Exercise of some type is always recommended for good health. Even as we get older and muscle begins to deteriorate to varying degrees, it is essential to continue exercising, working your muscles with strength-based exercises, and providing your body with the protein it needs to thrive. This articles helps you determine which protein powder best suits your goals, desires, and needs.
There are many protein powders on the market, but which type and what level of quality demands attention? As with any supplement, one must research and shop around for the best value.
Whey Powder is the Most Practical and Beneficial Protein Powder
There are a few different types of protein powders available, all promising muscle-building and fat burning. Some are loaded with additives and sweeteners that are not so nutritious - and worse. Those should be avoided, of course. The closer to truly natural, the better.
But don't overdo it. Given that your body won't use much beyond 30 grams of protein at a time, it doesn't make sense to load up with more than this.
Types of Protein
The types of protein used in protein powders can be divided into two categories: animal source proteins and vegetable source proteins. Animal source proteins include milk protein derivatives like whey and casein, beef and egg white protein. Vegetable source proteins include soy, rice, pea, hemp and sprouted grain proteins.
Nutritionally and taste-wise, animal proteins are superior to vegetable proteins and far more popular. Of the animal protein types, the most popular is whey protein. Of the vegetable protein types, soy, rice and pea protein are the most popular. Most people using vegetable protein powders do so as part of a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, although many people use soy protein primarily for its heart-health and/or hormone-balancing benefits.
1. Whey protein powders - Whey protein is derived from milk. The protein portion of whole milk consists of 20% whey protein and 80% casein protein. Whey is by far the most popular type of protein used in protein powders. For most people, it's the best all-around choice in terms of taste (it's one of the best-tasting), quality (it's the highest) and cost (it's the most economical). Another unique benefit of whey protein, and one that is often overlooked, is that it enhances the immune system in several ways. Not only does it provide easily digestible protein levels, but it also contains precursors to help your liver produce glutathione, the vital master antioxidant that is deficient in most of us and is difficult to directly supplement. The highest quality whey protein powder is cold pressed from pasture-free, grass fed cows without injected hormones such as rBGH or antibiotics. And there are many - just make sure they go easy on the sugar without using artificial sweeteners.
Whey protein comes in two varieties, whey concentrate and whey isolate. The advantages of each are:
Whey Concentrate: Whey concentrate is more economical per gram of protein. It has a low lactose level that is well tolerated by most lactose-sensitive people. It has trivial amounts of fat and carbs relative to your overall nutrient intake. Whey concentrate is typically the best-selling category of whey.
Whey Isolate: Whey isolate is virtually fat-free for those wishing to eliminate as much fat from their diet as possible. It is typically lactose free for those few individuals who are very sensitive to the low-lactose levels found in whey concentrate. Whey isolate tends to taste slightly better than whey concentrate too, yet its consistency is a little thinner, without the fat.
Whey protein products can be made from whey concentrate, whey isolate or a blend of both. Other types of protein are sometimes combined with whey proteins in products and are known as protein blends.
Tip: The name of a particular protein powder may or may not indicate what specific types of protein are used in the product. You can check the label information on the product to find out exactly what protein types it contains.
2. Casein or Milk Protein Powders - Like whey protein, casein protein is another milk protein derivative. Since most of the protein (80%) 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. Taste-wise they are similar. Both are more or less tasteless in their unflavored and unsweetened state.
3. Egg White Protein powders - Eggs are a great source of complete proteins, harnessing a very high protein efficiency ratio (PER). Egg white protein was the most popular type of protein supplement for many years before milk proteins surpassed its popularity due to their better taste and lower cost.
Like milk proteins, egg white is also naturally very low in fat and carbs. Egg white protein is cholesterol-free and an excellent choice for those who wish to avoid dairy products.
4. Plant based protein Powders - Among the vegetable source proteins, soy protein, rice protein and pea protein are by far the most popular. Soy and hemp protein are unique among vegetarian protein sources. They supply all 8 essential amino acids. Plant proteins are ideal alternatives to whey, milk or egg white protein. They are derived from a variety of sources, including peas, hemp, sprouts, and grains and seeds like brown rice, quinoa, millet, spirulina, chia and more. They're rich in vitamins and minerals, and often provide antioxidants, amino acids, fiber and more. Plant proteins are typically suitable for vegetarian or vegan diets. They're also well tolerated by lactose-sensitive individuals.
Soy has additional benefits, too. The isoflavones in soy provide antioxidant benefits, heart health benefits and is often used by women transitioning through menopause.
For all its benefits, soy protein has a characteristic taste that, while not unpleasant, can be hard to completely mask with flavors and sweeteners, especially when soy is the sole protein source in a product.
5. Beef Protein Powders - Beef protein has become extremely popular for those looking for a non-dairy, non-plant protein. It has been long known that bodybuilders and athletes consume beef to help build muscle and increase strength. Beef is one of the best natural sources of creatine. Now, you can find beef protein which is packed with natural creatine and BCAAs, and they are defatted so it contains no fat or cholesterol. They do not taste like beef, and come in a variety of flavors.