In 2005, the International Society of Sports Nutrition Symposium reviewed protein sources to determine which was ideal for physical performance. After classifying the sources according to whether they were of “animal or vegetable origin,” they analyzed the main supplements within this basic division. The animal protein supplement was represented by whey concentrate and isolate, as well as casein. The vegetable supplement was represented by soy. Those were the options available to consumers.
With Chapul’s cricket flour and its recent line of protein powders, it’s becoming clear that the very idea of what constitutes a “protein source” has shifted radically since 2005. It’s not just soy vs. whey anymore. Savvy consumers are being offered a portfolio that the health-conscious of even ten or twelve years ago couldn’t begin to fathom.
Not only does Chapul’s new products revolutionize the idea of what counts as an “animal” protein source, but the criteria for analyzing a protein source has also shifted. The list below offers a helpful comparison of whey protein concentrate and Chapul’s 100% cricket flour.
- A serving of cricket flour and whey protein powder have nearly the same amount of complete protein.
You can’t build muscle without protein. Yet those serious about strength gains and long-term muscle repair will focus not only on the amount of protein but also the kind. Protein isn’t used directly to build muscle. First it must be broken down into amino acids, which are then synthesized according to the body’s needs. For this process to work, the body can produce some of its own amino acids, but several it can’t. Nine amino acids are essential, meaning that the body cannot produce them on its own and needs to get them from food sources.
The importance of protein’s amino acid profile helps explain why the traditional criteria for evaluating a protein supplement is “determined by assessing its essential amino acid composition, digestibility and bioavailability of amino acids” . Under these criteria, cricket flour holds up very well. Like whey powder, cricket protein flour is considered “complete” because it has all essential amino acids.
- Cricket flour has healthy fat and contains the same omega-6 to omega-3 ratio as sardines. Whey protein powder does not.
Like essential amino acids, some fatty acids cannot be made by the body and must be gotten elsewhere. We need fat. The problem is that healthy fat can be hard to come by. Most Americans consume way too much unhealthy fat, especially the kind that leads to increased inflammation. Here, nutritionists tend focus on the omega-6 and omega-3 ratio. It’s estimated that the typical Western diet leans way too heavily on omega-6, hovering around 15:1 . A lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is seen as more favorable, because that indicates a higher amount of omega-3s, which are considered to be anti-flammatory . Salmon and sardines are in high demand these days, due in part to their high quality fatty acids and low omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Cricket flour has the same omega-6 to omega-3 ratio as sardines: 2:2 : 1.
A recent focus on healthy fat has shaken up the strength industry in other ways. Formerly, strength enthusiasts would focus entirely on essential amino acid composition, isolating key acids such as leucine in whey as markers for protein synthesis. Now, with the cutting edge experiments involving ketogenesis by experts such as Dominic D’Agostino, nuance has crept into sports nutrition. It turns out that factors beyond protein synthesis impact lean body mass. If an athlete is adhering to a strict ketogenic diet in order to rely on ketones (rather than glucose) as their source of energy, they will look for protein sources that don’t kick them out of ketosis, in part because ketones preserve muscle tissue . For this reason, some keto dieters actually add fat to their protein shakes. With Chapul’s cricket flour fatty acid profile, adding healthy fat would be unnecessary. It’s already there, in balanced form.
- Cricket flour has significantly more bioavailable iron (12%) than whey protein powder (2%).
According to the World Health Organization, iron is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the world, particularly among women. Iron deficiency can lead to weakness and fatigue, as well as reduced cognitive and athletic performance. Cricket flour has a whopping 12% per serving, vastly outperforming whey protein supplements.
See our previous post, “Fatigue Among Women and Why Cricket Protein may be able to Help,” for more about the iron in cricket flour.
- Cricket flour has fiber (2g, as chitin); whey protein powder does not.
The average American diet is low high in processed carbs and low in fiber. As scientists have begun focusing more on how diet impacts the microbiome, it’s becoming clear that having a diverse and resilient gut is one of the most important ways we can improve our overall health. Aside from encouraging diversity in the microbiome, non-digestible fiber is used by microbiota to synthesize butyrate, an important source of energy in mitochondria. A healthy population of butyrate-synthesizing microbiota in the gut has also been linked to reduced anxiety, lower stress, and overall better cognition. In short, adequate fiber is associated with high metabolic and cognitive performance. Cricket flour gains another advantage over whey on this point.
See our previous post, “Why the Fiber in Cricket Flour is so Unique,” for more about this topic.
- Cricket flour is much higher in Vitamin B-12 (326%) than whey protein (40%).
According to one study, up to 40% of the U.S. population might be deficient in Vitamin B-12 . This is a huge problem, because all those amino acids and fatty acids described above would be inaccessible without Vitamin B-12. Also referred to as cobalamin, Vitamin B-12 is absolutely crucial for making all of these pieces fit together. Before tissues can be synthesized, the components must be metabolised. That’s where Vitamin B-12 plays a major role. The catch? We can only get it from other food sources, such as fish...and insects.
One serving of cricket flour has 326% of the daily recommended intake!
 Jay R. Hoffman and Michael J. Falvo (2004). “Protein—Which is Best?” Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2004).
 Simopoulos, AP (2002). "The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids". Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy.”
 JC Maroon and JW Bost (2006). “Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) as an anti-inflammatory: an alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for discogenic pain.”
 Antonio Paoli, et al (2012). “Ketogenic diet does not affect strength performance in elite artistic gymnasts.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
 “Are You Vitamin B-12 Deficient?” Agricultural Research (2000).