Choosing a protein powder can be overwhelming. There are so many different types, uses, brands and flavors, choosing the right one can be a daunting task. With it being a staple in your diet and one of the most important nutrients that you need to be consuming, choosing the right one for your goals and needs can be critical. We are going to discuss the different types of protein powders and when and how you would use each one to be able to properly add this supplement to your meal plan.
I think we all have been there at some point. You walk into a nutrition store, greeted promptly by your 20-something meat head. You ask where the protein is and you are faced with an entire wall of different brands, flavors and types with literally no idea where to even start. Or you jump online searching out a protein powder to add to your current diet but you are bombarded with so many choices that it is nearly impossible to know which one is the right one. Well, we are going to dive into the different types of protein powders, the use for each one and which one is right choice for you. But know that not all protein powders are created equal!
When you are looking to add a protein powder to your diet you are going to come across 5 main kinds of protein powder: whey, casein, soy, egg and plant proteins. I want you to be able to make an informed decision on which protein powder is right for you so you never run into the situation again of being overwhelmed by the types of protein powders.
First, let's cover whey protein, which is probably the most popular and most well-known of all the protein powders. This is what you will mostly see on the shelves at your nutrition or grocery store. Whey protein is a mixture of proteins isolated from whey, which is the liquid part of milk that separates when you are making cheese. Whey is found in the watery portion of milk so if you have ever opened a container of yogurt, the watery part at the top is whey. To make things even more complicated, there are actually three different types of whey protein: concentrate, isolate and hydrolysate.
- Concentrate: 70%-80% protein and does contain some milk sugars and fat to make the best flavor
- Isolate: 90% protein or higher and contains less sugar and fat but does lack many of the nutrient benefits of concentrate
- Hydrolysate: This protein has been pre-digested so it absorbs faster - simply a broke down version of whey so it is more available for the body to use quicker
Of all of these types of whey, concentrate is by far the most widely used, typically by athletes and bodybuilders or anyone looking to improve their performance in the gym. Whey protein has a couple major benefits. Whey protein provides amino acids which are the building blocks for increased muscle growth, it does stimulate muscle growth by increasing the release of some hormones such as insulin and it is absorbed and used by the body very quickly compared to other types of protein. One additional reason whey protein powder tends to be the most popular is taste. Of all of the proteins, since whey protein does have some added milk sugars and fat it tends to taste better to most people over any other type of protein. With that being said, like I mentioned above whey protein is a milk-based product. So, if you avoid eating any animal-based products or if you are lactose intolerant, this might not be the best choice of protein powder for you. But if you are looking for an easy way to bump up your protein intake, looking for a fast-digesting protein source that contains amino acids to help with recovery and building muscle, whey protein will definitely be your go to protein powder.
Casein protein is another milk derivative protein and is similar to whey. The main difference between casein protein and whey protein is the rate in which it is digested and used by the body. Casein protein is much slower to be digested which allows you to stay full longer, feeds your muscles at a slower rate and is a great choice for post workout or right before bed. Again, since it is a milk-based protein if you are eating any type of specific diet that does not allow for dairy or animal products this is also not going to be a good choice for you. But if you are struggling with muscle recovery, if you hungry at night and want something to tide you over before bed or if you are having any issues with muscle loss, casein protein would be a great addition for you.
Though there is some controversy about soy protein and its effects on estrogen levels in males, it is the only plant-based protein that is considered a high-quality complete protein. Soy protein is isolated from soybeans and made from soybean meal that has been dehulled and defatted. Like whey and casein proteins, soy protein does aid in muscle building and contain amino acids to aid in recovery, but just not in the amounts that the other two proteins carry. This type of protein powder would be ideal for those with dairy allergies or that are vegetarian or vegan. But compared to other types of protein, soy protein does not carry the amount of nutrient value that other milk-based proteins do, so supplementing some of those nutrients might be necessary when choosing soy protein to add into your diet.
Egg protein has been rising in popularity and is another great alternative for those who may have dairy allergies or are vegan or vegetarian. Sure, you can buy eggs and separate the yolks from the whites and cook them, but having it in a powder form is very convenient and you get a lot of protein packed into a smaller amount. Eggs are one of the healthiest whole foods in the world and there are several advantages of choosing egg protein powder to add to your diet. First, eggs are typically easily digestible for most people. Egg allergies are way less common than dairy allergies which makes this type of protein more of an option for many. It is also typically cheaper than all of the other protein sources, yet still contains the high-quality amino acids and nutrient profile like you would see in whey or casein. Since eggs are a whole food, they also carry micronutrients and minerals that have been shown to reduce hunger and promote weight loss. Egg protein definitely packs a big punch as this protein powder does have many of the same benefits as whey and casein proteins, but has fewer side effects and can typically be used by more people due to the low rate of egg allergies. So, egg protein would be a great option for you if you do have a dairy allergy and are looking for a clean, high quality, whole food protein option.
Last is plant protein which is typically made up of grains, legumes and seeds which have all the fats and carbs removed to leave just the protein component and then are all mixed together to produce a mixed plant protein. As mentioned above, all animal proteins contain amino acids for recovery and building muscle, unfortunately plant protein does not. This is why it is typically more difficult for vegans or vegetarians to put on muscle mass using only plant-based protein powders. This is obviously the protein powder of choice for those with egg or dairy allergies or for those that do not consume any animal products, but it is typically not going to be the first choice of athletes or those that are looking to gain a significant amount of muscle due to its lack of amino acids and other nutrients that aid in recovery and muscle building. There are though, some advantages to plant protein powders over animal protein powders. It has been shown that plant proteins also contain added fiber and digestive enzymes that can be a great alternative to supplement in your diet.
You really cannot go wrong with adding any type of protein powder supplement to your diet, especially if you are struggling getting in an ample amount of protein. Though whey protein is the gold standard choice of protein powders, as you read, there are a few other alternatives that are very good choices as well that may fit your needs better overall. So next time you walk into a supplement store or are hunting around online for a protein powder take this information into account when determining what type of protein powder is going to be the best choice for you. Hope this helps your decision!
Until we chat again next week, remember if you fail to plan you will plan to fail. It's never too late to get started!
Built4TheHunt Trainer & Content Contributor