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Peptide Vs Protein: What's The Difference?

The ideas and suggestions written below are provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or care. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider before beginning any physical fitness or health- and nutrition-related activity.

Peptides, proteins — they’re pretty easy to confuse. In fact, many people use these two words interchangeably.

However, peptides and proteins are not exactly the same thing — so what’s the difference?

Peptide 101

Peptides are short strings of amino acids. A peptide is two or more amino acids joined together by peptide bonds, while a polypeptide is a chain of many amino acids. Polypeptides are commonly referred to as just “protein.”

Peptides benefit the body in similar ways to proteins, but they are smaller than proteins, so they are even easier for the body to absorb and use. Peptides are able to easily penetrate the skin and intestines, allowing them to enter the bloodstream quickly and efficiently. Peptides have a number of benefits for the skin, weight, immune system — even muscles. Your body creates peptides naturally, but you can also find them in many foods. Animal or plant sources of proteins like meat, dairy, fish and shellfish, beans and lentils, whole grains, soy and eggs all have peptides.

To get the benefits of peptides easier, many people choose to consume peptide supplements. Manufacturers can isolate peptides from their food source or create them by combining individual amino acids. Two of the most common peptide supplements are collagen peptides and creatine peptides. Gainful offers a Collagen Performance Boost and a Creatine Performance Boost that are engineered to support recovery and optimal sports performance. The collagen peptides help the elasticity and strength of connective tissue, such as skin, tendons and cartilage. These are parts of the body that are vulnerable to damage during your workouts. Collagen supplementation can assist in the regeneration of these connective tissues and accelerate the process of renewing body tissue, reducing the risk of injury and muscle soreness. Creatine peptides help support muscle strength, short energy bursts, the power output of muscle, recovery and increases in lean body mass. Post-workout lactic acid buildup and soreness occur all too often, but creatine helps combat these feelings. Creatine peptides enhance energy production in your cells. The most basic form of energy in cells is adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is what your cells use to perform their various functions. ATP deplinishes fast during a workout, but creatine helps replenish ATP. The more creatine you have for your body to use, the more energy your muscle cells have for working out as well as recovery.

Because the peptides used for these Performance Boost supplements are isolated and sifted through a very fine sieve, your body is better able to take in their benefits.

What is protein? Polypeptides explained

Like peptides, proteins are strings of amino acids; however, proteins are longer chains of amino acids that are tied together by peptide bonds.

Proteins are also known as “polypeptides,” as “poly” is a prefix for “many.” As you know, proteins are made of many amino acids.

Proteins are the heavy-lifters in cells. They give body cells their shape, which provides overall support for the body. They help regulate and form the body’s tissues and organs — including muscles. If your goal is to build muscle, then it’s important that your body has proper amounts of protein to use. The general strategy for calculating the minimum amount of protein that you need is 0.36 grams of protein per pound that you weigh. In a 165-pound adult, that’s about 60 grams of protein per day.

To ensure the body has the protein it needs, many people choose to take protein supplements. One of the most popular types of protein supplements is protein powder. To make protein powder supplements, proteins are isolated from their original food source. You can get protein powder from whey, the liquid portion of milk that separates during cheesemaking. (If you’ve ever opened a container of yogurt and found liquid at the top, then you know what whey is.) After going through the process of filtering and drying, that liquid becomes the whey protein powder. You can also get protein powder from peas, which involves extracting and isolating the protein from yellow split peas. Brown rice protein is also another popular protein powder supplement. To convert the protein from brown rice into powder form, the brown rice is treated with select enzymes that cause the protein and carbohydrates that make up the rice to separate. The protein is then isolated and forms a powder.

Gainful offers Personalized Protein Powders that are formulated specifically for you. When creating your protein, your lifestyle and dietary preferences are taken into account — whether you’re someone who’s looking for a whey protein to power through your workouts, someone who’s plant-based or dairy-free and looking for a vegan protein, or just someone who prefers certain types of protein over others. To learn more about how to find a protein powder and create your own complete nutrition system, head over to Gainful’s quiz. We’ll have you answer a few questions that are reviewed by our team of scientists. Our experts will help lead the way, allowing you to find the protein and peptides that most benefit your body.

The difference between peptides and protein

The most basic answer: Peptides are just smaller versions of proteins.

Both proteins and peptides are made up of amino acids; however, peptides contain far fewer amino acids than proteins. They are short strings of amino acids, typically consisting of between 2 and 50 amino acids. Proteins, on the other hand, are made up of 50+ amino acids.

Structurally, peptides are usually less defined than proteins. Proteins have multidimensional structures and are more complex; fittingly, they are able to perform more complex functions than peptides. The quaternary structure of a protein involves several protein chains in an arrangement that’s closely-packed together. Each of the chains has its own primary, secondary and tertiary structure which are held together by hydrogen bonds.

This is a much more complex structure than the structure of peptides, which involves short amino acid chains. To identify certain proteins, researchers often turn to peptide mapping, which requires digesting protein into peptides so that the protein structure is less complex. Remember: A peptide is a molecule composed of two or more amino acids. A peptide bond is the bond that holds the two amino acids together — aka a covalent chemical bond between two compounds. In this case, the two compounds are amino acids. A peptide bond occurs when the carboxylic group of one molecule reacts with the amino group of the other molecule, linking the two molecules together and releasing a water molecule.

Benefits of peptides

As noted in the article “Peptides for Health Benefits 2019” published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, peptides offer the body a number of benefits. The peptides that have a beneficial effect on the body and may positively impact human health are bioactive peptides. Depending on their composition, certain peptides can:

The peptides that aid in muscle growth, strength and recovery are creatine peptides. When combined with resistance training, creatine can effectively help support short energy bursts, the power output of muscle, recovery and increases in lean body mass. A creatine-saturated muscle enhances an athlete’s performance — especially for activities involving repeated high-intensity exercise — because creatine increases the water content of your muscles. This allows the muscle to quickly increase in size and speed up the time it takes to increase lean body weight. Creatine also gives the body energy for sprints or surges in endurance events where the athlete wants to break away from the pack.

The peptides that protect the skin, make your hair appear fuller, allow your nails to grow stronger and support joint health are collagen peptides. Collagen aids in the elasticity, strength and regeneration of connective tissue, such as skin, tendons, ligaments and cartilage. That means collagen not only has beauty-related benefits, it is important for sports performance. Think about it: The connective tissues are parts of the body that are particularly vulnerable to damage when you engage in physical activity. Collagen peptides help relieve joint inflammation and ease the extra pressure put on cartilage and bones during intense workouts.

Take the guesswork out of peptides and protein

To figure out the role peptides and proteins can play in your fitness and nutrition regimen, turn to Gainful. We have experts review your quiz answers and recommend certain peptides and proteins based on your body, fitness routine, goals, dietary restrictions and preferences. For example: If you’re someone who’s looking to lose weight, protein powders that are packed with bioavailable peptides can help reduce appetite throughout the day by increasing the levels of appetite-inhibiting hormones like peptide-1 and peptide YY. Gainful will recommend a protein powder blend that suits this need.

Gainful peptides are in the form of whey protein isolate, concentrate and pea protein isolate, creatine and collagen hydrolysate. We understand it can be confusing to navigate the world of peptides and proteins, but Gainful is here to help. Formulated by scientists and dietitians, each and every product is designed with you and your body in mind, and we’re here every step of the way.

Connect with our experts today and find your complete nutrition system.

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