We all know that protein is important for a healthy diet and lifestyle, but where do we find easy to digest protein? You may be looking for the easiest protein to digest for a number of reasons, whether it's to get the best results from your workout, or to avoid stomach upset.
So is there such a thing as easy to digest protein and difficult to digest protein?
Today we will take a look at what protein does for our body, how it benefits athletes and non-athletes alike, and the differences between proteins that can make them more or less easy to digest. Then, we’ll discuss the easiest protein to digest, and what makes it such an easy to digest protein.
In order to understand the nuances between types of protein, let’s first take a moment to understand protein on the whole: what protein is, why the body needs it, and what the body does with protein when it has it.
Proteins are essential molecules that play a crucial role in the human body. In many ways, we can think of proteins as the building blocks of life. They are made up of smaller units called amino acids, which are like the letters of an alphabet that can be arranged in many meaningful ways.
Breaking the protein in our food or supplements down into amino acids gives our body the building blocks it needs to arrange for many specific uses. There are 20 different types of amino acids that can be combined in various sequences to create different proteins, and be used for different functions.
So what does protein do?
Protein has several important functions in the body. It is responsible for the structure, function, and regulation of tissues and organs. That structure is important for all types of cells, from the rigid strength of our bones, to the bulk strength of our muscles, the tensile strength of our tendons and ligaments, and the cushioning support of cartilage.
But protein doesn’t just make up the “strong” parts of our body. All cells need strength in one way or another. For example, proteins make up a significant portion of our skin, organs, hair, and nails.
On top of this, proteins act as enzymes; molecules that help create chemical reactions in our cells. These chemical reactions aid digestion, our metabolism, and other vital processes. This is useful assistance for us in all stages of life, but particularly as we get older.
Further, protein plays a crucial role in our immune system. It can help to identify and neutralize harmful invaders such as bacteria and viruses, acting as antibodies. Additionally, proteins can transport molecules throughout the body, carry oxygen in our blood, and provide signals for cell communication.
Protein even plays an important role in our diet by giving us a feeling of satiety (feeling full). This helps regulate our appetites. So including protein-rich meals in your diet can aid in weight management by reducing overeating and promoting a healthy body composition.
As you can see, protein does a lot of work. We’d be lost without this macronutrient, so it’s important that we keep our bodies topped up with enough of it.
Is protein only necessary for athletes?
Given that the functions listed above are processes all of us need to live healthy lives, protein is not only important for athletes. It’s important for everyone!
While athletes and individuals who take part in regular physical activity may have higher protein needs due to the demands of exercise and muscle repair, protein is essential for everyone, regardless of their activity level.
So now that you have a clear understanding of protein and its importance, what type of protein is best to take? And is one type of protein easier to digest than another? Let’s first take a look at the difference between plant and animal proteins.
Plant protein vs animal protein
Are plant proteins a more easy to digest protein? Or are animal proteins? Let’s learn about their differences to help us understand what makes one a more easy to digest protein than the other.
When we first think of protein, we often think of meat. And when it comes to finding an easy to digest protein, there is a good reason for that. Animal protein from sources such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products tends to have a higher biological nutrient value compared to plant proteins.
But what about digestion?
Plant proteins from soy, peas, hemp, and quinoa are generally considered a little harder to digest than animal proteins. This is due to a couple factors. Plant proteins often contain higher levels of dietary fiber and anti-nutritional factors like phytates and lectins, which can interfere with protein digestion.
In addition, most plant proteins are not complete proteins. What is the difference between complete vs incomplete proteins? Let’s take a look.
Complete and incomplete proteins
Complete protein is protein that contains all nine essential amino acids. This means that when your body breaks the protein down into amino acids, it has all the building blocks it needs to make any type of protein cell in your body.
Now, if the protein is incomplete, it does NOT contain all the essential amino acids. This means your body will have to draw from its existing stores of amino acids to fill in the missing pieces. That is, if you even have enough stores. And, if you are consistently eating only incomplete protein sources, that might be difficult for your body.
This can make protein synthesis less efficient, and much longer to complete. This may slow down your digestion of the protein. If you usually rely on plant-based protein sources, it’s important to check which amino acids they are lacking, and find a way to supplement those amino acids into your diet.
Based on this evidence, we usually opt for protein from animal sources as our preferred protein sources. But even though animal proteins are considered an easy to digest protein, some sources are better than others when it comes to digestibility.
The best sources of protein
To ensure our bodies have enough protein, we should first look at how we feed ourselves. What are some easy protein sources?
Well, our protein intake comes from our diet, and good sources of protein include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. These foods provide us with the necessary amino acids to build and repair tissues, support growth, and maintain overall health.
The recommended daily intake of protein varies depending on factors like age, sex, activity level, and overall health. It is generally recommended to consume a diverse range of protein sources to ensure an adequate supply of all essential amino acids.
But it's difficult to get all your protein requirements from food alone. That’s because protein in its whole form takes a long time to digest and absorb, regardless of what food you are sourcing it from.
If you really want the fastest access to your protein, then you need an easy to digest protein supplement. Otherwise, a lot of the protein you are eating won’t be processed by your body, and will simply pass through your digestive system as waste.
Getting your protein from supplements has some great benefits. Besides being an easy to digest protein source, supplements allow you to easily control the amount of protein you’re taking. Of course, depending on the form, source, and ingredients in your supplement, not all of them are the most easy to digest protein.
Let’s discuss the important things to keep front of mind when choosing an easy to digest protein supplement.
Choosing the right protein supplement
The first thing you want to look at when finding easy to digest protein supplements is the source. As we mentioned, plant protein might not be the best protein source for digesting, but not all animal protein sources are created equal either.
For example, although whey protein is a very popular protein source, it may not be the easiest protein to digest. Why?
Whey is a byproduct from milk, and for anyone who is lactose intolerant, this can spell disaster for digestion. This is why whey protein upset stomachs are so common.
You could be lactose intolerant even without knowing it. It’s estimated that about 65% of people develop lactose intolerance at some point in their lives, which is a remarkably high number!
So if whey protein might not be the best? Then what is? Let’s examine collagen protein vs whey protein.
Collagen protein doesn’t contain any lactose, and is already found in your body naturally. It is what your body uses to make all your connective tissues and structures more strong and flexible. It’s also what your body uses to repair muscle and skin fibers after hard workouts or injuries.
Collagen can do some truly amazing things for your body, and is an easy to digest protein because you don’t need to worry about the side effects of whey. But aside from the source of your protein supplement, you should also look at the process by which it was made.
Pick a hydrolyzed protein supplement
When looking for the most easy to digest protein supplement, you should purchase a supplement that is hydrolyzed, such as hydrolyzed collagen protein.
What is hydrolyzed collagen? Hydrolyzed collagen is collagen protein that has been reduced in molecular size by a water-based treatment called hydrolysis. By breaking down the molecules into smaller pieces, hydrolysis increases the protein absorption rate and digestibility.
We discussed above how proteins are made of strings of connected amino acids. Imagine a protein as a necklace with many beads, where each bead represents an amino acid. Hydrolysis breaks this necklace into individual beads.
During hydrolysis, water molecules are used to break the chemical bonds that hold the amino acids together. This happens because the water molecule splits into its parts: a hydrogen atom (H) and an oxygen atom (O).
The hydrogen atom attaches to one amino acid, while the oxygen atom binds to the next amino acid. This process breaks the bond between them, creating a new connection between the hydrogen and oxygen atoms.
By continuously adding water and repeating this process, the protein chain gradually gets broken down into smaller pieces called peptides. That’s what makes it easier to digest!
The easiest protein to digest
The very best easy to digest protein is a collagen protein that has been fortified with tryptophan to make it a complete protein. This supplement should be hydrolyzed, and better yet nano-hydrolyzed. This means it has gone through the process of hydrolysis more than once.
Frog Fuel collagen supplements are nano-hydrolyzed to make them an extremely easy to digest protein source. In fact, they have been proven to be fully digestible in just 15 minutes or less!
If you’re looking for easy to digest protein that won’t upset your stomach and will help your body function as healthily as possible, a Frog Fuel hydrolyzed collagen protein supplement is a great choice to add to your daily routine.