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Different Types Of Protein Powder: Which is Best?

June 28, 2022

What is Protein Powder?

Protein powder is very popular around health-conscious people and bodybuilders. Protein powder is exactly as it sounds - concentrated sources of powdered protein made from animal or plant foods, such as dairy, eggs, rice or peas.

Protein is an essential macronutrient that not only supports countless physiological functions, but it also helps you grow muscle. Protein powder is a convenient way to supplement your diet with extra protein. Whether you visit our gym in Richmond, BC or a different gym, your hard work may go to waste if you aren’t consuming enough protein alongside your workouts.

Types of Protein Powder

It can be overwhelming when you’re faced with the endless options of protein powder at your local supplement store. How do you know which type of protein powder is best for you? 

At our personal training studio in Richmond, BC, we often help our clients to understand the various types of protein powder in order to pick the one best suited for their needs.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is one of the most common forms of protein you’ll see on the shelves at your local supplement store. 

Whey protein is derived from cow’s milk. It is generally regarded as the highest-quality protein source as it digests quickly and iis high in branched-chain amino acids, which play a major role in promoting muscle growth and recovery after resistance and endurance exercise.

Whey also contains a high concentration of leucine, which is an essential amino acid that contributes to whey’’s efficacy in building muscle.

Whey Concentrate

Whey concentrate is a subtype of whey protein, and is generally regarded as the lowest-quality option due to its limited refinement process. It is often one of the more inexpensive options for protein powder, making it a great option for those looking to add more protein into their diet while on a budget. 

Whey concentrates contain up to 80% pure protein by weight, with the remainder of the nutritional composition being made up of carbohydrates and fat. This contributes to a higher caloric content, which can be incompatible with your nutritional plan. That being said, most concentrates are not too high in extra calories that you should worry too much about it.

Whey Isolate

A product is considered whey isolate if it contains at least 90% protein by weight. The extensive refinement and concentrated purity of whey isolate makes it the top choice for many athletes. 

Whey Isolate has a lower caloric content than most other options and less lactose and fat than whey protein concentrate, making it a great option for those with dietary restrictions. However, it can be a more expensive option than other types of protein powder due to its extensive processing.

Whey Hydrolysate

Whey hydrolysate is another subtype of whey protein that has been treated with either heat, enzymes, or acids to “pre-digest” the product by breaking some of the peptide bonds. This makes it quick to digest and can be easily tolerated by most athletes. 

Whey hydrolysate has been shown to be as effective as traditional whey protein, and may even be more effective at stimulating muscle protein synthesis in animal testing. It is, however, the most expensive option and can be difficult to find.

Casein

Casein is another type of protein found in milk.  However, casein is digested and absorbed much slower compared to whey protein. 

When casein interacts with stomach acid, it forms a gel, slowing down digestion and delaying your bloodstream’s absorption of amino acids. This results in a gradual, steadier exposure of your muscles to amino acids, reducing the rate of muscle protein breakdown.

Casein is typically used by bodybuilders before bedtime due to its slow digestive properties. This allows a slow release of amino acids throughout the night when they would otherwise go through a long fasting period. 

Plant-Based Protein

For vegans, vegetarians, or people with allergies or sensitivities to dairy or eggs, there are many plant-based protein varieties available. The most popular types include pea protein, hemp protein, soy protein and brown rice protein.

Plant-based protein powders are generally considered of lower quality, since they are missing at least some of the nine essential amino acids. Many plant-based products also have a lower PDCAAS score, indicative of poorer digestibility. 

However, plant-based protein powder can be a great option if protein derived from animals does not fit into your dietary restrictions. When selecting a plant-based powder, choose one that contains different protein sources, such as both pea and rice, or a pure soy protein, which is one of the only complete plant sources. 

Egg Protein

Egg-based protein powders are typically harder to come by than the other more mainstream options. It is also more expensive than whey, but it can be a great option for those with a dairy allergy or sensitivity. 

Egg protein powders are typically made from egg whites rather than whole eggs, which provides the same high quality protein as whole eggs, but you may experience less fullness because the high-fat yolks have been removed. 

What Is The Best Protein Powder?

The type and brand of protein powder you choose is dependent on your specific goals, dietary restrictions and budget in mind, as discussed above. If you can incorporate enough protein in your diet through sources of whole foods, such as chicken, beef, eggs and dairy, you may not even need protein powder. 

However, protein powder is a convenient and low-cost way to add protein into your diet. Mixing some protein powder with water in a shaker bottle is far less time-consuming than cooking a meal before you head out the door. 

If you’re a bodybuilder, you likely need to consume more protein than most people. Protein powder is an invaluable way to help you hit your macronutrient goals while avoiding additional calories from carbs or fat. Many of our clients at our personal training studio in Richmond, BC, enjoy using protein powder as it is compatible with most nutritional plans.

Written by

Ken Lu

Ken has a Bachelor's Degree of Psychology from the University of British Columbia, specializing in Sport Psychology. As well as being a Certified Personal Trainer, Ken is also a Movement & Mobility Specialist, and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He has trained for and won the 2018 NPAA BC Men's Physique Championship.