We all know that using a quality protein powder can provide us with endless benefits. However, most of us do not know what the benefits and downfalls are for specific types of powders. I created this overview so everyone has all the information they need to make an informed decision on whether or not a protein powder is necessary for them – and which type of protein is best!
Types of Protein Powder
Protein powder is available in many different forms. It is important that we all know what the differences are between them. Choosing the right type of protein powder is essential as some provide little to no results.
The types of protein powder that are available are broken down into a few different categories. There is the typical ‘type’ of protein, such as whey, soy, rice, and etc., and then there is the types of features that may make the protein different. The main focus for the latter should be on concentrate vs. isolate and complete vs. incomplete.
Let’s cover those two comparisons before getting into a list of specific types of protein, but keep in mind that the available products by type may not always be available in all of these features.
Concentrate vs. Isolate
This is a recurring debate amongst the online bodybuilding community. Protein that goes through concentrating has non-protein contents removed from it. This leads to a 70% to 85% pure protein powder. The remainder would be composed primarily of carbohydrates, fats and other supplements like creatine and aminos. Protein that is isolated gets rid of even more of the non-protein and usually ends up with around 95% purity.
So isolate comes at a higher purity level, but it does come at a higher cost as well. The amount of protein that is found in isolate protein, while it may be of higher quality, is less than the amount of protein that is found in concentrate protein.
Complete vs. Incomplete
A complete protein is made up of the 10 essential amino acids. An incomplete protein is made up of less than 10 essential amino acids. The body requires all of these amino acids for optimal health and functioning, but it is not able to produce them on their own. Therefore, a complete protein is always ideal, but if protein is the primary concern then it is not absolutely necessary.
Now let’s get into the specific types of protein powder that are available!
The most common form of protein powder is whey protein. This is protein that relies on whey, which is a by-product that is created while making cheese out of milk.
Whey protein has been studied extensively and the most common conclusion is that it can contribute towards lean muscle gains and fat losses. It is also said to be helpful in keeping a healthy metabolism and good cardiovascular conditioning. Due to its fast absorption, it is especially beneficial as a nutrient source to use when recovering from an anaerobic workout.
The main issue with whey protein is that it contains lactose, which is an allergen that affects many of us. This can prevent whey protein from digesting properly within the body. Further, the flavored versions of whey protein usually contain various chemicals and artificial sweeteners.
This one usually falls second in line to whey protein. It is a protein that completely comes from milk. Through a chemical process that parts milk protein from fats and carbohydrates out of liquid milk, casein protein is made.
Casein protein also has many of the same benefits as whey protein. The main difference is that it is a slowly digesting protein source. This makes it perfect when used in a pre-bed shake. This is because it will fuel the body with protein consistently during its most valuable recovery time.
The allergy problem with whey protein is the same with casein. The slow digesting process also makes it less than ideal as a source of protein for post-workout recovery. Further, casein protein can get pretty pricey, especially in isolate form, and it is still subject to the chemicals and artificial sweeteners when flavored.
Egg protein powder is derived from eggs. This is done through taking the yolks out of an egg and completely drying out the egg whites.
A major plus for egg protein is that it is a type of complete protein. Not only is it a rich protein source, but egg protein powder is full of vitamins and minerals as well.
Egg allergies are much like milk allergies, so egg protein cause indigestion and allergy symptoms for those that are affected by this particular allergen. The cost of egg protein powder also makes it unideal. With whey and casein protein being available options, it’s hard to sell anyone on egg protein.
Believe it or not, rice does contain protein. In fact, brown rice is a highly dependent upon source for protein for those that are vegetarian. As a result, rice protein powder has surfaced to provide vegetarians with an easy way to get their protein needs met.
Protein from brown rice is very healthy because it comes from a complex carb rich food. Brown rice is also full of fibre and vitamin B. Further, it’s hypoallergenic properties means that there are no concerns over digestibility. This means that almost all the protein gets used, instead of wasted.
Due to its plant-derivative nature, rice protein does not contain as many amino acids as one would like. For this reason, rice protein is not a worthwhile solution for anyone looking to find a new primary protein source. This also means that it is not nearly as effective as a post-workout protein shake.
Soy protein is derived from soy beans, which contain every essential amino acid. This type of protein can be purchased in either concentrate or isolate form.
Soy protein powder is a source of complete protein. The protein that is derived from soy beans is believed to potentially support healthy functioning of the immune system and quality bone health. Further, soy protein powder is said to be capable of lowering the risk of certain types of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Soy has been criticized beyond belief due to it regularly being genetically modified for the purpose of larger crops. Certain studies have also indicated that soy can have unpleasant effects on hormone levels. As numerous common foods rely on soy for its easy protein count, it may not be a good idea to add any more in the body. Rather, it would be better to choose a high quality protein source to balance the diet in the right direction.
Hemp protein comes from cannabis plant seeds. Seriously!
Hemp protein is rich in essential amino acids. Proven benefits of hemp include improvement on brain function, circulation, metabolism, and relief for a wide range of medical conditions. Not only is hemp rich in essential amino acids, but it actually contains the entire list of 21 amino acids. As a protein source for vegans, hemp protein powder contains a lot of fibre and it’s hypoallergenic, so digestion issues are not a concern.
The main problem with hemp protein is that it is usually much more expensive than the alternative protein sources. This is especially true for people that live in a country that does not allow huge hemp grows.
The last one was crazy enough, but here’s even better…pea protein is derived from yellow split peas. Crazy, yes, but it makes for another potential option for vegetarians and vegans.
Pea protein is another type of hypoallergenic protein source, which means digestion is not a concern. In fact, it’s claimed to digest as much as 98% of the powder content. Considering it’s richness as a satiating protein, it is possibly usable as an aid for weight loss. Its limited amount of chemicals and artificial sweeteners is also a major plus.
Pea protein in isolated form is usually valued as a complete protein, but amino acid efficiencies do occur in this particular protein source. This means that it is not a viable option for anyone that wants a primary protein source.
The Benefits of Protein Powder
Protein powder offers too many benefits to list. Below are a few to give you an idea.
- Meal replacement when busy or travelling
- Quick protein source for muscles after a workout
- Optimal muscle growth due to consistent protein levels
- Minimal hunger and muscle loss during the cutting phase
Protein powders are rich in amino acids as protein itself is made up of amino acids. These can be beneficial to the human body for various reasons pertaining to healthy functioning of the body. The fair amount of calcium in protein powder can also help to minimize the risks of a calcium deficiency.
When to Use Protein Powder
There is no specific time of day that protein powder should be used. We should use protein powder whenever we need an alternative source of protein. So if our meals are not giving us enough protein, we can simply supplement them with a protein shake and our protein intake is still met.
However, there are definitely certain times when using a protein powder will be even more beneficial. A major example of this is right after a workout. This is because our muscles are in need of nutrients to repair themselves after weight training. The liquid protein source will allow us to get the protein the muscles need to begin repairing themselves, and in a much quicker time frame than a solid food source that would digest slowly.
That’s not the only time when a protein powder can help us out though. It may be used first thing in the morning, especially when the rest of our breakfast is mostly carbohydrates. For example, oatmeal and a protein shake would give us a pretty nutritionally valuable breakfast and it would keep us feeling full for hours.
So to put it simple, protein powder should be used whenever there are gaps in one’s diet in regards to protein intake and right after a resistance training workout as well. Further, protein powder can be used as a meal replacement when on-the-go with no easy access to protein rich foods.
What Do We Do Now?
Now that we have all this information on the best protein powders and when they should be used, we can officially make the final leap and purchase a tub of protein powder for ourselves. At this point, it is important to focus on which type of protein powder we are going to buy. If we know which particular product is best for us, then we can buy it in a higher volume to get the best value possible.
That right type of protein is out there and it’s not actually hard to find. Whey protein is the way to go for anyone that’s not vegetarian or vegan. Casein protein can be used at times to optimize the body’s usage of the additional protein supply. Alternatives may be considered to avoid dairy protein, but do not expect optimal results.
To conclude, protein powder is something that everyone that goes to the gym should be using and whey protein really does deserve its “king supreme” spot in the protein industry.