of the testosterone sites on my pituitary, resulting in not only low FSH, LH, but also low test - hence my recent focus on heavy squats and bench (and the longer workouts). I am wondering how my blood-work will look in 4 months when I go in for my next follow up. I am interested to see the lab results - I have had insulin, hormone, and complete hematologic labs from before going paleo, and will get the after for comparison.

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on July 22, 2010
at 08:51 PM

David, protein does not need to be complete to stimulate the insulin response, leucine alone will do it. He's insulin resistant, not necessarily diabetic, and it most certainly is his lifestyle that resulted in insulin resistance. Or maybe you think if he ate fish, coconuts and breadfruit his entire life with regular periods of fatsting he would still be insulin resistant?

48f9bb680fbc1bc1bd0d9cb09ee10273

(230)

on July 22, 2010
at 03:38 AM

I am definitely on that! Recently been adding lots of coconut milk the past few days- still on the fence on butter though. I was low fat pre-paleo too:/ Its interesting, I read the cites above- seems the JAMA pub was a cross sectional study based on retrospective recall? Hard to tell from the abstract- if so it's probably why the EEE-Si correlation was so meagre. The other two articles are golden- I wonder if there's a follow up done on the different action mentioned between aerobic vs resistance training. Maybe glucose being burned for energy versus glucose used to replenish muscle glycogen?

Medium avatar

(3259)

on December 14, 2010
at 07:25 PM

Chris...sorry. Am I missing something? The conclusion of the Intensity study you cited seemed to be "an exercise prescription that incorporated an exercise duration ~170 min of exercise/wk with a frequency of three to four sessions per week improved insulin sensitivity significantly more than a program utilizing ~115 min of exercise/wk and a frequency of three sessions per week, regardless of exercise intensity and volume." Doesn't that argue for longer vs. shorter sessions and dismisses the issue of intensity?

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on December 16, 2010
at 02:54 AM

Riveted: The subjects of that study were 50+ sedentary individuals, and exercised with 40-80% vo2max. In younger and less sedentary individuals, 90%+ intensities show superior results. I've updated some links in my response showing such.

535633b57c4a4940d1e913e7a12ee791

(1013)

on April 16, 2011
at 09:20 PM

Chris...Great Post. On workout duration I just want to add that the #1 mistake weight trainers make is over-training. To many exercises, sets and workouts per week. LESS IS MORE. Weight and strength gains are made only during rest, exercise is only the stimulant.This is 40 years experience talking.

4
62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on July 22, 2010
at 12:11 AM

I am not sure I entirely understand your question. My understanding of the concept is that insulin carries things into your cells, including of course, the muscle cells. The idea behind post workout glucose intake, from my understanding, is to carry nutrients into the muscle cells immediately so they can begin to recover immediately. I don't see how you would accomplish this, according the main theory behind this, without some kind of insulin response. Protein can also cause insulin response, but usually not as much as sugar. (fat supposedly does not typically have much effect on insulin) I guess the argument is going to be what is the optimum insulin response for optimum carrying of nutrients into the muscle cells and what will trigger that type of response in you personally? Too much insulin response and the cells will not be able to take on nutrients fast enough, which could contribute to insulin resistance. Too low an insulin response and you may not get all the fast recovery that you could be getting. And since insulin response to protein and glucose seem to vary wildly across individuals, what is best for you is going to be a tricky question.

My guess would be yes, PER is probably at least in part the result of high insulin response. Insulin response can come from any glucose or protein source. Even if the protein is not the exact element causing the insulin response, that does not change the fact that the insulin response brings the nutrients into the cells. If you get rid of the insulin response, according to the prevailing weight lifting theories, then the rate of replenishment of the muscles will be slowed. That is why you will often seen weightlifters advocating some kind of controlled glucose intake shortly after a workout. Remember that most weightlifters are interested in eating in a way that will allow them to have bigger and bigger muscles and lift heavier and heavier weights. This goal is often generally in alignment with the goal of general health but may not always be perfectly in alignment with the goal of general health. (hence all the steroid use..) -Eva

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on July 22, 2010
at 06:30 AM

Exercise also increases appetite. You may burn an extra 150 cals but you will also crave an extra 150 cals or, for some people, maybe even more. The body is not so stupid as to not notice the extra caloric need and act accordingly. However, I do think exercise is healthy for other reasons. Just that proper diet is probably the best way better way to lose weight, not exercise.

48f9bb680fbc1bc1bd0d9cb09ee10273

(230)

on July 22, 2010
at 03:10 AM

Hey, every half hour counts;) Seriously though, I thought I had read a few nutrition texts a few years back which indicated each 1 lbs of lean muscle added would burn an additional 15 calories per day, so putting on 10 pounds of muscle would increase caloric consumption 150 cal, which is slight perhaps, but that's 5% of a 3000 calorie daily intake. 5% isn't great - but over months and years, it's going to make a difference right? In contrast - caloric restriction or muscle catabolism or just not weight lifting will reduce lean mass, thus reducing BMR, making it harder to stay lean, right?

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on July 22, 2010
at 01:37 AM

Lean muscle mass doesn't affect BMR significantly, and heavily lifting has very short term impact on plasma testosterone levels (increases are short lived, generally under half an hour)

48f9bb680fbc1bc1bd0d9cb09ee10273

(230)

on July 22, 2010
at 12:29 AM

Your hit on my question perfectly! Essentially - I was wondering if the insulin response that whey causes could actually be a beneficial effect for a strength oriented athlete taking in whey post exercise.

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on July 22, 2010
at 03:23 AM

Yeah, but so many unknowns, BMR varies a bit based on exercise and habits, macronutrients, fat composition of diet. I tend to think calories are pretty unimportant.

48f9bb680fbc1bc1bd0d9cb09ee10273

(230)

on July 22, 2010
at 12:34 AM

Thought I would mention - weightlifting is actually very beneficial metabolically from the standpoint of general health - increased lean muscle mass drives up the basal metabolic rate and hence the resting caloric consumption, and for men in particular, heavy weight lifting helps increase natural production of testosterone - something us aging guys worry about! You are right though - in the serious circles they get into some very unhealthy practices (frighteningly unhealthy really).

5de2fffda92c0bf2be7ede10cad55546

(1781)

on December 15, 2010
at 12:38 AM

@Eva, from my understanding of the muscle exercise/rebuild process is that it's not as simple or quick as this. Reading Dr Doug Mcgruff in "Body By Science" the process of tearing down the damaged muscle and rebuilding it stronger takes several days, up to a week, so the need to do anything much immediately after exercise is irrelevant as the muscle hasn't even begun to break down yet let alone be rebuilt. The disassembly and reabsorbing of the cells can take days.

5de2fffda92c0bf2be7ede10cad55546

(1781)

on December 15, 2010
at 03:45 AM

The best way to quickly and directly get into the muscle is using BCAA's. Whey needs to be digested and takes quite a while to get to the muscles while BCAA is absorbed directly and is there within seconds. Very anabolic/anticatabolic and used for energy directly by the muscle instead of glucose.

1
F0cb96d17957a38f060c5442cce945b3

on December 14, 2010
at 06:17 PM

Alr Industries have a non whey protein supplement. There are claims supported by Alr Industries that the insulin spike created by whey can lead to fat storage and there is associated undigested protein/amino acids from metabolism of whey digestion in people creating GI disturbance.

5e36f73c3f95eb4ea13a009f4936449f

(8280)

on December 17, 2010
at 06:15 AM

I assume you're talking about their supplement they make. ALR Industries is are correct in everything they are say. Their research backs them up as well. However, the important thing is what they DON'T say, and what their research DOESN'T do. They talk about taking Whey regularly and not post workout where people usually use it. Post workout, the muscles are depleted of glycogen and the body needs to repair damage. The Whey gets used for that is not shuttled to fat storage. They say nothing about this and their research specifically avoids testing this...

0
Ee04db68fcab556868524acb55ac5fd4

on October 14, 2012
at 03:23 AM

It has more to do with the specific amino acid profile, and the source of the protein. Whey is rich in BCAA's and gluatmine and I know those (together) help stimulate an insulin increase. And if you get your whey in its natural state (from milk) then the IGF-1 from the milk will further promote an increase in insulin.

0
81181cab058dd652659e4bb2e6f25843

(528)

on October 13, 2012
at 07:25 PM

It is absurd that user "chris" would make the assertion that "you are not genetically insulin resistant". You have nothing to back this up and your view of his problem is way off base at best. You don't even answer his question beyond giving unsolicited workout advice and a bunch of links to push your view of how to exercise.

Whey protein is more insulinogenic than egg protein so you could switch if you see fit. Taking in only proteins after an exercise session will also lower your insulin response no matter what type you use. after a workout your body will need less insulin to 'use' the protein than if you took it any other time because of the exercise induced sensitivity.

0
8d607116d95115471ffdc6ca051efebf

on October 13, 2012
at 03:13 PM

I see these are old posts, but as a quick note, one of the main driving forces of getting glucose into muscle cells is glut 4. Glut 4 is produced by exercise and significantly by weight lifting. So increasing your insulin level is not the way weight lifting works to push glucose into your muscle cells. It has been shown that the metabolic change from weight lifting on glucose metabolism lasts about 12 to 20 hours while "aerobic exercise" has a 30-45 minute effect.

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