Summary

The use of protein supplements is prevalent among athletes. The protein supplement that an athlete chooses can affect his or her training and maintenance of lean body mass. There are three main sources of protein used in these supplements, and their processing plays a role in their functionality. While there is not a consensus regarding which protein is optimal, evidence seems to indicate whey and casein provide better acute gains in muscle protein accretion. Long-term studies are limited, but the data appear to indicate a long-term benefit of whey and casein use. While the difference in protein accretion between soy and milk proteins appears to be small, it may have physiological relevance, especially if consumed over extended periods.

Future research is needed to compare the use of all of these different protein sources in controlled clinical trials from acute and chronic perspectives. The dose and macronutrient profile as well as timing of ingestion should also be considered. Additionally, a diet based solely on each supplement as a protein source would be an interesting and needed comparison to elucidate the magnitude of the differences. However, a study with this design would have limited applicability.

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