Syntha-6® from BSN is marketed as a premium protein powder that’s both effective and tastes great. Since you’re reading this, you’ve probably come across a BSN product or two at some point. They’re the company responsible for the very popular N.O.-Xplode® pre-workout powder when nitrate (or its metabolite nitric oxide) products took the bro-community by storm for its promises for better oxygen transfer in the bloodstream. Does Syntha-6 deliver as an effective protein supplement?
Whey Protein Blends
Protein supplements from dairy sources are generally grouped into two categories: whey and casein. Unless advanced protein separation and purification techniques are applied to the process (more expensive), protein from whey is generally considered to be more quickly metabolized by the body for muscle protein synthesis (muscle-building) while those from casein sources are absorbed much more slowly. Both whey and casein come from the same source, requiring separation from each other to make a pure product. Each group is then further processed which alter primarily the rate of digestion as well as the overall purity of the product. For the purposes of this discussion, we can sub-divide the different products into 5 different categories: 3 for whey protein and 2 for casein:
Whey protein concentrate
Whey protein concentrate is the first product made after whey is purified from milk protein. Products consisting of primarily whey protein concentrate are typically 80% protein by weight and are rich in branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), the latter of which is true for most dairy-based protein products. Concentrate typically takes about 3 hours to go through a person’s system on an empty stomach and with no additional food intake. Since this is the first step in the whey-refining process, sugars from milk (lactose) are still present.
Whey protein isolate
Whey protein isolate is made from concentrate and undergoes another purification step. Much of the lactose and other bio-active molecules are removed and the protein content is typically concentrated to over 90% protein by weight. For those who’ve had trouble digesting whey protein concentrate (i.e. lactose intolerance) or are allergic to other compounds present in dairy-based products, whey protein isolate is strongly recommended.
Hydrolyzed whey protein
Hydrolyzed whey protein is made by treating whey with enzymes and purifying the resulting protein segments (peptides). This is the fastest absorbing protein from whey and is the most pure in terms of protein content.
Calcium caseinate is similar to whey protein concentrate, except it comes from casein rather than whey. The casein is treated with chemicals and the protein portion is purified, and what remains is a slow-digesting protein that can take up to 7 hours to fully metabolize. Due to the different chemical treatments, calcium caseinate products are typically rich in the minerals calcium, sodium, and potassium.
Micellar casein is similar to calcium caseinate except it lacks the chemical treatment when producing it. The product is very similar to calcium casienate, except the protein is not denatured during the process resulting in a protein that is digested slightly slower.
Do you really need a mix of protein sources?
So we have protein that can be metabolized at different rates in the body, but do we really need that? For some the answer is yes. If you’re trying to maximize the amount of muscle-building in your body or you’re trying to go for a “satiety effect” it matters, assuming cost was less of a concern. For most, the answer is probably no. If you’re simply trying to hit a certain daily or weekly protein intake, the rate it’s digested shouldn’t matter to you as much. For the latter, I would suggest investing in the cheapest form of protein that tastes reasonably well. More often than not, this is typically a product consisting of mostly whey protein concentrate.
Syntha-6 consists of a proprietary blend of all of the products listed above with the exception of hydrolyzed whey protein (which would make it much more expensive as it requires the most processing). It’s often marketed as a “timed-release” protein supplement, due to the different digestion rates of the different protein types. The product also includes medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) and digestive enzymes for other health benefits.
Ingredient Quality & Effectiveness
For a protein supplement, Syntha-6 contains a rather low amount of it when taking mass into account. While each scoop contains 22 grams of protein (a pretty typical number), one serving size is considered 47.2 grams. This equates to roughly only 47% protein by weight, or roughly 44% of the calories. Strictly speaking, I would consider this product to be more of a meal replacement than something to boost your protein intake.
As a personal remark, I’m not a huge fan of protein supplements that blend the different types of protein as you never know how much of each type is added. I would strongly suggest buying two different items so you can control if you want something fast- or slow-digesting. Needless to say, there are people out there where the rate of digestion doesn’t matter (or they simply don’t care), so an all-in-one product can provide benefits of both with much less work.
While the protein content is low compared to other products in a similar price range, it does make up for it with the added ingredients as well as the quality of the protein. The added MCTs, though pretty far down the ingredients list, is a nice addition and the added digestive enzymes (papain and bromelain) make it much easier on your system. People who are sensitive to bloating with other protein supplements can give this product a try as many have found the addition of these enzymes to really help with the matter.
It also goes to say that BSN carries a good reputation around the supplement industry as they have not faced very much scrutiny in terms of the quality of their products. I’ve had experience with many of their product lines and I can attest to the high quality of ingredients that go into their products.
Taste & Texture
This is where Syntha-6 really excels. My first experience with Syntha-6 was a small container of the Chocolate Peanut Butter flavor and to be honest, it tasted more like a milkshake than a protein supplement. It even has small bits of “cookie bites” in it which really shows that the BSN really wants you to enjoy it. I’ve since tried other flavors and their all generally tasty, with my two favorites being Chocolate Peanut and Strawberry. If you have a sweet tooth, Chocolate Cake Batter is a good option. The only flavor in particular that I did not enjoy was Banana, but it’s more due to personal preference than anything else. I’m not a huge fan of artificial banana flavoring so if you’re into that, you’ll probably like it.
One issue I did find was with the texture, specifically when mixed with water. Due to the larger scoop sizes (42 grams instead of the standard 30 gram scoops) and the amount of undenatured protein and lactose, Syntha-6 requires more water than usual for mixing and solubility. Mixing it with milk was typically not an issue and usually resulted in a much better flavor, but I rarely do that. Just be aware that this stuff can be thicker than your usual protein powder if you’re used to mixing it in a normal-sized cup. If this bothers you, simply use a bigger cup (or shaker bottle!) or try blending it.
Price & Value
For just over 5 lbs, Syntha-6 typically sells for $8 – 10 per pound. If you’re really into the flavor or are looking for a very good meal replacement, this product is a very good value at this price range as it’s loaded with quality ingredients and tastes wonderful. I can’t overstate how effective this product can be as a meal replacement: aside from the milkshake-like flavor and nutrient profile, it’s particularly filling due to the thickness and will leave you satiated after 2 scoops.
If you’re looking solely to boost your protein intake, this results in a very expensive product as other products (whey protein concentrates and isolates) are a much better value for the money. Again, I wouldn’t buy into the “timed-released” statements as you’re better off buying two different products that accomplish what you’re trying to do in a much more effective manner.
Syntha-6 from BSN is a great tasting protein shake that’s both filling and easy to digest. It’s particularly low in protein content for sole-use as a protein supplement, but it can be a very effective (and tasty!) meal replacement. Give Chocolate Peanut Butter a try, let me know how it goes.