What kinds of proteins did you put in Ample? Are certain proteins better for building muscle, losing weight, etc? Also, I recently read an article that said that American males actually consume too much protein. Is that true?
— Rona, San Francisco, CA
Most people think protein is protein, but there’s actually a wide-range of proteins that widely vary in their nutritional content. To understand why I chose the particular proteins I did, we should first understand what a protein is.
Imagine constructing a huge building made out of hundreds of Legos, with 20 different types of Lego pieces (amino acids)1. The entire building is the protein, but the individual kinds of Lego pieces used are what makes the protein specific. When you ingest this protein, your body is actually just going to break down the Lego building into the constituent pieces, and then absorb them through your small intestine.
The goal of Ample, once again, was to get a decent proportion of each of these amino acids. To do this, I had to look at the amino acid profile of each of specific protein, see if any amino acids were missing or in super-low quantities, and if they were, I needed to find a protein richer in the lacking amino acids. Ample needed a box of Legos that has an ample supply of every piece your body needs.
I don’t want to get super detailed into the benefits or uses of all 20 amino acids individually because that’s kinda boring. But I’ll tell you the advantages of the proteins we did choose: a combination of grass-fed whey concentrate, grass-fed collagen, organic pea, and organic pumpkin protein.
Whey is the standard choice for a lot of people who are looking to preserve or gain muscle, but it’s also just a solid protein to have overall. It’s uniquely high in the amino acids leucine and isoleucine, as well as threonine, which all tend to appear in large quantities within muscle, and have great utility in muscle creation and maintenance2. But it’s also not a sufficient source by itself. In fact, whey is almost entirely devoid of glycine3
You may have read that people take collagen for joint health, which is true. Why is that? Collagen is packed with the amino acid glycine, which is essential in rebuilding and maintaining the strength and flexibility of your joints4. It is also high in alanine, an amino acid key for muscle growth, eliminating toxins in the liver, and maintaining correct glucose levels5 6.
PUMPKIN & PEA
It’s important to have plant-based protein as well, because plant proteins have a unique blend of amino acids. Pumpkin has significantly higher arginine (which whey and collagen are low in), which is important for eliminating waste from kidneys, as well as modulating blood flow7(through nitric oxide levels, which we can nerd out on later!8) Other than arginine, pumpkin and pea honestly have quite similar amino acid profiles9 10, but after testing the flavor, we realized that both of these proteins in isolation didn’t taste awesome. So instead, we blended them together and the taste was naturally awesome!
As always, it’s as instructive to understand why we left certain proteins out as why we decided on the ones we did. For instance, why did we choose pumpkin and pea over hemp or soy? Soy, for one, is high in phytoestrogens, which have been shown to dysregulate people’s hormones (by mimicking your body’s own estrogen… anti-awesome). Also, almost all the soy grown in the United States is GMO, and we strive to keep Ample GMO-free. Since the quality of these proteins is essential for highest absorption and proper assimilation, soy was a clear no-go. Hemp also is touted as a pure protein, but honestly doesn’t taste very good in Ample!
The end result was a complete blend of all 20 amino acids your body needs, with high enough quantities for the obvious muscle growth and joint repair, but also for the less obvious use for proteins.
PS: As to your question about American males having too much protein in their diet, that’s another great question. Some people are concerned with the kidney’s ability to process protein. In fact, I have a Health Hacker podcast episode on the very subject — I interviewed a world-renowned nephrologist (read: kidney doctor) named Dr. Jason Fung who discusses the matter at length.
Feel free to check that out here. Hope this all helps!
- Proteinogenic amino acid ↩
- All About BCAAs ↩
- The Breakdown of Whey Protein Amino Acids ↩
- Effect of the novel low molecular weight hydrolyzed chicken sternal cartilage extract, BioCell Collagen, on improving osteoarthritis-related symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial ↩
- Glucose–Alanine Cycle ↩
- Eat This Bone Broth ↩
- L-arginine-induced vasodilation in healthy humans: pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic relationship. ↩
- Nitric oxide and its role in the cardiovascular system ↩
- Amino Acids in Pumpkins ↩
- Amino Acid Composition and Protein Quality of Field Peas ↩