Over the last years, the importance of dietary protein has received a lot of attention. And more and more studies are now attesting to the many benefits of an increased protein intake whether your goal is to get and stay in shape (1-31), build muscle (2, 32-45) or just to be healthy (12, 46-54) and combat the age related decrease in muscle mass and functional ability (55-70).

Benefits with increased intakes of protein

Eating foods with higher protein content has many beneficial metabolic effects that help you shed excess body fat and stay in shape. More specifically, a higher protein intake will help you out in the following ways:

1. A high protein intake increases your energy expenditure and counteracts the notorious reduction in metabolic rate that occurs during a diet (2, 17, 23, 46).

2. High protein meals and foods are more satiating than high carbohydrate or high fat meals, and results in a spontaneous reduction in caloric intake (2, 11, 16-18, 23, 26).

3. A high protein intake is especially helpful in getting rid of abdominal fat around your waistline (20).

4. A high protein intake, especially when combined with resistance exercise, provides a stimulatory effect on muscle protein anabolism and muscle growth (5, 11, 31-45)..

5. During a diet, higher protein intake will favor retention of lean muscle mass while increasing fat loss and improving the metabolic profile (1, 2, 5, 10, 11, 14, 15, 23).

6. A high protein intake aids weight maintenance and helps you keep your body fat under control even after a weight loss diet (1, 19, 71).

A higher protein intake is also beneficial from a health perspective. It has been shown that replacement of carbohydrates (especially refined carbohydrates) with protein provides the following advantages:

1. Reduces cardiovascular disease risk by improving blood lipids, and lowering blood pressure (12, 47, 48, 50-52, 54, 72). Some examples of blood lipid improvements that have been documented with higher protein intakes are decreases LDL cholesterol levels (the “bad” cholesterol), decreases in triglyceride levels, and increases in HDL levels (the “good” cholesterol) (12, 50-52, 72).

2. Reduces the risk of diabetes type 2, and helps in diabetes treatment by having positive effects on glycemic regulation, including reducing fasting blood glucose, postprandial glucose and insulin responses, and the percentage of glycated hemoglobin (72, 73).

3. Reduces the devastating age-related effects on body build and function (55-70).

Loss of bone mass (osteopenia) and loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) that occur with age are closely related. Factors that affect muscle anabolism, including protein intake, also affect bone mass. Changes in bone mass, muscle mass, and strength track together over the life span. While bone health is a multifactorial musculoskeletal issue, optimal protein intake for bone health is higher than current recommended intakes, particularly in the elderly (74).

Thus, increasing protein intake at the expense of carbohydrates, not only helps you to get in shape and stay in shape, but it also has a many health promoting effects that will reduce your risk of the major chronic diseases.

Protein-to-carbohydrate ratio

Increasing intake of protein at the expense of carbohydrates is reflected in the protein-to-carbohydrate ratio. Thus, foods with higher protein content have a higher protein-to-carbohydrate ratio.

Because of all the beneficial effects of an increased protein intake, coupled with the fact that the current intake of protein is low in the general population 75, the washboard waffles was formulated contain more protein and less carbohydrates that other standards foods. As can be seen in its nutrition facts, the washboard waffle has a roughly 1:1 ratio of protein-to-carbohydrates, which makes it ideal for many purposes (for more info, see goals). The protein source chosen to make the washboard waffle a high protein food, milk protein isolate, further adds benefits to the washboard waffles.

Milk Protein Isolate – The Importance of Protein Quality

When talking about proteins in foods, it is important to bear in mind that different foods contain proteins of varying quality (76, 77). The major distinction is made between proteins of vegetable and animal origin. Vegetable proteins contain very little of the essential amino acids, and are often less digestible than animal proteins. Therefore, vegetable proteins have a low protein quality and are incomplete protein sources 78. On the other hand, animal protein sources contain all the essential amino acids in amounts that satisfy requirements for protein anabolism, and are easily digested. Therefore, animal proteins have high protein quality and are complete protein sources (78).

However, there is also a difference between different animal proteins. Milk, being an animal protein source, is a complete, high-quality protein source (9). The high protein quality of milk protein arises from both its nutritional value and physiological properties (see below) (79, 80). Milk in turn contains two major protein fractions, casein and whey (81-84).

Caseins are proteins that occur as micelles in the native form and precipitate in the low pH in the stomach, and come in three major classes: alpha, beta and kappa-caseins. Whey, on the other hand, remains soluble in the low pH in the stomach, and constitutes a heterogeneous group of proteins (beta-lactoglobulin, alpha-lactalbumin, serum albumin, immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, and other minor fractions).

Casein, because of its low solubility in the stomach juices, is delivered to the circulation and body tissues in a slower and more even fashion, than whey which causes a fast but short-lived spike in amino acids in the blood stream followed by a fast rate of degradation. Thus, even though whey protein is a high quality protein in terms of its amino acid composition, its nutritional value and ability to support muscle protein anabolism is counteracted by its behavior in the body.

This is why milk protein isolate is interesting. Milk protein isolate is the highest concentrated milk protein product (82). It provides both casein and whey in an optimal natural mix that is easily digested and steadily available in the body to support our protein needs (82). A recent study, which specifically compared the ability of casein and whey, to support our protein needs, showed that there is a synergistic interaction between casein and whey in terms of metabolic utilization (85). After having compared casein and whey with each other and with milk protein (containing both protein fractions in natural proportions) it was concluded that the better ability of milk protein to support the body’s protein needs resulted from a combination of an early metabolic and hormonal stimulation by the whey, and a sustained delivery of amino acids from casein (85).

Milk proteins are not only an excellent high-quality protein source, but also have a wide range of nutritional and biological properties that make them important ingredients in functional or health promoting foods. These properties are partly attributed to bioactive peptides that are coded in the different milk protein fractions. Bioactive peptides are inactive within the protein sequence but are released during processing of foods and gastrointestinal digestion (80, 86-92).

Peptides derived from caseins and whey proteins have been shown to present several bioactive properties such as opioid-like, immunodulatory, mineral carrier, antimicrobial, antihypertensive, cholesterol lowering, and antithrombotic (80, 86-108).

Thus, milk proteins serve us with many beneficial effects, both in terms of protein metabolism, disease reduction and health promotion!

Bottom line

By making washboard waffles part of your daily food intake, you will be able to increase your intake of high quality protein, and reap the full range of benefits, while also enjoying its good taste and culinary experience!

Numbers within parentheses refer to references