Is Whey the Best Option for Football Players?

American football players on the field

Is the hype around whey protein for football players worth paying attention to?

Whey has useful applications for different strength and bulking goals. But when the subject of whey protein for football players is raised, does it check all the boxes? Are there other protein drinks for football players, or other sports nutrition products that are going to have a clearer positive impact on a young athlete’s game?

Let’s assess the benefits and drawbacks of widely-popular whey protein for football players - and give you another viable option and contender in the world of sports nutrition.

But first, we’ll take into account what exactly we’re looking for in a protein supplement. That way we can clearly see if whey protein for football players will have the desired, long-term effects.

What do coaches look for in a football player?

A good coach or NFL team scout has their eye on a multitude of metrics when they assess and evaluate the potential in a young athlete. Coachability, football IQ, and the ability to come in clutch when the game is on the line are some of the intangibles that young players are measured by.

But before these higher level traits are taken into account, the fundamentals have to be present and accounted for. 

We’re talking about athleticism. 

Athleticism alone won’t get you drafted, but a lack of athleticism will certainly see you get passed on.

Football is a tough, physical sport played in short, intense bursts with a high probability of injury. Athletes have to be built tough and have real resistance in their stature if they want a successful career in this business. 

And of course, the underlying question here is: can whey protein for football players do all that?

One protein needs to fit different bodies and needs

To better understand the specific nutritional gains we’re looking for, athletes and their bodies need to be broken down into helpful subsections. The more we break down the subsections, the more specialized and unique an athlete appears to be. 

Pro basketball players and weightlifters may excel in their own unique crafts, but won’t make it to the end of the first quarter on the football field, and vice versa. 

That’s not just about technique and experience in that discipline. Pro athletes' bodies are built and fortified differently.

And so, answering whether whey protein for football players is a good idea gets more difficult to understand when we take into account the variety of skill positions on each football team. 

A kicker doesn’t play lineman, and a defensive end isn’t a vertical receiving threat. Their muscles, tendons, and joints will bend, flex, and move differently throughout the game. 

But there are some general attributes that we can assign to all football players. These are based on the demands of the game as a whole: power and endurance. That is to say, the ability to dominate your one-on-ones and the ability to keep up performance through all four quarters and into overtime if necessary.

So finding a versatile protein is paramount.

Strength-building and whey protein for football players 

Isn’t whey protein for football players all about strength? 

Well it’s not so simple.

Yes, the foundation of power and endurance is strength. What is the maximum muscular force that your body can create? Raw strength is the ability to move something heavy. But let’s analyze strength a little more.

Obviously, not all heavy objects act the same. 

For example, a football field is full of heavy bodies, and a powerlifting competition is full of heavy weights. 

If you’re stronger than the opposing lineman, will you always beat him? 

Not necessarily. 

Sure, you’ll be in good shape with a higher max strength “stat”, but strength as a raw attribute is going to be much more useful for sports like powerlifting, olympic hammer throw, or shot put.

In these disciplines, fewer variables are up in the air. The weight is daunting, but is entirely predictable; it doesn’t fight back. Take nothing away from powerlifters but lifting a 200lb weight and a 200lb man are totally different disciplines. These different disciplines require totally different bodies and power to execute. 

So the idea of taking whey protein for football players starts to look a bit mismatched.

When we look at the body types of successful athletes in strength sports like powerlifting, shot put and the hammer throw, we see a clear similarity across the board. These athletes are strong, big and bulky. 

Conversely, when we look at football players, we see a diversity of efficient muscle mass across the team.

Shot put athlete and a quarterback

How quickly and efficiently your body can generate power goes beyond just brute strength. Bodybuilders don’t play football because muscle quality trumps muscle quantity. Muscle quantity has the downside of having to create enough energy to carry itself. Just as a big engine needs to overcome the challenge of transporting its own weight, bulky muscle mass will be slower out of the brakes and will, more often than not, get beaten by leaner muscle mass when the ball is snapped.

Whey protein for football players only targets bulk

So this is what whey protein for football players is targeting: muscle mass and bulk. 

But for peak performance, football players really need a more versatile protein that’s better suited to their sport.

Specifically, they need a protein that supports lean muscle mass and tensile strength.

Whey protein supplements aim to boost overall muscle density and therefore add strength to the athlete taking it. 

Whey protein for football players in the trenches can have some benefits in the strength game. But whey protein for football players in the receiving core may actually be detrimental to the overall goal. 

For the latter players, it may hinder them by adding too much muscle mass and slowing them down.

In the weights room, overcoming the challenge of the powerlifting weights requires brute strength. On the field, resisting the challenge of the opposing man requires something more. An X-factor. 

Something better. So let’s evolve our football thinking from just whey-induced strength to actual power and see if whey protein for football players is useful here.

On the football field, muscle efficiency is more effective than muscle density. 

Read that again.

Collagen protein puts power over strength

Visually, what separates strength from power is the variable of time. How quickly and efficiently can you summon and activate your strength? That is power.

Now it’s time to put another contender on the field: collagen protein.

A naturally-occurring, power-packed protein option whose benefits include increased lean muscle, decreased recovery times, decreased risk of injuries, and more. When you start comparing collagen vs whey protein for football players, you begin thinking beyond muscles.

As an athlete, you’re right to think about building muscle, but sports scientists will remind us that the musculoskeletal system of our bodies wouldn’t function without our ligaments and tendons

These are the vital connection points between muscle and bone.

Advocates of whey protein for football players wrongly focus on muscles and overlook tendons.

What does a tendon actually do?

Any power generated in the muscle has to be transferred through the ligaments and tendons to move the skeleton, and therefore the whole body. Tendons effectively act as levers to move the skeletal frame as your muscles contract and expand. 

They also act as shock absorbers from the impact force of contact sports.

To do all this work, tendons must have great tensile strength and be stiffer than muscles. For example, the flexor tendons in your foot can handle more than eight times your body weight

What this example shows is that, once again, muscle bulk is not the only answer to resisting strong forces. 

Then, we must ask the question: does whey protein for football players help support and strengthen tendons?

Consider this: the main protein in tendons is not whey, but collagen.

Collagen makes up 80% of the dry mass of the thousands of tendons that run throughout your body. From smaller tendons in your head and neck area, to your achilles tendon; the largest in your body.

Whey’s bulk is unnecessary in these areas. So by taking whey protein for football players you aren’t supporting your joints in the best way. You need a totally different protein to do that job. This is where collagen benefits for men and women athletes may be more relevant than whey.

We think it’s worth taking a look at what different proteins are available in the body. This way, we can come to a better conclusion if whey protein is for football players or not as well as which proteins are best for supplementing.

What different types of protein are there?

Proteins are a collection of amino acids, found in our diets, arranged to create strong cellular bonds and matrixes. They are a vital element of our diet that builds and forms us from a cellular level up.

The human body is amazing in its variety of parts and each one requires a different density of minerals to create. Bone material needs to be hard and dense, tendons need to be stiff yet flexible and skin needs to have a level of elasticity.

Remembering that whey protein for football players isn’t the same kind of protein that’s present in our bodies, we need to look specifically at two collagen options. 

Type I and III collagen are responsible for elasticity in skin tissue and plasticity in tendon and muscle mass. Its efficiently strong triple-helix construction means that it’s perfect for withstanding resistance and so it’s the protein of choice for scaffolding the structures up and down the body. 

Beyond types of collagen there are also different forms of collagen an athlete might take, such as liquid collagen, powder collagen, collagen pills, or collagen gummies. The quality and efficiency of these need to be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis by reading the nutrition label and taking the right amount based on your caloric needs.

Protein needs for young players are different to non-athletes because of the demand on muscle fibers during workouts, but individual servings should be between 10 and 20 grams.

When should a football player take collagen protein?

Taking collagen or whey protein for football players aims to give the body a stockpile of on-hand protein to replenish the proteins damaged during exercise. 

Therefore, a great time to take a sports nutrition supplement like Frog Fuel liquid protein is about 30 minutes before a workout. While our nano-hydrolyzed collagen only takes 15 minutes to be fully absorbed by the body, this gives you a little extra time to let your stomach settle before jumping into a difficult workout or game.

Have two a day workouts or a grueling training session coming up? Taking collagen protein during a workout may help postpone fatigue and help you keep your strength from start to finish.

Again, due to the quick absorption time, all you need is a quick waterbreak or rest on the sidelines before jumping back in. 

Finally, it’s important that you don’t overlook the post-workout protein needs of an athlete. Here again, collagen protein will be more effective than whey protein for football players due to the fact that it promotes faster muscle recovery.

Can you get all Your protein from food?

It is entirely possible (though difficult) to get your recommended protein intake from diet alone. Protein foods for football players can come from a huge variety of plant and animal sources. What gets complicated is making sure that these protein sources not only include enough grams of protein to support muscle growth, but that they also contain enough collagen protein to support ligaments, tendons, and more.

While there are some foods that contain collagen, many of them are not common in an American diet, or contain inconsistent collagen quantities.

Therefore, a supplement or shake is a great, fool-proof way to support the performance of an athlete who is already on a well-balanced high school nutrition plan. It should not be considered a replacement for a healthy diet, but a bit of extra edge.

Eating a protein-rich meal and taking a supplement may have the same protein quantity, but different results. A protein rich meal will be digested more slowly, giving a steady stream of protein to your body for day to day tasks. Meanwhile a protein supplement will provide a quickly-absorbed energy source and a concentrated serving of nutrients that your muscles require for growth and restoration. 

Another time when protein powders for young athletes become relevant is when trying to pace protein intake according to a strenuous workout schedule - and readily fueling your body what it needs at the right time.  

If you’re trying to reach 150 grams or more of protein per day, it could simply be difficult to eat enough food to meet those needs. Or, you may need simply something that your body can digest quickly before or during a workout. In this case, a steak or piece of chicken won’t cut it.

Instead, you’ll likely need a quick protein stockpile from a nano-hydrolyzed protein supplement before that intense workout or when working out two times a day.

When it comes to choosing effective sports nutrition products, protein sources and protein absorption are definitely top-priority items to keep in mind.

What athletes need to know about protein absorption

Protein needs to be absorbed into the bloodstream to be transported around the body and delivered to the cells that need it. The holes in the lining of the bloodstream are microscopically small because any molecules that are in the bloodstream need to be transported safely without clogging.

A typical problem with protein powders, especially your average collagen and whey protein for football players, is that the protein molecules are too large and complex to be efficiently broken down into their amino acid building blocks.

Rather than passing through the stomach lining into the bloodstream, they’ll simply pass through the entire body, unused. So, the smaller the molecule, the higher the protein absorption rate.

And here’s the good news: a smaller collagen molecule is available, thanks to a process called hydrolysis. 

This process uses enzymes to safely break down collagen molecules into much smaller - and therefore readily available - sizes. Collagen protein that has undergone this process is going to become absorbed and put to use by the body much quicker. What’s more, you can likely drink less collagen than you would whey protein for football players, because you can be confident that each and every drop is being utilized.

Here at Frog Fuel we take the process even further with nano-hydrolyzed collagen, reducing the size of the molecules even more, making it the best protein powder to young athletes and seasoned athletes alike.

Additional concerns for whey protein for football players

In addition to whey protein for football players mistakenly targeting strength over power, there are other more general cons of whey protein

Whey is a naturally occurring protein, proven generally safe for usage by medical studies. However, as with all dietary products there are always added caveats.

Whey protein for football players who have a lactose intolerance

Whey is a lactose product by definition. 

It is produced by cattle, organically intended for bulk growth in calves rather than humans. More and more humans struggle with lactose products due to varying levels of lactose intolerance and whey protein for football players with lactose intolerances is certainly not recommended.

In contrast, collagen is not a lactose product and does not cause this issue.

In addition, collagen is also glucose and sugar free by definition and is therefore not as problematic as whey protein for football players.

Whey protein for football players may cause bloatedness

The most talked-about side effect of whey protein amongst football players is a feeling of bloatedness after taking it. 

Again, the size of the molecule is why protein can cause an upset stomach. An upset stomach limits participation and potential in football conditioning programs and on gameday. With this in mind, the limited benefits of whey protein for football players should be considered alongside its potential disadvantages.

Which Protein Supplement is Most Effective for Football Players?

The conclusion of collagen protein vs. whey?

Given its versatility as a resistance shock absorber and its role in strengthening and replenishing tendons and ligaments, collagen outperforms whey protein for football players. 

It’s not only the quicker absorption rates of collagen over whey protein for football players that makes it a more worthwhile product. 

Evolving our thinking from a simplistic, bulking muscular strength to a powerful and efficient musculoskeletal movement system means turning away from whey protein for football players and adding Frog Fuel liquid collagen protein to your workout routine.


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