Background: Increased amino acid availability stimulates muscle protein synthesis (MPS), which is critical for maintaining or increasing muscle mass when combined with training. Previous research suggests that whey protein is superior to soy protein in regard to stimulating MPS and muscle mass. Nevertheless, with respect to a future lack of dietary protein and an increasing need for using eco-friendly protein sources it is of great interest to investigate the quality of alternative protein sources, like insect protein. Objective: Our aim was to compare the postprandial amino acid (AA) availability and AA profile in the blood after ingestion of protein isolate from the lesser mealworm, whey isolate, and soy isolate. Design: Six healthy young men participated in a randomized cross-over study and received three different protein supplementations (25 g of crude protein from whey, soy, insect or placebo (water)) on four separate days. Blood samples were collected at pre, 0 min, 20 min, 40 min, 60 min, 90 min, and 120 min. Physical activity and dietary intake were standardized before each trial, and participants were instructed to be fasting from the night before. AA concentrations in blood samples were determined using 1
H NMR spectroscopy. Results: A significant rise in blood concentration of essential amino acids (EAA), branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) and leucine was detected over the 120 min period for all protein supplements. Nevertheless, the change in AA profile was significantly greater after ingestion of whey than soy and insect protein (p
< 0.05). Area under the curve (AUC) analysis and AA profile revealed comparable AA concentrations for soy and insect protein, whereas whey promoted a ~97% and ~140% greater AUC value than soy and insect protein, respectively. A tendency towards higher AA concentrations beyond the 120 min period was observed for insect protein. Conclusion: We report that ingestion of whey, soy, and insect protein isolate increases blood concentrations of EAA, BCAA, and leucine over a 120 min period (whey > insect = soy). Insect protein induced blood AA concentrations similar to soy protein. However, a tendency towards higher blood AA concentrations at the end of the 120 min period post ingestion was observed for insect protein, which indicates that it can be considered a “slow” digestible protein source.
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