Less than a month ago, the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) updated its “objective and critical” suggestion for how much protein is necessary to build and maintain muscle. They recommended 1.4-2.0 g protein/kg body weight/day (g/kg/d). Depending on your level of training, demands may be even higher. To fuel these demands, ISSN observes that whole foods help ensure a firm foundation, but in many cases supplementation plays a key role, packaging high quality amino acids in a low caloric profile.
The remainder of their recommendations focus on the role of protein in athletic and resistance training. When providing evidence, the authors point to case studies involving whey protein isolates taken before and after workouts, as compared with casein and soy. What’s so fascinating about the ISSN report is that even though these recommendations are supposedly up-to-date, they closely match the same suggestions from 2004. Have nutrition scientists learned nothing new over the past thirteen years?
There’s a catch. The authors note that, “In addition to soy, other plant sources have garnered interest as potential protein sources to consider. Unfortunately, research that examines the ability of these protein sources to modulate exercise performance and training adaptations is limited at this time.” In other words, one of the reasons whey protein is recommended for muscle maintenance and training is that it’s been studied the most. As the mainstream alternative, soy has received some attention but appears to fall short.
What about insect protein? The fact is that Chapul and other insect-based protein powders are ahead of their time, at the very cutting edge of lifestyle supplementation.
Some emerging researchers are beginning to catch up, however. Mette Hansen, PhD of the University of Aarhus in Denmark recently completed a study analyzing the effect of insect protein supplementation on performance and hypertrophy. Data was collected over a period of 8 weeks of resistance training from two groups of young men (age: 18-30 years). The hypothesis: “Insect protein supplementation enhances the effect of resistance training on muscle mass and muscle strength.”
It will be interesting to track the published results and to what extent studies like Hansen’s inform future ISSN recommendations.