Last week we covered the basic structure and functions of proteins and how it plays a key role in the human body depending on its amino acid make-up. This week we will look at protein bioavailability.
First things first, what does bioavailability actually mean? The bioavailability of something is the degree of how usable it is in the body. In essence, the higher the bioavailability, the more efficiently it is used in the body and the more bang we get for our nutritional buck!
We can get protein from a variety of different sources; whey protein, poultry, yogurt, red meat, nuts, beans, fish and eggs to name a few. Below we discuss the bioavailability of some of these sources. This isn’t to say you should choose the most bioavailable source all the time. It is hugely beneficial to consume a mixed diet by combining food sources to achieve a varied amino acid intake. This is particularly important for vegetarians who consume only plant sources as these are incomplete proteins that are deficient in at least one essential amino acid.
1. Whey Protein – Whey is the most bioavailable source of protein. Full stop. Whey Protein Isolate is at the top of the tree as this is the purest form of whey. Absorption is extremely quick which makes it a really popular post-workout option. During a workout, your muscles undergo intense tension and stress causing micro-tears in the tissue so getting protein on board and triggering protein synthesis as soon as possible can help speed up recovery times.
2. Egg Whites – If you’re lactose intolerant and whey protein disagrees with you, egg whites are a great alternative. Granted, drinking these raw might have to be done whilst pinching your nose but there’s nothing stopping you whipping up an egg white omelette post-workout or throughout the course of the day.
3. Fish – Besides the exception of cod/haddock, most fish sources are quite oily; for example, salmon, trout and mackerel. These protein sources also offer some other excellent health benefits. Oily fish are often higher in unsaturated fat and rich in omega’s which are hugely beneficial for cardiovascular health.
4. Red Meat – Although red meat is slightly lower in terms of bioavailability, it is rich in other areas. For example, red meat is high in iron, zinc and vitamin B12 and they often contain a good amount of healthy fats. Red meat takes a little longer to digest so it’s an ideal protein source if you’re seeking feelings of satiety on an evening for example to help inhibit hunger cravings.
5. Poultry – Chicken is next on the list on the protein bioavailability scale. Chicken is a really popular lean meat source and its versatility means it can be used in a wide variety of dishes. Chicken delivers a high amount of protein with very little carbs or additional fats.