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MuscleTech Phase 8 and MusclePharm Combat are two of the leading time-release protein powders. The main selling point for these type of protein powders is that they offer staged release of protein over a number of hours by virtue of the different types of protein in each. This review will delve into some of the finer points that differentiate two of the heavyweight time release protein supplements in the form of Phase 8 and Combat.

Phase 8 vs Combat Ingredients

When it comes to ingredients and more specifically types of protein, there is a lot of overlap between Phase 8 and Combat; however, the major differences between the two isn’t so much the actual ingredients as it is the order of ingredients. Order equals importance when it comes ingredients, which is why it’s very important to look in detail at the differences in order of ingredients between the two supplements.

The major differences in quantity of protein between Phase 8 and Combat is that Combat includes more whey protein than Phase 8. When it comes to blended time released proteins, there are generally two schools of thought; some say it’s more important to include a high micellar casein content over whey, while others will argue the importance of whey over casein. By including a blend of whey proteins, it’s obvious that MusclePharm have hedged their bets on the selling power of whey versus casein. From a scientific standpoint, there’s plenty of good research showing whey protein on its own and micellar casein have their own benefits for different aspects of muscle growth and repair. But unfortunately, there’s not a lot of science studying the effect of administering both together.

Of the two, Phase 8 is a much more strongly branded time release protein with the “8” referring to the 8-hour staged release of micellar casein. Given this, it makes sense then that Phase 8 comes with a higher casein content than Combat.

The other major difference to note with ingredients is that Combat comes with added amino acids in the form of l-glutamine, l-leucine, l-valine and l-isoleucine. While it is not possible to estimate the amount of these amino acids, glutamine and BCAAs are a quality addition to any protein powder, given their anabolic and anti-catabolic properties.

Lastly, Combat and Phase 8 both contain added digestive enzymes, albeit different ones. Combat comes with added protease and lactase, while Phase 8 includes papain and amylase. Amylase stands out as the odd one simply because it is a carbohydrate digestive enzyme and Phase 8 is a protein powder. So points probably have to go to Combat on this one as protease and lactase are more suited to use in a protein powder than papain and amylase.

Phase 8 vs Combat Dosing

Phase 8 is relatively unique in that its first ingredient is milk protein concentrate. Milk supplies both calcium caseinate and whey protein; with calcium caseinate the more predominant protein of the two.  While not the norm, it is more common for protein supplements to feauture casein or whey as their first ingredient. Both Phase 8 and Combat list their different proteins in descending order, but don’t give any indication of the relative quantity of each. This makes it hard to compare actual amounts of protein between the two supplements. The only guide that can be used is total protein per serve. Combat includes 24g of protein in every 34.8g serve or 69% by weight; compared to Phase 8 which includes 26g of protein in every 41g serves or 63% protein by weight.

One pleasing aspect about the dosing of ingredients in Phase 8 is that the amounts of the digestive enzymes (i.e. papain & amylase) used are disclosed. Generally speaking this is not a common practice for your typical protein powder.

Even though Combat comes with added BCAAs and glutamine, MusclePharm chose not to make any claims either on their label or website as to the BCAA and/or glutamine content. This is in contrast to Phase 8, which ironically doesn’t have any added BCAA or glutamine, but still makes a label claim as to their levels per serve. In many senses, you can never have enough information, so it’s hard not to be critical of MusclePharm for omitting this information, particularly given the selling power of BCAA and glutamine content.

Phase 8 vs Combat Effectiveness

Making a judgement on the respective effectiveness of both supplements depends on their advertised use/application. This is where it get a little tricky for both Phase 8 and Combat. While both protein powders are generally classified as whey protein blends, they also meet the criteria of a simple 'blended protein'. So its hard to make a strong call on their intended use/application.

Nonetheless, both supplements are advertised as time released proteins, and as such neither falls into the classical post workout protein category, most commonly occupied by whey protein blends. However, with its high whey protein content, one could argue that MusclePharm likely formulated Combat to serve both as a post workout protein as well as a general purpose protein that can even be used as a 'night time' protein. On the contrary it’s hard to argue the same case for Phase 8. With milk protein concentrate as its first ingredient, Phase 8 doesn’t strictly meet the classical definition of a post workout protein, but rather your general purpose protein supplement. Truth be told, both Combat and Phase 8 can be used either post workout or as a general protein supplement with good effect. But the question of which supplement your typical gym junkie would choose will probably depend on individual preferences for protein sources. Some individuals are very ‘pro-whey’, meaning Combat would be their likely choice, whereas others enjoy a more balanced/varied intake of milk and whey proteins; making Phase 8 their likely choice.

Phase 8 vs Combat Flavour & Mixability

Both Phase 8 and Combat rank highly in the flavour and mixability departments, but Combat is a clear winner in this department simply because of the wider range of flavours offered (8 vs 6) and the superiority of the flavour. A number of the Combat flavours are simply delicious despite claims by MuscleTech that they have the “best-in-class taste”. Taste is such a powerful factor in compliance and repeated sales. Most individuals are happy to compromise a little on quality or function for a better taste.

Phase 8 vs Combat Price & Value

Combat and Phase 8 are priced very similarly making it hard to separate them on price. Differences in prices are likely to be the result of different promotions and sales by supplement retailers. The same goes for value; with both having similar protein content and ingredients, it’s hard to make a strong case for one being better value than the other.

From the points covered in this review comparison, it’s obvious that both MuscleTech Phase 8 and MusclePharm Combat have great respective features as well as some unique points of differentiation. Which one a budding buyer would choose may simply boil down to their particular protein profile preference or maybe even flavour. As an example, Combat comes in some more exotic flavours like Orange Creamsicle and Banana Cream (a big favourite of MrSupplement staff). Because of these factors, it is this reviewer’s opinion that the two protein supplements are too hard to separate.

  • Winner: Too close to call…Tie!
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