The benefits of periodising protein in the athlete and why Orreco recommends Immunocal

By Dr. Nathan Lewis

Scientists and practitioners working for Orreco having been using Immunocal with athletes for over a decade. There is a substantial body of scientific research underpinning Immunocal, and it is through the publication of this peer reviewed research1 that the scientists at Orreco first discovered Immunocal in 2008.

Adequate dietary protein is integral for athlete health, immunity, adaptation and performance2, with inadequate dietary protein reported in chronically fatigued athletes3 and significant alterations in blood amino acids concentrations observed in fatigued vs. healthy athletes3,4,5,6,7. Immunocal can be used as a supplemental source of protein around training to support day to day recovery, in addition to the proteins derived from the athletes diet via a variety of food sources. Indeed, optimising the use of Immunocal around periods of increased training and game load, and environmental stress (e.g. altitude) can be beneficial to the athlete.

 For example, increasing dietary protein ( intake during a period of overload training in endurance athletes has been shown to attenuate the decline in performance and increases in symptoms of stress8, whilst increasing dietary protein ( during a 2-week block of high intensity training in cyclists restored the exercise induced trafficking impairment in white blood cells, with fewer symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections9. Whilst others have demonstrated using whey protein specifically around daily training sessions during a period of intensified endurance training can reduce skeletal muscle damage and enhance performance, vs. increasing dietary carbohydrate alone10. In accordance with the aforementioned studies in endurance training, additional protein can attenuate decrements in performance and increases in muscle damage observed in high volume resistance training overreaching.

Finally, Immunocal has been used as part of a treatment strategy in returning elite athletes with a diagnosis of overtraining syndrome back to full health and training11. Thus, periodised adjustments to the athlete’s protein intake may serve to modify the impact of intensified periods of training on measures of fatigue and immunity, protect against the risk of overtraining syndrome, and enhance performance outcomes.

Whilst the benefits of optimising protein intake around training on recovery and performance are becoming increasingly recognised. The mental health and cognitive performance of the athlete are equally of importance. Indeed, there are noteworthy benefits from supplementation of alpha-lactalbumin rich whey protein on stress hormones, cognition and mood in those undergoing stress12,13. Clearly athletes can frequently experience considerable mental stresses through competing, but also in trying to balance frequent travel and sufficient rest and busy lifestyles.  

In summary, it should be emphasised that the periodisation of nutritional support, consisting of adjustments to macronutrients (e.g., protein) around training phases and most crucially intensified training and game blocks, are a critical element of the successful optimisation of performance, and prevention of overtraining syndrome in athletes.


Although one gram of protein will contain four calories in all cases, the amount of protein which our body can digest and use for muscle building purposes is not always 100%. In fact, the most easily digestible natural protein source are whole eggs, where the percentage net utilization by our bodies is 94%. Because eggs contain the best protein digestion rate of any natural source, eggs are given a protein rating of ‘100’ and all other protein containing food sources are rated according to how digestible they are compared to egg protein.

Today, there exists protein powders which digest even easier than egg protein and can be utilized by our bodies even more than the 94% that natural egg protein can be. These protein powders would have a protein rating higher than 100 on the scale below.

Biological Value

The Biological Value (BV) is a scale of measurement used to determine what percentage of a given nutrient source is utilized by the body. The scale is most frequently applied to protein sources, particularly whey protein. Biological Value is derived from providing a measure intake of protein, then determining the nitrogen uptake versus nitrogen excretion. The theoretical highest BV of any food source is 100%. In short – BV refers to how well and how quickly your body can actually use the protein you consume.

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*FDA DISCLAIMER – These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Please consult with a physician or other health care professionals regarding any health-related diagnosis or treatment option.

This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult with a physician or other healthcare professional regarding any medical or health-related diagnosis or treatment options.


  1. Lands LC, Grey VL, Smountas AA. Effect of supplementation with a cysteine donor on muscular performance. J Appl Physiol. 1999;87: 1381–1385. PubMed  

2. Phillips SM, Van Loon LJ. Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. J Sports Sci 2011;29(Suppl 1):S29–38.

3. Kingsbury KJ, Kay L, Hjelm M. Contrasting plasma free amino acid patterns in elite athletes: association with fatigue and infection. Br J Sports Med 1998;32:25–32, discussion32–3.

4. Machinnon LT, Hooper SL. Plasma glutamine and upper respiratory tract infection during intensified training in swimmers. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1996;28:285–90.

5. Halson SL, Lancaster G, Jeukendrup AE, et al. Immunological responses to overreaching in cyclists. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2003;35:854–61.

6. Coutts AJ, Reaburn P, Piva TJ, et al. Monitoring for overreaching in rugby league players. Eur J Appl Physiol 2007;99:313–24.

7. Smith DJ, Norris SR. Changes in glutamine and glutamate concentrations for tracking training tolerance. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2000;32:684–9.

8. Witard OC, Jackman SR, Kies AK, et al. Effect of increased dietary protein on tolerance to intensified training. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2011;43:598–607.

9. Witard OC, Turner JE, Jackman SR, et al. High dietary protein restores overreaching induced impairments in leukocyte trafficking and reduces the incidence of upper respiratory tract infection in elite cyclists. Brain Behav Immun 2014;39:211–19.

10. Hansen M, Bangsbo J, Jensen J, Bibby BM, Madsen K. Effect of whey protein hydrolysate on performance and recovery of top-class orienteering runners. International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism. 2015 Apr 1;25(2).

11. Lewis NA, Redgrave A, Homer M, Burden R, Martinson W, Moore B, Pedlar CR. Alterations in redox homeostasis during recovery from unexplained underperformance syndrome in an elite international rower. International journal of sports physiology and performance. 2018 Jan 1;13(1):107-11.

12. Markus CR, Olivier B, de Haan EH. Whey protein rich in α-lactalbumin increases the ratio of plasma tryptophan to the sum of the other large neutral amino acids and improves cognitive performance in stress-vulnerable subjects. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2002 Jun 1;75(6):1051-6.

13. Markus CR, Olivier B, Panhuysen GE, Van der Gugten J, Alles MS, Tuiten A, Westenberg HG, Fekkes D, Koppeschaar HF, de Haan EE. The bovine protein α-lactalbumin increases the plasma ratio of tryptophan to the other large neutral amino acids, and in vulnerable subjects raises brain serotonin activity, reduces cortisol concentration, and improves mood under stress. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2000 Jun 1;71(6):1536-44.

3 Comments on “The benefits of periodising protein in the athlete and why Orreco recommends Immunocal

Keith Hooper
May 14, 2022 at 6:16 pm

Love our Immunocal have been using Immunocal for more than 25 years.
We received our first Immunocal Jan has been Life Changing

Charles Jeffrey 8665
June 11, 2022 at 8:33 am

A potential user of Immunocal has expressed an interest in the source of the whey used in the product. Their caution is due to the perception that the source must be an organic one. That is the source is not one that has been compromised by substances that could affect the integrity of the product. How is the whey derived, or produced and what is the source? I have used the product now for over twenty years. My goal is better health. I am not usually concerned with the production of most of the food that I use. I am cautious and have a very limited diet. There is some need for caution about food sources. It is in that interest that I am passing on the question about the source of the whey used in Immunocal.

June 17, 2022 at 1:55 pm

no entiendo NADA EN INGLES!


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