We have two main sources of protein: whole food protein and protein powder supplement.
Protein powder is just….protein….in powdered form! You consume it the same way you would consume any whole food protein such as beef, chicken, eggs, fish etc. Just think of protein powder as much quicker and much more convenient version of whole food protein.
Protein is important to everyone, but the amount a person needs, all depends on how much physical strain the individual is putting on the body. A competitive bodybuilder or high level athlete needs more protein than a sedentary person or light exerciser.
Light to moderate protein levels can usually sufficiently be supplied by the diet but if your lifestyle and sport requires more protein than protein supplements become important.
Since the protein need increases depending on the person’s physical activity and a goal to gain lean body mass, eating high quality protein such as eggs, fish or chicken every few hours or with every meal gets inconvenient. This is where protein powder supplements play an important role in the sense of convenience. Also protein powder supplements are helpful if you have a fast paced life and busy schedule along with physically active fitness lifestyle.
Protein powders can also be helpful if you aren’t getting enough protein from whole food, or if you are a vegetarian or if you want the convenience and portability of a protein source that won’t spoil easily.
Just remember supplements are really meant to just supplement not replace food choices. It is important that the major portion of your protein should come from food sources.
Have you ever stood in front of a wall of protein powders in a health food store or sports supplement outlet and been completely confused? As the protein market has grown there has been a massive increase in the different types of proteins available in respect to ingredients & nutrient composition along with flavor variants.
The most common forms of protein are whey proteins and casein proteins which are derived from milk. In addition to these you may see some protein powders that contain non-dairy forms of protein such as soy, egg and rice proteins. These protein powders do have their place in dietary supplements but they are grossly inferior (as they are less ‘complete’ in their amino acid profiles) to whey and casein sources for use in fitness, bodybuilding, athletics etc.
Choosing the right protein powder can be confusing. Please read on and gain some insight to help you decide on the best purchase.
What Is Whey Protein? Whey protein is a derivative of milk. Milk is actually made of two proteins, Whey and Casein. Whey makes 20% of protein in milk and casein the other 80%. Whey can be separated from casein in milk. Whey protein is the by-product of the cheese making process. Whey protein is considered the ‘complete’ protein which means that it contains all the essential amino acids. It is the most popular high quality and commonly used protein supplement. Whey is easily absorbed and digested and has a high BCAA (branched chain amino acids) in it. BCAAs become depleted after exercise and are needed for the maintenance of muscle tissue. That’s why it is so often recommended to consume whey within minutes after your sweat session to quickly repair muscle damage. However, it is not appropriate for those who have milk allergy.
How Is Whey Protein Made?
a) Whey Concentrates (WPC) - the concentrated version contains approximately 70-85% protein. It is less expensive therefore can be a great option for individuals on a budget. It is good for people who are bulking and trying to gain weight as there is a bit more fat and carbohydrate in WPC. There will also be small amount of lactose so be aware if you are lactose intolerant. The other drawback is that it is less bioavailable than WPI.
b) Whey Isolate (WPI) – the isolate version contains approximately 90-98% protein. It is the most purest form of whey protein. It is virtually only whey protein, with trace amounts of carbohydrate and fat is almost entirely non-existent. It is also lactose free therefore ideal if you’re lactose intolerant. Whey isolate is highly bioavailable, easily digested and absorbed by the body. The only drawback is that the price of WPI is usually significantly higher than WPC due to purity and higher protein content.
c) Whey Hydrolysate (WPH) – the hydrolysate version is considered to be the “predigested” form of whey protein as it has already undergone partial hydrolysis – a process necessary for the body to absorb protein. This allows the whey protein to be digested and absorbed much faster in the intestines. It is very expensive, often found in specialized medical protein products.
d) Whey Protein Blends – the blends version of whey protein are formulas which contain both whey isolates and whey concentrates. They aim to create a balance between cost, flavor and protein quality.
Casein proteins account for 80% of the protein in milk. It is responsible for the white, opaque appearance of milk. Like whey protein, casein is also a complete protein. Since most of the protein in milk is casein, the terms ‘milk protein’ and ‘casein protein’ are used interchangeably.
The key difference between whey and casein is that whey is absorbed in the digestive system quickly, whereas casein is absorbed slowly and steadily. Casein is often recommended to body builders before bed time because of its slow absorption which supplies the body with protein through the night and help prevent muscle breakdown during sleep.
Since casein is a by-product of milk, makes it allergenic to some, much like whey. Also, it’s not ideal as a post-workout supplement because it’s absorbed slowly and just after exercise the body craves nutrients to replenish and rebuild — which is best left to whey. It is important to look for casein that has not been hydrolyzed as this actually turns it into a fast acting protein similar to whey.
Derived from soy flour. Of all the various vegetable proteins, soy is the most complete protein. Similar to whey protein, soy protein has two types, the concentrate and the isolate, with the isolate being the purer, more expensive form. Soy protein is highly digestible and like whey it contains all essential amino acids. Soy protein is ideal for those who have dairy allergies, but should not be taken by those who have a soy allergies. It is suitable for vegans.
It is extracted from pure egg whites and is therefore fat-free and high in quality, second to whey. Because it has a high protein efficiency ratio, it is completely and easily absorbed by the body but is slow releasing as compared to whey. Egg protein is an excellent choice for those who are lactose intolerant.
It is derived by carefully isolating the protein from brown rice. It is an incomplete protein as it lacks one of the amino acids lysine which helps manage triglycerides and is necessary for hormone production and bone growth. You can solve this problem by pairing brown rice protein powder with milk or soy to fill the missing link. Rice protein is hypoallergenic. It is easily digestible and therefore almost entirely used by the body, not relieved as waste. It is well tolerated if you are lactose intolerant or have a sensitive stomach. Rice protein is suitable for vegans. Consider organic brands when purchasing plant protein powders to minimize your exposure to pesticides.
It is a protein derived from hemp seeds. A near-complete plant-based protein, hemp offers the inflammation-fighting power of omega-6 essential fatty acids and is high in fiber, For your training, the omega-3s in hemp aid in muscle recovery after your workouts. However, the amino acid profile is not complete, but eating a variety of plant proteins throughout the day (a daily mix of beans, legumes and grains) may provide your body with all the essential aminos you need. It’s a great choice for those following a vegan diet. Helps your heart by lowering cholesterol levels with fiber, and the anti-inflammatory omega-3s boost memory, focus and concentration. Consider organic brands when purchasing plant protein powders to minimize your exposure to pesticides.
7. Pea PROTEIN
It comes from the yellow split pea, making it a popular choice for vegetarians and vegans. This plant-based protein is highly digestible and has a fluffy texture. Plus pea protein is high in glutamic acid, which helps convert carbs into energy so they won’t be stored as fat. Since pea protein is plant-based, it isn’t a complete protein so it needs to be paired with other vegan sources of protein, like brown rice or hemp.
It is a slow released protein but not as high in quality as whey and egg proteins. It is derived from hydrated and processed beef and since it is new on the market and under-researched as a supplemental protein source there is a high probability of not being better than other protein powders.
Looking to bulk up? Weight gainer combines protein, often whey, with a mix of high-carbohydrate ingredients that makes it much more calorie-dense than typical protein powders. It is often used by bodybuilders who are looking to pack on the pounds, or by serious athletes who have difficulty consuming enough calories to offset the large amount they burn through intense training. Weight gainers often contain many additives, artificial sweeteners, and fillers so that they can pack the calorie and protein their users are looking for.
Don’t assume that protein “builds muscle!” – Lifting builds muscle! Hard work builds muscle!
Protein, while being part of the equation, does not magically build muscle without your full blown effort behind it. Make whole foods a more ideal choice of protein. Use protein powder supplements only for emergency, convenience or demanding fitness lifestyle.