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Natural Whey and Natural Casein
(Optimum Nutrition)

Protein Powders

By Gary F. Zeolla

I have been using protein powders of one sort or another ever since I started using free weights again in 2002. The different powders I used initially are discussed at Protein Powders. But as those pages indicate, I was not totally satisfied with any of them. The drawbacks were that the proteins were either single-source proteins and/ or contained artificial sweeteners, flavorings, and/ or colorings. Research and simple logic shows that a blended protein is much better than a single-source protein, and I prefer to avoid all artificial ingredients. In fact, I really have no choice as I am often sensitive to them.

The reason a blended is preferred is different proteins are digested at a different rate. The following is from my book Starting and Progressing in Powerlifting:

Following is a list of different proteins in the order of fastest to slowest absorption.

Whey protein hydrolysate
Whey protein isolate
Whey protein concentrate
Egg white protein
Casein protein

There are many who recommend consuming a mixture of the three kinds of whey immediately post-workout so that amino acids are available quickly to aid recovery. However, some recent studies show that a blended protein with all of these types is actually more beneficial. In this way, the body receives a steady supply of amino acids from within a few minutes of ingestion to several hours later.

For these reasons, I began putting together my own blended protein using various sites that allow you to customize your own protein. The first site I used was Protein Customizer, but it went out of business. Then I used a couple of different sites, whose names I forget and who also went out of business. At the time my God-given Foods Eating Plan book and my powerlifting book were published (in 2007 and 2009, respectively), I was using Protein Factory. The following is from the the latter of these books, but the former contains basically the same thing:

Many brands of blended proteins are available. But I prefer to customize my own at Protein Factory. Below is the “formula” I use.

Membrane Micellar Casein – 35%
Egg White Protein – 15%
Whey Protein Concentrate – 15%
Iso-Chill Whey Isolate – 15%
Hydrolyzed Whey 1400 – 20%

I get it sweetened with stevia and unflavored. I then mix in my own organic cocoa powder or natural vanilla flavoring.

Note that stevia is a natural sweetener, that is why I used it. I used this formula for many years, and it seemed to be very beneficial. But then in the spring of 2014 Protein Factory ceased to offer the option of customizing proteins. I could have bought each of the powders separately and mixed them myself at home, but that would have been difficult. Moreover, throughout these protein powder pages I mention about different products that are no longer available, and I was really getting tired of using a product, then it no longer being available.

Then I remembered about a product I had tried a decade before, Optimum Nutrition's Natural Whey. This product is similar to their 100 % Whey, except the natural version does not contain artificial ingredients, but it does contain the same 24 grams per serving the regular whey contains. I did not stick with the Natural Whey back then as it was just whey protein, and I wanted a blended protein. But then I also remembered that ON had a casein product, so I looked around, and I was very pleased to see the Natural Whey was still available and that ON also had a Natural Casein.

Like the 100% Whey, the Natural Whey is a blend of different whey proteins:  Whey Peptides (similar to hydrosolates), Whey Protein Isolates, and Whey Protein Concentrate. These are listed in order of fastest to slowest absorption. The Natural Casein contains micellar casein, which is superior to the calcium caseinate found in many casein and blended proteins. I figured it would not be too hard to mix just these two products together, sdo I would have my own blended protein. I wouldn't have egg white, but that is okay as I eat eggs otherwise. I began using this blend, and my training has been going very well. I even have regained the muscular bodyweight I wanted to, so it apparently is working great (see Regaining Muscular Bodyweight and Strength).

Given that the Natural Whey has been around for at least a decade, it should continue to be available. I don't think the Natural Casein has been around as long, but hopefully ON will keep making it, so I should be set for my protein powder for some time.

The comments about ON's regular 100% Whey on that page would apply to the Natural Whey, except of course for the natural version not having the problem of containing artificial ingredients. The Natural Whey uses stevia for a sweetener and natural flavorings, while the Natural Casein uses honey for the sweetener. However, the natural whey is only available in chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, while the casein is only available in chocolate and vanilla. I'm not sure why the casein is not also available in strawberry. I tried mixing the strawberry whey with vanilla casein, but the strawberry flavor was not very pronounced, so it is not worth it. But the vanilla whey/ casein blend and the chocolate whey/ casein blend both taste great, much better than trying to flavor them myself. As such, I am happy with just two different flavors to alternate between.

I mix up two quarts of protein powder at a time, using three scoops of each. I drink about ten ounces of this mixture with my morning oatmeal, so I am starting the day with a full serving of the mixture. This is where having the blend of fast and slow acting proteins is important. First thing in the morning, the body might be burning muscle tissue for energy, but consuming fast acting protein will stop this. It also quickly provides amino acids for continued muscle repair and building from the previous day's workout. But then the slow acting proteins kick in to continue this process throughout the morning.

For my pre-workout cereal, I use a half a scoop of each protein. Again, this is where the blend of fast and slow acting proteins is important. The fast acting proteins will prevent the body from burning muscle tissue for energy during the workout, and the slow acting proteins will provide amino acids for muscle repair after the workout.

This blend mixes up just fine with no clumping when I put the powders in the two quart jug with water and shake it. When I put the dry powders in my cereal bowl with the other ingredients, then add cold water later, it mixes up rather well, with just a little clumping. If the little bit of clumping bothers you, then simply put the dry powders in a shaker cup, add the cold water later, and shake. But a blender is definitely not needed.

Another plus about both of these products is the proteins are derived from cows that have not been given hormones or antibiotics. That cannot be said for just about any other protein powder on the market.

For all of these reasons, I am giving a five star rating for the blend of these two protein powders together. But if you use them separately, then the rating would only be four stars.


Experiments on Protein Intake

In October 2014, I Googled "protein requirements for strength athletes." I found many pages on the subject. The consensus was that strength athletes require more protein than sedentary individuals and even more than endurance athletes. That is an improvement in that at one time most authorities denied that strength athletes had higher protein requirements than others. The most common recommendation was that strength athletes need 1.5-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. That works out to 0.68-0.94g/ pound. My ongoing diet evaluation shows I am getting about 1.25g/ pound, so it got me wondering if I really needed the above discussed protein powders. I thus did a little experiment: I substituted a cup of organic milk for each serving of protein powder.

I initially tried skim milk, but I couldn't stand the taste, so I switched to 1% (low fat) milk. That was better, but I still preferred the taste of the Natural Whey and Natural Casein. And using milk is a bit inconvenient, with having to buy it regularly and to keep it refrigerated, which does not need to be done with protein powders.

A cup of milk contains 8 grams of protein, while one serving of my whey/casein mixture contains 24 grams, so that would reduce my protein intake by 16 grams per serving and my average daily intake down to about 1.0 grams/ pound. That is still higher than what the "authorities" recommend, but significantly lower than what I have been consuming.

I drank the milk for two weeks, and everything seemed to be going okay. My training continued to go well, and I seemed to be recovering just fine. But then I felt very sore during and after a bench assistance workout. Since that is my easiest workout, it really had me worried, so I immediately went back to using the protein powders. In my next workout, a squat workout, a much harder workout, I felt fine, no soreness. The reason I pulled the plug so quickly on this little experiment is I tried twice before eliminating protein powders and thus reducing my protein intake, and I ran into problem both times. The first time, after about a week and right after a hard workout, I experienced a flare-up of my stiff person syndrome (SPS) and was paralyzed for the next 48 hours. This was the first such flare I had at that time in two years, so it was very frustrating. The next time, my training simply stagnated, but that was still frustrating.

But then in December I decided to try the experiment again. It was a good time to do so as I took a week off at the beginning of the month. I then had two "back-off" weeks at the beginning of a new routine before getting back to very hard training. At first I used low fat milk again, but for the last week I used whole, raw milk. A detailed discussion of raw milk is found in my book Creationist Diet: Second Edition, so I would forgo comments here, except to say it tasted better than the low fat milk, but still not as good on the ON protein powders.

I once again felt sore during the second training week, and not just for my bench assistance workout but for all of them. I felt like I had not recovered from the previous week's workouts, even though those were not very hard workouts. Then on the last day of drinking the raw milk when I was finishing up the half gallon I had bought, it seemed to bother me allergy-wise the two times I drank it. Then I did not sleep a wink that night. That is what always happens when I consume something I am allergic to. Why raw milk would bother me when pasteurized milk and protein powders do not, I have no idea. But that was the end of my experiment. I went back to drinking the above reviewed natural protein powders that I know enable me to recover from my workouts and that I am not allergic to. And after a week, I was no longer feeling sore during any of my workouts and making good progress again.

These experiments could "prove" that I need 1.2 versus 1.0 grams of protein/ pound, or something else could be at work. As discussed above, I use a 50/ 50 mixture of whey and casein. This gives me 12 grams of whey protein. Milk is composed of 20% whey and 80% casein, so one cup only provides 1.6 grams of whey protein. That is a big difference, so maybe there is "something" about whey protein that helps to reduce workout soreness. That something could be the high glutamine content of whey, as I know that supplementing with glutamine helps with workout soreness (see Glutamine). Also, glutamine has a role in SPS. In fact, I first started supplementing with glutamine when an alternative doctor suggested I do so to aid my recovery from SPS. Or it could be some other factor in whey.  Incidentally, "Human and bovine milk differ substantially in the ratio of whey to casein protein (≈ 60:40 in human milk and ≈ 20:80 in bovine milk)" (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition), so my 50/50 mixture might be even more natural than cow's milk.

Another possibility could be timing. Although I might be getting sufficient protein with the milk by the end of the day, I might not be at two critical times discussed in the above review. For breakfast I eat oatmeal and for my pre-workout snack I eat cold cereal, both with nuts and fruit added to it, with milk or protein powder to drink with the oatmeal or to put on the cold cereal. The oatmeal or cereal plus nuts provide some protein, but not much and not of a very high quality, so the main protein source is the dairy. But with milk having a third of the protein of the protein powders, maybe that is not enough to break the fast in the morning or to  prevent muscle breakdown during the workout and to begin the recovery process afterwards.

Moreover, I prefer the taste and convenience of protein powders to using milk. And my high protein intake is not causing me problems (see the "Doctor's Appointment" update at Diet Evaluation - June 16 to July 15, 2014). As such, I will continue to use ON's Natural Whey and Natural Casein, regardless of what the authorities might say.

June 21, 2017 Update

As of June 2017, both of these products are still readily available. I have continued to use the blend of ON's Natural Whey and Natural Casein, and my training has continued to go well. Sticking with these two proteins has made things much easier than my previous practice of constantly changing proteins due to thinking another product might be better or a product I was using ceasing to be available. As the saying goes, "If it's not broken, don't fix it."

Natural Whey and Natural Casein. Copyright 2014, 2017 By Gary F. Zeolla.

ON's Natural Whey is available at Amazon.

ON's Natural Casein is available at Amazon.

The above article was posted on this site June 24, 2014.
The "Experiment" was added November 11, 2014.
It was last updated June 21, 2017.

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