Different Types of Protein Powder
Protein powders are popular because they are an efficient way of getting a large amount of protein in your diet. Protein powders are convenient, dynamic, cheap, and healthy. How to choose the right protein powder can be a difficult task. There is just so many different types of protein powder available. We break down the different types of protein powder, showing you the pros and the cons of each, allowing you to find the supplement which best fits your fitness and dietary goals.
Whey Protein Powder
Whey comes from cow milk. Natural cow milk has two types of protein in it, casein and whey. Many milk allergies are affected by casein, not whey. Whey is fast absorbing protein. This means your body will be able to breakdown and metabolize whey protein relatively quickly. The quick absorption makes it a great post-workout protein.
Whey protein is also cheap. Whey is a byproduct of cheese production. Because of this, companies which make cheese can sell the whey ‘waste’ at a cheap price to others who then create whey protein.
Whey protein powder is very popular. This means not only is it cheap and efficient, but it can be found in many different flavors. You should be able to find a brand and flavor which you enjoy.
Whey has also been found to help maintain muscle mass during periods of inactivity better than other forms of protein. This means that if you are unable to workout for a few weeks, whey protein may be a good supplement to help maintain your muscles.
When protein comes in three different forms.
Whey Protein Concentrate
This is the most popular type of whey protein. Concentrate has low levels of fat, cholesterol and lactose. They are between 30-89% protein by weight. It is very easy to process and tends to be cheaper than other types of whey protein.
Basically whey concentrate is a less pure but more economical form of protein.
Whey Protein Isolate
Whey isolate is 90% or more protein. It is fat free and lactose free. This type of protein powder tends to be more expensive than whey concentrate, but if you want a more pure form of protein without any additional fats, or if you are lactose intolerant, you may wish to go with whey isolate.
Whey Protein Hydrolysate
Hydrolysate is a processed form of whey which is more rapidly absorbed by the human body. It is ‘predigested’ making the powder smaller and more easily dissolvable. Whey protein is already digested relatively quickly, and the hydrolysate form makes this even faster.
However, be aware that due to the predigestion process, this form of protein will taste noticeably different and often has a more bitter taste.
Casein Protein Powder
Casein is sometimes called ‘milk protein’ because the protein in milk is about 80% casein. You may also see it labeled as ‘calcium caseinate’. In terms of flavor casein is similar to whey. Unlike whey, casein is where most milk allergies come from, so if you are lactose intolerant or have other allergies to dairy, you will want to avoid casein protein powder.
The biggest different between casein and whey is the rate of absorption. Casein protein is metabolized in a slow manner. In effect casein will feed your body for a longer period of time. However, attempting to combine both whey and casein is not going to work because casein also slows the absorption of other types of protein. So the rapid absorption of whey will not happen when mixed with casein.
Because of its slow absorption rate casein may be good for endurance athletes such as cyclists or runners. Casein protein power will provide a steady level of amino acids during longer periods of endurance exercise. Similarly, casein is good to take before bed as it will provide protein throughout the night.
Egg Protein Powder
Egg protein comes from dehydrated egg whites. Egg protein has the nutritional values of egg whites. This includes a larger amount of cholesterol than the other protein powders. There have not been many studies done on egg protein powder so its efficiency is not as proven as that of whey or casein.
Egg protein tends to be expensive and have an eggy taste.
Soy Protein Powder
Soy is a common form of protein for vegetarians. It is cheap and contains all of the essential amino acids necessary for human nutrition. Soy protein powder takes the soybean plant and removes most of the fat, fiber and carbohydrates. This leaves a cholesterol free source of protein.
Soy in its raw state has enzymes which prevent the digestion of protein, however soy protein powder and other processed soy products (such as tofu) are heat treated and these enzymes are destroyed. Soy protein powder will not inhibit protein absorption.
That being said, the scientific community is still mixed on whether or not soy increased estrogen and decreases testosterone. Some studies have pointed to this effect, but others have not found any hormonal effects from the digestion of soy based products. Generally the concerns about soy are seen as exaggerated.
That being said, if you want the guaranteed most manly protein around, you may want to skip soy, in case the studies which show a decrease in testosterone end up being correct. Soy protein is a good source of protein for vegans.
Hemp Protein Powder
Like soy, hemp protein contains all of the essential amino acids necessary for human nutrition. Hemp protein is made from hemp seeds. Hemp protein powders tend to be higher in fat content than other types of protein. They are also cholesterol free and may have some fiber. Fiber tends to help digestion and weight-loss, so hemp protein powder might be a good choice for those attempting to cut weight.
Hemp protein powder is not as easily absorbed as other protein powders meaning that it will be more noticeable in protein shakes or smoothies. It also tends to have a more distinct earthy flavor than other protein powders.
Unlike soy, there is no evidence that hemp plays a role in decreasing testosterone. This makes hemp protein powder a good vegan alternative. Hemp protein also tends to be expensive.
Rice Protein Powder
Rice is mostly carbohydrates, but the protein can be extracted from rice to make rice protein powder. Unlike the above proteins, the protein from rice is not ‘complete,’ meaning that it does not contain all the essential amino acids a human body needs.
Rice protein does not have a strong taste and is comparable to whey in terms of how it will taste in a shake or smoothie.
Because rice is not a complete protein, there is little reason to use it if any of the previously mentioned protein sources are available.
Pea Protein Powder
Like rice, pea protein powder is not a complete protein. It lacks certain amino acids essential to the human body. Because of this it should not be the main source of protein in a diet.
Pea protein is made from split peas. Allergies to split peas are extremely rare, making this a good choice for those who are allergic to other sources of protein. Pea protein powder also tends to be less processed than other types or protein powders, making it popular with those looking for a protein powder close to a whole food.
In terms of taste, pea protein is neutral and should not be as noticeable in a smoothie as hemp protein might be.
Some people like to mix rice and pea protein to get a more rounded set of amino acids.