Protein powders are popular among health-conscious people for various reasons—some people consume it to build muscle while others intake protein supplements because they don’t eat meat or dairy. However, there are numerous types of protein powder made from different sources that make it difficult to determine which protein provides optimal results.
To find the right protein powder for your purposes, it helps to understand the different types of protein powders, the ingredients that go into them, and the process through which they are made.
The Power of Protein
An essential macronutrient, protein is found in tissues all across the body. Every type of protein is made of a combination of the same 20 amino acids. The body can’t synthesize nine of these amino acids—isoleucine, histidine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, threonine, and valine—so you have to obtain them through your diet.
This is where protein powders come in. Available in various forms and flavors, people use protein powders to help meet their protein needs, build muscle, and improve their overall body composition. Common types of animal-sourced protein powders include:
Whey protein comes from cow’s milk. When heated, the milk separates into curds made to make cheese and whey protein in liquid form. Manufacturers filter and dry that liquid to create the powder supplement.
The body can quickly digest and absorb whey protein, helping you feel energized instantly. Whey protein is also a complete protein, meaning it contains all the nine essential amino acids required for muscle repair and protein synthesis. Due to its high levels of leucine, a strong regulator of muscle protein synthesis, whey protein is the best when taken before workouts.
Most health food stores sell the following types of whey protein supplements:
- Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC)– WPC contains nearly 70 to 80 percent protein alongside some lactose and fat.
- Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)– WPI contains 90 percent protein with less lactose and fat content compared to WPC.
- Whey Protein Hydrolysate (WPH)– A pre-digested form of hydrolyzed whey protein, WPH contains around 99 percent protein and dissolves faster in water than the other forms of whey powder. This type of whey protein tastes a bit bitter even when mixed with other ingredients.
Your body absorbs casein protein much slower than whey protein, keeping you feeling full for longer. Though also derived from cow’s milk and the cheese-making process, it isn’t water-soluble like whey protein and aids muscle growth over longer periods. Unflavored casein protein powder is best to build muscle, and it is also beneficial for muscle recovery after workouts.
Because it doesn’t clump, casein protein is a great choice to add to smoothies or batters. Furthermore, this protein supplement provides calcium that can help improve bone health.
Collagen protein gives structure to tissues all around the body, including skin, joints, and bones. To make collagen powder and other collagen supplements, producers extract the collagen peptides from animal skin, bones, and ligaments.
Taking collagen powder of capsules can help promote your body’s natural collagen production, which slows as you age. In turn, the supplement supports healthier skin, stronger bones, and flexible joints. Unflavored collagen powder makes a great addition to drinks, soups, and smoothies.
4. Egg White
Loaded with amino acids, egg white protein helps build lean muscle and enhances muscle repair and recovery. To make egg white protein supplements, manufacturers separate the whites from the yokes then pulverize and dehydrate them.
Egg protein is a complete protein and offers all nine essential amino acids that your body can produce itself. When it comes to leucine content, egg protein is only second to whey protein.
Pea protein powders are popular among vegans, vegetarians, and people who are allergic to eggs or dairy. Made from yellow split pea, a high fiber legume, pea protein powder contains all essential amino acids except one—methionine.
While studies are limited, pea protein powder is an option worth considering for those who need more iron. It may also increase muscle growth as efficiently as animal-based proteins and promote fullness.
6. Brown Rice
Another complete protein, protein powder made from brown rice has been around for ages. To make the powder, manufacturers grind the rice and separate the starch and protein.
Soy protein makes a fantastic option for vegans as it is a plant-based alternative to whey protein that contains all the essential amino acids. It’s also high in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) that support muscle growth and strength. Even better, it is low in carbohydrates and fat. However, it doesn’t dissolve in water like whey protein.
8. Pumpkin Seed
Protein powder made from pumpkin seeds is a fantastic option for vegan, gluten-free, and lactose-intolerant people. It’s easily digestible and rich in zinc, iron, and magnesium. Consuming pumpkin protein powder may improve mood and promote sleep because of its high levels of tryptophan, an amino acid that’s a precursor to serotonin.
To make hemp protein powder, you simply grind down pressed hemp seeds. The powder contains all nine essential amino acids, fiber, unsaturated fats, antioxidants, and numerous minerals.
10. Blended Plant Proteins
Various plant proteins are often combined and sold as blends. By taking blended plan proteins powder, you can consume optimal levels of essential amino acids from a single product. Some blended plant protein supplements also include enzymes that help the digestion process.
A Little Help From Protein Powders
Using protein powders is an easy way to take in high-quality protein in a concentrated and convenient form. Though protein powders aren’t necessary for everyone, they can help you complete your diet if you don’t eat meat, build muscle, and increase strength.