Protein supplementation has been widely reported as an effective strategy for increasing muscle mass and strength when combined with exercise training. However, the effectiveness of protein supplementation seems to depend on several factors such as the individual’s nutritional status, or the type and quantity of proteins ingested. Currently, there is a great variety of protein sources available, including the widely used Whey protein and other less popular sources such as soy, rice or egg protein.
Beef protein has gained a lot of popularity in recent years. We already reported in previous posts the benefits that this type of protein can exert on body composition and performance. However, there was no meta-analytical evidence to date confirming these results. A meta-analysis consists of the statistical treatment of the data obtained by several studies on the same topic, thus providing a summary of the “overall effect”. This type of analysis is considered the highest level of evidence in scientific research, and as it combines different studies, it is purported to neutralize the potential bias that might be present in the individual studies (e.g., low number of participants). Thus, although individual studies can provide important and valid information, meta-analyses serve to draw stronger conclusions on a given topic (in this case, on the effectiveness of a supplement).
Under this context, a meta-analysis analyzing the effects of protein supplementation on body composition and performance has been recently published on the prestigious journal Nutrients (Valenzuela et al., 2019). For this purpose, the authors combined all the studies analyzing the effects of beef protein supplementation compared with the ingestion of whey protein or with a control group that consumed no protein. Eventually, a total of 7 studies (270 participants) were included. These studies included, along with protein supplementation, exercise programs lasting between 8 and 16 weeks in which participants trained between 2 and 6 days per week. Results showed that beef protein supplementation is an effective strategy for increasing the daily intake of protein compared with not consuming any protein supplement. Moreover, beef protein supplementation was effective for increasing muscle mass – with no increases in fat mass – as well as for increasing lower-body strength compared to no protein supplementation. Indeed, the results found for beef protein were similar to those found for a popular protein source such as whey. Lastly, some benefits were found on the daily intake of iron and on hematological variables (e.g., ferritin levels and hematocrit) with beef protein compared with whey and no protein, although these results should be confirmed in future studies.
In summary, there is strong evidence supporting that beef protein supplementation is an effective strategy for the enhancement of body composition (i.e., increasing muscle mass) and for increasing muscle strength when combined with exercise training, inducing similar benefits to those found with Whey protein.
Valenzuela PL, Mata F, Morales JS, Castillo-García A, Lucia, A (2019) Does Beef Protein Supplementation Improve Body Composition and Exercise Performance? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 11, 1429; doi:10.3390/nu11061429.