When it comes to protein drinks, there is much to be said about the quality of the protein used and how it benefits the person drinking it, reports Brad Kloss, founder, FitPro USA
Some manufacturers use powdered protein whereas others use fresh fluid REAL milk, but many consumers do not know the difference between the two and their different effects on the body.
The difference between REAL milk and powdered protein also has a significant impact on the stability of protein drinks, causing some to have a longer shelf-life than others.
Beyond the typical animal protein versus plant protein battle, in the REAL milk realm there are two major protein categories: casein and whey. Casein comprises about 85% of all the protein in REAL milk, whereas whey comprises roughly 15% of the protein in REAL milk.
To understand how they are used differently in protein drinks, it’s necessary to understand the solubility of each. Whey is soluble when in water, or milk in this case, whereas casein is only soluble when preserved in its natural, micellar form.
Some brands use casein in its dried form, which is available after casein is extracted from milk through a complex of enzymes known as rennet. Once in this form, casein loses its natural shape and is no longer soluble because it has lost its micellar form.
For dried casein to be used in liquid products, it must be reacted with caustic compounds, such as lye, to convert it to sodium caseinate, potassium caseinate or calcium caseinate. These are not natural compounds … but they are soluble in water.
Unfortunately, this protein isolation process often involves some form of a chemical acid wash, yielding a chalky, dehydrated powder that will likely sit on warehouse shelves for months before being packaged. Caseinates are often used in liquid protein drinks, but they are not as easily digested and may cause more digestive issues than casein in its natural micellar form.
At FitPro USA, all of the casein used is in its micellar form and comes from REAL milk, which is the highest quality and most digestible form of casein protein. Other ready-to-drink (RTD) protein drinks, such as Muscle Milk, Premier Protein and others, do not use REAL milk.
Instead, the drink is made with dried whey or caseinates that are rehydrated during production, whereas FitPro Go! uses REAL milk that stays in its liquid, micellar form throughout the entire manufacturing process.
The FitPro Go! product is ultrafiltered without the use of chemicals or heat. The filters hold back the protein while allowing much of the carbohydrates and water to be removed from the product.
It is filtered as many times as it takes to attain the composition required for the specific formulation. Although the milk varies slightly in its natural composition from one batch to the next, the FitPro USA filtration process is adjusted to create a consistent product each time the drink is manufactured.
Depending on the composition of the incoming milk, filtration will fluctuate until the correct composition is achieved. Some of the FitPro Go! competitors who also use REAL milk, ultrafilter the liquid only once or twice, leaving a considerable amount of sugar, as lactose, in the product.
Treatment with enzymes does not remove sugar, it only converts the sugar to a simpler form. Lactose under the influence of enzymes becomes glucose and galactose. With ultrafiltration methods, most of the sugars are removed as the micellar casein and whey are concentrated, making the final product much lower in sugar in relation to its protein content.
The goal is to limit, as much as possible, the presence of glucose and galactose in the RTD product. FitPro USA does this to minimise sugar calories for its customers, but also because some people may have sensitivities to galactose. The product may have as little as one tenth of the glucose and galactose present in REAL milk.
The use of ultrafiltration to maintain micellar casein in its best form is a unique process for the protein drink category. The use of REAL ultrafiltered milk, when compared with products using reconstituted dried protein, provides micellar casein in its natural state.
Many consumers report improved digestibility with micellar protein compared with caseinates that have been reconstituted. Ultrafiltering also reduces the carbohydrate level and carbohydrate calories in proportion to the available protein.
FitPro Go! can be used by virtually anyone who consumes milk, but wants no lactose, higher protein and fewer carbohydrates. It can be used pre- or post-exercise or as a highly nutritious snack when 200 calories or fewer is desired. It contains no artificial preservatives and no artificial flavours, making it also appropriate for younger athletes for whom higher protein is recommended.
Because FitPro Go! starts out as milk, it provides nature’s perfect balance of both whey and casein proteins. As the company continues to grow a presence in the protein drink category, they will be launching a “Cow to Bottle” campaign to encourage more consumer education about the benefits of REAL milk and highlighting the journey from source to consumption.