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If you are the kind of person who frequents the gym or has a lot of friends who are into bodybuilding then you probably have already heard about protein powders. These popular protein supplements are taking over the world and it’s hard to not hear about it or see it in arranged like glorified little soldiers on the shelf of a grocery store.
Today we will talk about nothing but proteins, protein shakes and protein powders. At the end of this article, you will understand the importance of protein in the body and some of the functions it plays. We will also talk about protein powders and help you find the best protein powder and make your task of finding the right protein powder a lot easier. So let’s begin.
Protein is one of the major components of the human body. Along with carbohydrates and lipids, protein is termed as a macronutrient. A macronutrient is a nutrient that is required by your body in large quantities. This makes proteins a very important nutrient to have an abundance of.
Proteins play a lot of various roles in our body. We will talk about all these roles in details in a minute. But what you need to know is that the majority of an animal body is composed of proteins. Our hair, nails, muscles, cells, eyes and almost all the other organs have at the least some amounts of protein in them.
- 1 Composition of Proteins
- 2 Types of Proteins
- 3 Functions of Proteins
- 4 Types of Protein Powder
- 5 How to Find the Best Protein Powder
- 6 Tips for Finding the Best Protein Powder
Composition of Proteins
Proteins are made from amino acids. In fact, amino acids are termed as the building blocks of life because without them there would be no proteins. If you were to take a look at the structure of proteins, you will find that they are just long chains of amino acids. Proteins are also called polypeptide chains.
Your body synthesizes amino acids based on the genetic information carried by your DNA. These amino acids can be non-essential which can be synthesized by the body, essential amino acids which cannot be synthesized by the body and have to be taken through the diet and lastly, there are semi-essential amino acids which can be synthesized by the body as well as can be acquired from the diet.
These amino acid get arranged based on your genetic sequence in a specific pattern. Small chains of these specifically arranged amino acids are called peptide chains. When a lot of these peptide chains join each other they form a polypeptide chain or what we commonly call proteins. So basically proteins are nothing but long chains of specifically arranged amino acids.
Because of this essential function of amino acids, they form an indispensable nutrient group and must be present in the body in sufficient amounts, especially essential amino acids. Deficiency of amino acids can directly lead to a deficiency of proteins and thus affect the entire body.
As we mentioned, proteins play a very important role in the body. Proteins are present almost everywhere in almost all living cells. Even some of our hormones and enzymes are composed of proteins. The sperm is also composed of protein. You see how almost everything, from tiny cells to entire organ systems have some amount of protein in them.
Types of Proteins
Proteins can be described using various classification. There are classification of proteins based on their structures, their functions or their types. Broadly speaking there are 3 types of proteins. We have the fibrous proteins, globular proteins, and membrane proteins.
Fibrous proteins are also called scleroproteins. Fibrous proteins, as the name suggests, are made of units of amino acids that are long and fibrous in structure. Fibrous proteins are very strong and can withstand a large number of mechanical stresses. This is the reason why the majority of our body is composed of fibrous proteins. Fibrous proteins mostly form connective tissues and provides the body with mechanical support and protection.
There are many types of fibrous proteins such as keratin, collagen, elastin, muscle fibers, and optic fibers and so on. You might have heard of keratin from various shampoo commercials. Keratin forms the hair fiber and are also present in the nails. Collagen is the most abundant protein present in the body. Collagen forms the dermis, which is the lower layer of the skin.
If you have ever skinned a chicken then you must have noticed the white flabby, white stuff below the skin, just above the bones. That white stuff is collagen. It allows the skin to be easily pulled without damaging the muscles. About 25 percent to 33 percent of our total body weight is composed of collagen.
The next type of proteins are globular proteins. These proteins are globular or round in structure. While fibrous proteins may be greater in number, globular proteins is relatively lower but play more functions. Globular proteins are immensely useful as they form transport proteins, which helps in the transport of a variety of particles throughout the body. An example of this would be blood. Blood is composed of hemoglobin which are globular proteins made of iron.
Globular proteins also forms various enzymes, hormones, inhibitors and antibodies in the body. Due to this they serve an array of functions which are required by the body.
Membrane proteins form the last of the three types of proteins. Membrane proteins concern themselves with the functions of signaling, transport, and cellular interaction. Most of the functions carry out so smoothly because the cells performing those types of functions cooperate and coordinate together. This coordination requires communication.
Cells carry out communication through the means of signaling. Even the coordination between the brain and various cells occurs via signaling. It could be chemical or electrical signaling. Each of these signals occurs because of the membrane proteins which are embedded in the cells. When there is a signal sent from one cell to another, these proteins grab that signal and carry out the required process.
All these three proteins have different functions and they are also structurally different from each other. If there is a deficiency or lack of one of these proteins, the functions they perform will be affected and your entire body will feel its impact. So neither of these proteins are interchangeable or replaceable.
Functions of Proteins
Proteins play a variety of roles in the body. Almost any functions you may be able to think, protein will definitely be there. Fighting infection? Check. Forming muscles? Check. Forming enzyme to break something down? Check. Let us talk about some of those functions now.
- Providing support – As we saw, a type of protein, the fibrous proteins give the body stability and give mechanical support. It absorbs any stress or shock and prevents your body from going under shock. Cartilage also provides support to your body. That bendy, flexible part at the tip of your nose or your ears is cartilage, it gives elastic support to the body.
- Movement – Majority of the muscles in our body is made of proteins. There is something known as contractile muscles, which help in the contraction and relaxation of the muscles and therefore help you move the muscles. These proteins are also present in your eyes.
- Structural integrity – Proteins also help your body maintain its structure and resist contortion or change in shape. Collagen is an excellent example of this function. Collagen lays the structural framework of how all the ligaments should be. Ligaments support the bones and along with tendons, attach your muscles to these bones.
- Immunity – Most antibodies, if not all, are made of proteins. Antibodies are tiny specialized well, bodies that help fight infections. Without these antibodies, we will be like sitting ducks to infections.
- Transport – All the simplified form of minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients and energy is formed in one organ system from which it has to travel throughout the body. For example, oxygen. The air is filtered in the alveoli in the lungs. From the lungs, this filtered air has to go to the rest of the parts of the body. So this oxygenated air travels via the blood to the heart and then to the other parts of the body. So the blood which is made of hemoglobin carry out the function of transport.
- Body regulation – Hormones are highly required chemical substances in the body. They regulate almost everything from your sleeping pattern to your body development. These hormones are made of proteins.
- Enzymes – Enzymes are different from hormones. While hormones give signals for various functions, the enzymes help in the break-down of substances. But both of these chemical substances are usually composed of proteins.
There are still several other functions of proteins but these are the major ones. I think if I were to write about all the functions the proteins have in our body, I will wind up with a full-size book. So let us move on from this to the main goal of this topic.
The protein supplement that has become very popular. Protein supplements that we are talking about are protein powder. Almost everyone knows this popular supplement. You see them being promoted by your favorite health YouTuber or the celebrity that you stalk, I mean, follow on Instagram.
When you go to a gym, sooner or later, you are bound to come, across the poster of a buff, muscular guy or gal holding a shaker filled with a protein shake. You will see the shelves of your grocery stores or health and fitness stores filled to the brim with protein powders. These protein supplements are quickly becoming the most popular protein supplement and almost everyone wants a piece of it, whether it is in the form of a powder or a shake.
But before we begin telling you more about how to find the best protein powder, we will first tell you how the protein works in your body. So now you know that proteins are made from amino acids chain. The amino acids you can’t make in your body has to be taken from an outside source that is the food you eat. For this reason, it is advisable to have a protein-rich diet.
Okay, so say you ate food rich in proteins. Now this food gets broken down into tiny pieces in your mouth by the action of your teeth. This broken down food travels to your stomach through the food pipe. In your stomach, the food particles get mixed with all the acids present.
The stomach releases an enzyme called pepsin along with other enzymes whose main job is to break down proteins. They act on the food particles and start breaking down the complex proteins into simpler ones. Then that simpler protein along with other foods travels to your small intestine. This is where the main protein digestion occurs. The digested proteins goes in muscle building and maintenance. This is the basics of protein digestion. There is more to this but the entire process revolves around this idea.
If your diet doesn’t have enough of proteins you get protein deficiency. Since proteins are pretty much required for everything, a protein deficiency can have severe repercussions. The immune system goes haywire and becomes inefficient at protecting you against diseases and infections, your muscle mass starts depleting, your growth becomes stunted, your heart and lungs will stop working efficiently. At the molecular level, your hormones and the necessary enzymes will go off its track. So basically, your condition will be severe.
There are several supplements for this. You have amino acid supplements, protein supplements and a combination of the two. Protein powders are a great option as a supplement as you can have them with minimum side effects and they work quickly and efficiently. These days, there are also many organic options available to you.
As I said earlier, lately there has been a surge in the users of protein powders, smoothies, and shakes. There has also been a surge in the sale of blenders to be able to make smoothies at home. This surge has come from muscle building and weight loss industry. Because of this high demand of protein powders, the protein powders have been revamped and so has their marketing. Some protein powders have even been recalled for improvement.
Most protein powders now not only contain proteins but also vitamins and minerals. The protein powders are not just a treatment for combating protein deficiency but is also a means to gain more muscle mass, shed some stubborn pounds off your body, better athletic performance or maybe just overall fitness.
As is the rule of business, with the increase in demand there is also an increase in competition. The food and health industry saw the golden business opportunity and directed their resources in pumping out protein powders. Unfortunately, a lot of people had the same idea and now you have so many options that finding the best one has become a daunting task.
If that is the problem you are suffering from then don’t worry I am here to lend you my helping hand and help you find the best protein powder for you.
Types of Protein Powder
Proteins are present in various foods. Because of this, there are different sources of protein and ultimately multiple types of protein powders with different protein sources. Broadly speaking, protein powders can be divided into two categories. There is the animal-based protein powders and the plant-based protein powders or vegan protein powders. Let’s get into the different types of protein powders.
Proteins are present in various foods. Because of this, there are different sources of protein and ultimately protein powders with different protein sources. Broadly speaking the protein powders can be divided into two categories. There are the animal-based protein powder and the plant-based protein powders. It can be difficult to decide between different types of protein powders. Let us go over each type carefully so you can find the best fit for you according to your needs and preferences.
Not All Protein Powders are Created Equally
Here at Alt Protein, we’ve tested, reviewed, tested (again) many amazing protein supplements, but not are as great as marketing would make them seem. We take our roles seriously as the Alt Protein experts around here. We don’t endorse every product. If we don’t like something, we tell you.
Here are some product reviews of protein powders that we may (or may not) have endorsed. Choose wisely my friends:
- Best Shakeology Alternatives (There are better options out there!)
- Advocare vs Herbalife Shakes – Is Herbalife or Advocare a Better Choice?
- Is Visalus a Good Supplement? My Take and 3 Alternatives
- Isagenix Side Effects – A Careful Examination of the Key Ingredients
- Nutiva Organic Hemp Review – Hemp as a Viable Protein Alternative?
- Soylent vs Ensure: Which One is Best?
- Ambronite Drinkable Supermeal vs. Soylent Meal Replacement Drinkable Powder
- Coffiest by Soylent Meal Replacement Drink Review: Yay or Nay? Find Out Here!
- Soylent vs Huel: Which Meal Replacement Would You Prefer?
- The Best Huel Alternatives You Should Consider
- Ambronite vs Soylent – Which Is a Better Nutritional Drink?
- Sunwarrior Illumin8 Review – Should You Buy It?
- GNC Lean Shake vs Herbalife – Which One Should You Choose?
- Herbalife vs It Works Shakes – Which Should You Buy?
- MyProtein vs Optimum Nutrition – Best Nutrition Supplement Brands Compared
- Top 5 Best Ambronite Alternatives You Should Consider
- Ambronite Review – Is This Drinkable Supermeal Good for You?
- The Top 5 Best Soylent Alternatives You Need In Your Life
- The 18 Shake Review – Is it Worth the Hype?
- The 310 Shake Review – Should You Try It?
- Best MyProtein Flavors
Whey protein is the most commercially popular protein in the market today. Whey protein is an animal-based product and that is why it is not an option for vegans. Whey protein is manufactured from the milk in the form of whey isolates or whey concentrates.
Whey protein powders are the number one choice of most people, especially their main goal is to stimulate muscle growths. This gives them a great advantage over other types of protein. Whey protein contains the most impressive amounts of essential amino acids and is therefore undoubtedly a popular choice. The content of leucine, an essential amino acid is higher in whey protein than in any other protein.
Aside from this compelling reason, whey proteins are acid soluble and since our stomach is a pool of acids, the whey proteins are easily digested. The quick digestion increases the amino acid absorption by the muscles and therefore the muscle growth is more rapid compared to the other types of proteins.
Whey protein also has further types. There is hydrolysate whey proteins and whey concentrates whey isolates. The difference lies in how much processing they undergo and how much protein they contain compared to other stuff like fats and lactose, a sugar found in milk.
Whey concentrate is the least processed type of whey and therefore contain a significant amount of fat and lactose along with the protein. It can contain anywhere from about 35% to 80% of protein depending on the quality of the product sold.
Whey isolate is further processed to get rid of unwanted fats and sugars. Therefore the protein content of whey isolate is more than even a good quality whey concentrate. These days, you also get naked whey supplements.
And lastly, whey hydrolysate is the hydrolyzed form of protein. Here through further processing, the long amino acid chains are broken down into small chunks. This ensures easier digestion of the protein. A whey hydrolysate can be made from whey concentrates, whey isolates or even a blend of the two. Here, the hydrolysis process is more important rather than the quality of the whey protein used.
This is the second most popular protein powder option that people opt for. Similar to whey, casein is extracted from milk and is an animal-based product. This again makes it out of the vegan list.
Casein is a lot like whey in its source of extraction but that is where the similarity ends. If you were to ask the main, core difference between whey protein and casein protein, then the difference lies in their rate of digestion and functions.
Casein, when compared to whey protein digests slower. Also while the amino acid profile of casein is impressive but it not up to the mark with respect to whey protein. Casein protein has a lower content of leucine and this makes it less effective when it comes to muscle growth.
But casein has another unique function. Casein protein plays an important role in muscle development by decreasing the breakdown of proteins. Every day we are not only forming new proteins. Along with formation, there is also degradation.
Our body requires protein and this protein is gotten through muscle breakdown. Sometimes this muscle breakdown is unnecessary and rapid. Too much breakdown can lead to muscle loss, this happens especially when we do a hard workout routine or even when we are sleeping.
This is where the expertise of casein protein comes handy. Casein resists or rather prevents the degradation of the body protein. Casein reduces muscle breakdown while at the same time helps to increase muscle growth. The result would be increased muscle growth.
This is another type of animal-based protein. However, its popularity is still relatively less compared to some other protein powders but is readily gaining momentum. Egg protein is a great option for people having a problem digesting whey, casein or soy as well as for those who are gluten intolerant or lactose intolerant.
Eggs are a great source of protein. In fact, sometimes they are often a staple in the diets of wrestlers, athletes, and bodybuilders. Eggs have a great amino acid profile including leucine. It has the second highest leucine content after whey.
Eggs are easier to digest than milk. Previously eggs used to serve as the relative standard of reference for measuring the quality of protein in different foods. This is due to their high essential amino acid content. Eggs help in muscle growth and also provide other micronutrients and vitamins.
Soy protein, as the name suggests, are acquired from soybeans. These can be in the form of soybean isolates, extracts or concentrates. Soybeans are the richest source of proteins as of yet. A 100 grams of soy contains 35.9 grams of proteins. Soy protein powders are a great alternative for vegans looking for a plant-based protein powder as well for those who are lactose intolerant.
The common problem with most plant-based protein is that they are not complete protein like their animal source counterpart. This means that plant-based protein does not have a complete amino acids profile. There are some essential amino acids that they lack and this makes them a less sought after option.
However, Soy protein is the only complete plant-based protein source. It has lesser amounts of leucine compared to whey protein or egg protein but it still has the complete list of essential amino acids. So although it may not be the ideal option for those looking to bulk up, it still is an option.
There are a few things about soy protein that does not make it the most ideal protein option, especially for men. That something is called isoflavones. These chemicals are the reason why soy proteins are generally avoided by the bodybuilders like a plague.
Isoflavones are a type of phytoestrogens which are a class of female hormones. Soy proteins in large quantities can decrease the testosterone level and increase the estrogen level hence giving the men feminizing effects. So soy protein in large quantities is not ideal for men. But it is the best option for female.
Soy proteins also contain phytonutrients along with phytoestrogen making it very beneficial for women. Especially women undergoing the post-menopausal period. Because of the high concentration of phytonutrients present in the soy protein, it is also very beneficial to older people. Soy protein is also beneficial for those who have a high risk of heart disease or reduced bone density or osteoporosis.
Read more about soy protein and alternative protein powder options here!
Yes, there is protein extracted from pea and these pea supplements are becoming very popular among people who are lactose intolerant as well as gluten intolerant. Since it is acquired from a plant source, it is ideal for vegans and as this plant source is vegetable, it is hypoallergenic.
It is not a complete amino acid as certain essential amino acids are not present in it despite having a high content of amino acids like arginine, lysine, and phenylalanine. These amino acids help in muscle building. This is not the most ideal source on its own but it can be an ideal option if it is fortified with other nutrients. You can find a comparison of how pea protein measures up against soy protein here.
Read more about pea protein and alternative protein powder options here!
This is another plant acquired protein and it is an excellent source of unsaturated fatty acids like omega 6 and omega 3. These unsaturated fatty acids are essential for your body and therefore are necessary.
Hemp protein is an incomplete protein as it lacks certain essential amino acids. It has a very low amount of leucine and methionine and therefore is not ideal on its own. You can always accompany hemp protein with a proper protein-rich diet or pair it with other proteins. You can check out our favorite hemp protein choices here.
Rice protein is again an ideal option for those avoiding milk-based protein sources. Rice protein on its own is not a great source of protein as it lacks in some essential amino acids. But pairing rice protein with a diet rich in the missing essential amino acids can help level the field.
Read more about more alternative protein powder options here!
This is a popular type of protein powder. It contains a mixture of most of the protein sources and therefore is an excellent option. This mixture of protein sources helps balance each other out and provide you with all the essential amino acids. This strategy is especially useful in case of plant-based proteins.
Besides these, we also have protein powders specifically designed to go along with a diet. We have Keto protein powders which are keto-friendly and can be included in your Keto Diet. We also have paleo-friendly protein powders and protein powders that can be included in your Bone Broth Diet.
More related articles:
- The Best Grass Fed Protein Supplements to Consider
- The 3 Best Sprouted Rice Protein Supplements
- My Bulk Supplements Clean Whey Review: Pros and Cons
- Promix Grass Fed Whey Review – Pros and Cons to Consider
- The Top 5 Best Alternatives to Whey Protein – Try These Out!
- The Ultimate Jarrow Formulas Grass Fed Whey Review
- Hemp Force Vegan Supplement Review: Who Needs Whey Now?
- An Epic Showdown: Vega One vs Garden of Life
- Why Grass Fed Whey is the Better Choice Over Generic
How to Find the Best Protein Powder
So many options to choose from! Choosing your perfect protein powder can get overwhelming. But we are to help you out with that process and make this task a little less confusing so you can find the best protein powder for you.
Types of Protein Powder
We saw the sheer types of protein powders present based on the sources of protein they use. There might be subtypes within those basic types as well. The first questions you should ask yourself is what protein source is the best option for you. If possible always try to go for whey protein. By now you already know the superiority of whey over other protein powders. If you are vegan or lactose intolerant then always try a mixed plant blend as it will give you the complete essential amino acid roster. If you are female then soy protein will not affect you much but if you are a man then try to avoid it or don’t use it often.
Other added substances
A protein powder these days is not just a protein powder. They contain so much more stuff like branched chain amino acids, essential fatty acids, creatine, digestive enzymes and fortified nutrients and so on. If you want best of everything then choose a product that has most of these things but if your main goal is just pure proteins with minimal additives then choose accordingly
Why Add Protein Powders to your Diet?
So what’s the end goal? Do you want to lose weight? Is your goal to gain more muscle mass? Are you taking protein powder to bulk up and gain weight? Whatever may be your reason, use that to find the best protein powder, or other kind of protein supplement for you.
Most protein powders also contain added sugars, sweeteners or both. If you want to lose weight or generally don’t like sugar then try a protein powder without sugar. Also avoid simple carbohydrates like sucrose, dextrose and lactose.
If you are diabetic or have a history of diabetes in your family then avoid going for protein powders with too much sugar or artificial sweeteners.
A lot of people are pairing their protein powders with their everyday diets. This can sometimes make it difficult for them to come up with a suitable protein powder choice. But now, the protein powder manufacturer has realized this and have come up with a solution. You have Keto protein powders, paleo protein powders, Bone Broth protein powders and many more. So now you can find your ideal protein powder without compromising with your diet.
If you are a picky eater and your pallet needs to be satisfied then go for a flavored protein powder. There are various flavors available including vanilla, chocolate, mango, strawberry, mixed fruit etc. You can also make your very own protein powder smoothies. Smoothies are a great way to incorporate both taste and nutrition into your diet, on the go. A lot of people incorporate fun things into their morning smoothies, such as coffee! There are also breakfast options you can opt to get your protein. Here is one example. To make a smoothie or shake, all you need is a good-quality blender, such as this one, or this one, and you are all set to go!
Additionally, you can even add your own ingredients and come up with a delicious new meal. You can add fruits, nuts or butter to make the taste pop out even more. Trying your own recipes adds more fun to your diet. Experiment however you like but also keep track of the nutritional value of your ingredients.
Even when you make your food at home, try incorporating protein into your special meals. A lot of people prefer home-made options better, and why not! There is truly nothing quite like the satisfaction of cooking yummy treats and eating them guilt-free! Some examples of such healthy meals are the pizza and bars.
There are expensive protein powders available as well as protein powders that are more inexpensive. Try to stick in between this range and buy a protein powder that is neither too expensive nor too cheap.
Best Place to Buy
If you have realized that your local stores don’t carry as much variety or don’t have anything to write home about, then you can always go for online options. Always buy from reputed sources like Optimum Nutrition, Optimum Whey or any other such places.
Usually, there is also deals or discounts on the protein powders. Try and get the best of these deals. You can check out our guide on best protein powder deals happening right now.
If you have any medical condition, then try to get an opinion of your physician or nutritionist. Usually, protein powders don’t have any side effects but always be on the safer side. There are certain protein supplements that are considered shady, always do your research through a real medical professional. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding then try to look for protein powders that are designed for soon to be mothers or young mothers. These days, women, in general, have specialized options available to them.
Tips for Finding the Best Protein Powder
I think I should mention at this point that protein is a bit different than rest of the macromolecules. We don’t have any specialized cells to store proteins, they simply get deposited on the muscles or get excreted out.
Our kidneys can excrete out some protein-based waste. But if this waste becomes too much then there is a risk of kidney failure. Too much of protein is just as bad as too little of protein.
This is why it is important to always adhere to the dosage advice and not to overdo it. So always stick to the recommended dosage and don’t go beyond that. Trust me the extra protein will not give you ripped biceps any faster than the recommended dosage.
So that was our guide on how to find the best protein powder. If you have any doubts or suggestions then do let us know, we love to hear from our readers. Have a healthy day!
Medical Review Comments from Dr. Robin Walsh, BASc, ND
This article provides such a great amount of information and really helps you understand the role of protein in the body and if supplementing with a powder is right for you.
The author has made some great points. We have to appreciate protein powders are popular and big business now. When that happens, lets face it people want you to buy their products and then want them to taste great. I find a lot of time consumers purchase products that are loaded with artificial sweeteners and sugars thinking they are doing a great thing for their bodies when really they are just loading them full of chemicals. Just because it looks like a natural health care product does not mean it is good for you. My number one rule when purchasing a protein powder it to make sure it does not contain any artificial sweeteners or cane sugar. I think that small amounts of stevia or monk fruit are acceptable sugars.
The second point would be to watch what you are adding to these protein shakes. Many times they will be loaded with fruit, juice and flavoured yogurt which makes them sugar bombs in the morning. Instead you want to try things like avocado, coconut oil or nut butter to balance out your blood sugars and insulin response.
I have been using both collagen and beef protein (which many times is a great majority collagen) more often than other types of protein these days. I feel like people have less reactions to them, and they tend to replace the parts of the animals we are no longer eating when we think of eating from head to tail.
At the end of the day, protein powders are great to augment a diet and help with lean muscle building or fuel the muscles after a workout. We need to make sure however that they are not replacing whole foods too often!
Note: Dr. Robin Walsh is not associated with any products, will never recommend a specific product, nor give specific medical advice here in her contributions. She comes as a representative of herself alone and always recommends consulting with your primary care physician before making any health-related decisions.
Last updated: December 16, 2019
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