When it comes to the question whether you should consume whey protein with milk or water, there are primarily 3 major differences which need to be dealt with:
- Total calorie difference
- Speed of absorption/digestion
- Lactose intolerance
The primary and actually the only logical difference is the calories. Let’s compare all 4 different types of proteins generally available in the market:
|Whey Concentrate (30gm)
|Whey Isolate (30gm)
|Vegan/Plant Protein (30gm)
|Blend Protein (Vegan + Whey) (33gm)
|Whole Milk (300ml)
|Non-Fat Milk (300ml)
|Whey Concentrate + Whole Milk
|Whey Isolate + Whole Milk
|Vegan/Plant Protein + Whole Milk
|Blend Protein +Whole Milk
|Whey Concentrate + Non-fat Milk
|Whey Isolate + Non-fat Milk
|Vegan/Plant Protein + Non-fat Milk
|Blend Protein + Non-fat Milk
|Total Calories Difference
The second difference which comes when you take different types of proteins with water or milk (whole/non-fat), is the speed of absorption. Whey hydrolysate is the fastest absorbing protein in the body, followed by isolate & concentrate. But there is no advantage anywhere, and it makes no difference in terms of the effects on the human body.
A study, determined the effects of different protein supplements standardized on changes in body composition, strength, skeletal muscle and adipose tissue. Seventy-five untrained, college-aged males were assigned to a placebo, leucine, whey protein concentrate, whey protein hydrolysate, or soy protein concentrate group. Participants performed whole-body resistance training three days per week for 12 weeks while consuming supplements twice daily.
Researchers found that, all supplement groups including placebo, exhibited similar training volumes and experienced statistically similar increases in total body skeletal muscle mass. Our concern of the findings was the fact that the strength and muscle mass increase was same in whey concentrate and hydrolysate.
Now, when you add any form of milk to any form of whey/plant protein, you automatically slow down the absorption process, due to presence of casein in milk.
Consuming 40 grams casein can maintain elevated levels of serum EAAs, notably leucine, for 6–7 hours (compared to about 4 hours for whey). This is because, under acidic conditions (as found notably in your stomach), and the presence of pepsin, casein coagulates into a blob that is difficult for your digestive enzymes to break down.
Whey proteins, on the other hand, do not coagulate under acidic conditions. They are considered to be “fast proteins,” as they reach the jejunum quickly after entering the gastrointestinal tract.
It doesn’t seem to matter whether you take whey or casein. Studies have shown that whey increased protein synthesis significantly more than casein in the first period only, with the opposite result occurring in the latter period and no overall difference over the longer periods tested.
Both whey and casein give almost the similar response in terms of increase in strength, muscle recovery, muscle protein synthesis etc. Whether it’s a casein & whey blend with a higher percentage of casein, or it’s a whey and casein blend with higher percentage of whey, or its whey and casein alone, the effect on muscle mass and strength increase is similar.
This also means, whether you take whey, casein or milk protein, or a blend of casein or whey, as long as you are getting ample protein content, it doesn’t matter much in the long run, in most of the parameters.
Most of the absorption of amino acids in the body, occurs in the small intestine. Small peptides and amino acids are water soluble and are absorbed by the small intestines and sent to the blood stream, and then the liver. App. 99% of the ingested protein is absorbed as amino acids.
In our bodies, we have an amino acid pool, from which the body uses, whenever required for various functions. As we consume protein rich foods, this amino acid pool replenishes itself. The other way is the breakdown of body’s own protein sources, when the dietary protein source is inadequate. When we workout, both muscle protein synthesis and muscle protein breakdown increases. So, we need to have adequate protein in the diet to repair the broken muscle fibres and prevent body from using its own bodily protein stores.
After a good protein rich meal, blood levels of amino acids increase, specially BCAAs. Slow digesting proteins like meat, casein etc. release amino acids slowly, while faster digesting proteins like whey, eggs etc. release amino acids faster. This pool has to be replenished often, as the body uses amino acids from this pool constantly. If the amino acid levels fall below a certain level, catabolism of enzymes and other structural proteins begins.
(THE AMINO ACID POOL: the amino acid pool consists of all the amino acids available in the body for protein synthesis at a given time. All these amino acids come from all different sources, and they get mixed up to form a general amino acid pool (Amino acid Pool).
Liver is the main organ acting during this process, in which its main function is to regulate blood levels amino acids based on tissue needs. An adult body contains about a hundred grams of free amino acids, in which constitute the amino acid pool.
The amino acid pool is highly regulated, and must be supplied in different ways: exogenous proteins from the diet, the breakdown of tissue protein during the process of protein turnover, synthesis of nonessential amino acids etc.)
The last difference is in terms of allergy/sensitivity to milk products.
Many people cannot tolerate nor have allergic reactions to milk or other dairy products that contain lactose. These people have what is called lactose intolerance. Such lactose intolerant people may develop allergic reactions after having whey protein which is made from milk.
However, two forms of this protein – WPIs and WPHs – are processed to remove the fat and lactose, and therefore they might not cause allergy to such people who cannot tolerate milk products.
Considering the above calculation & explanation, it’s your needs which will define your choices.