Beef Protein.. Is It Worth It?

  • The beef protein fad

    I am sure by now we have all seen proteins now advertising that they are a better alternative to milk and whey based proteins. Beef protein is one of those newer fad proteins advertising that it is better for you without any of the digestive issues some people associate with whey. An important question, however, is: what is beef protein?

    We all like to romanticize with the idea that beef protein is filet mignon grinded into powder, but it is simply not. The price of beef is exuberant, making this impossible. A quick search on the internet shows that the top 5 selling beef protein products contain the following ingredients: Hydrolyzed beef protein isolate, Hydrolyzed gelatin. Now these sound fancy, but what exactly are they? Hydrolyzed Beef Protein Isolate is also known as Collagen. Collagen is not a complete protein source, and is high in glycine, proline, arginine, and hydroxyproline. Collagen is a support tissue protein that has no use in products for athletes. All these labels are just fancy words for what beef protein really is: collagen, left over scraps, and cow plasma (a component of blood).

    The first thing you should notice is the glaring similarities between beef protein isolate and gelatin. They are nearly identical, so for the purposes of comparisons between whey and the other two, we will simply compare whey vs. beef protein.

    Notice that there are some massive differences. The whey product has much more of the essential amino acids and BCAAs (34.96 grams in whey vs. 19.4 grams in beef protein isolate per 100 g). The amount of essential amino acids and BCAAs are what we really want to consider when we look at different sources of protein as athletes when it comes to determining what is best for our lifestyles. These are the amino acids that aid in recovery, muscle protein synthesis, etc.

    Another massive difference is the amount of glycine in beef protein (beef protein isolate contains 20.1 grams of glycine, more than 14 times the amount of glycine in whey protein). Glycine is a filler amino acid added into products to cheapen the cost of the product. Glycine comes up on lab tests that test for protein content based on nitrogen content as protein, which allows companies to pad the amount of protein in their product by stuffing them with glycine. Think of the companies that always have buy 1 get 1s on their proteins, and you will notice glycine is almost always added into their protein matrix.

    If that doesn’t have you sold, this should. This is a comparison of the various protein sources we have been discussing using the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS). The PDCAAS is a method utilized by the FDA and the World Health Organization that measures the quality of protein based on the amino acid requirements of humans and their ability to digest these protein sources (2). A value of 1.00 is the highest possible PDCAAS score.

    As previously discussed, most of beef proteins contain mainly collagen and gelatin, thus they have a PDCAAS of zero. These products are not beneficial for athletes.

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