Getting a firm understanding on protein powder is tough, especially with there's such a variety of products on the market. Some people take protein powder and other protein supplements without really understanding what they do, while others haven’t even tried protein powder because they don’t know where to start.
Well we’re going to put an end to all the confusion in this complete protein guide. You’ll understand the value in taking protein, the types of protein and ultimately, what’s best for you.
When it comes to protein, there’s a ton of choices. It’s great to have choices, but when it comes to picking the protein powder that’s best for you, it can be tough. The various types of protein have their pros and cons and honestly, some are better than others.
What’s the difference between whey and soy protein? Some of you may already know the answer to that question, but if you don’t or you’re looking to get a comprehensive understanding of the various types of protein, I’ll break it down in the guide below.
Should You Be Taking Protein Powder?
You may find that you are putting in serious work at the gym but you’re not getting the results you’d like to see. Supplementing your diet with additional protein can help provide your body with extra protein that can be utilized to build muscle tissue.
Regardless of the types of workouts you’re doing, ranging from cardio and endurance to weight training and bodybuilding, your diet likely isn’t maxing out your ideal protein intake. That’s where protein powder is helpful.
Protein supplements, whether powder or otherwise, make it very easy to get additional protein. That said, you shouldn’t depend on protein powders as your primary source of protein. You should ensure your diet includes plenty of high protein foods like beef, poultry, eggs and fish. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, ensure you’re eating soy, beans, nuts, etc. If you are vegetarian or vegan, protein supplementation may be even more impactful.
In all, protein powders are meant to add extra protein to your diet so that you can build muscle tissue quickly.
The Ideal Amount of Protein Powder to Take Daily
In regards to how much protein powder you should be taking, it depends on a variety of factors. These could be your weight, current protein intake in your diet and goals. However, a reasonable estimate for protein supplementation is 30 grams daily. This amount has some scientific backing as it’s right in the ideal range to supply enough protein in order to repair muscles and promote muscle synthesis. It also could help provide your body with enough protein to cut fat while preserving muscle.
What’s the Best Way to Ingest Protein?
You can get protein in a variety of forms. Most commonly you’ll buy a tub of protein powder in a flavor of your choice, such as vanilla or chocolate. From there, you’ll mix a scoop (or two) in with a liquid of your choice. Some choose to mix their protein powder in a glass of milk or water. Others choose to put their protein powder scoop into the blender with fruit and make a smoothie. The options are plentiful. Another choice that’s pretty popular is to mix the protein powder with peanut butter and oats to make a protein loaded snack.
Before, During or After My Workout?
One option is to make a protein drink and take it with you on the go if you know you are going to miss a meal or won’t be having a protein rich meal.
Though, the most efficient time to take protein powder is within 30 minutes after your workout. This is the ideal time as it provides your body with food to repair its muscle tissue and in turn, build that muscle.
Why Do Prices Vary So Much?
Protein prices vary so significantly because of how each protein product was manufactured. Some protein powders are put through stringent manufacturing to get the highest protein content possible per dose, whereas others aren’t manufactured so tightly and have lower protein content per dose. The more expensive the protein, typically the higher quality that protein powder is. When choosing, it’s best to get the product that fits your needs while falling in your price range. You likely don’t need the most expensive protein powder on the market, especially if you’re a beginner.
What Are the Types of Protein?
This protein powder is crafted from the bi-product that’s produce when cheese is made. When that bi-product has the casein and water removed, you have whey concentrate!
Whey concentrate is one of the most popular options for protein powder because it can be purchased at a fairly low price. If you’re looking to buy whey concentrate, many grocery stores carry it. Beginners favor whey concentrate as it allows them to try adding additional protein to their diet without a serious financial commitment.
In terms of when to take whey concentrate, it can be ingested pre or post workout, though it's most common to take it after a workout for recovery. Additionally, it can be ingested any time during the day if you need protein, such as if you’re going to miss a meal.
One downside to whey concentrate is that those with sensitive digestive systems may struggle with it. Some people find it a bit difficult to digest and have symptoms such as gas and/or bloating.
Though, if you can digest it (many can) it’s a great way to get protein cheaply.
Whey isolate protein powder is similar to whey concentrate, but it has been further processed, through a process called Cross-Flow Micro-fltration, to purify the powder’s protein content. This purification process removes much of the cholesterol, fat and lactose from the powder. As it goes through this additional processing, whey isolates are more expensive.
One of the primary draws of whey isolate is that because of its manufacturing, it can be quickly digested and utilized by the body. Again, this benefit of quick absorption comes at a monetary cost.
Another benefit is that whey isolates have very low amounts of sugar and carbs. Therefore those on low carb diets, such as Keto, may be interested in this protein powder.
Similarly to whey concentrates, isolates can be taken before or after a workout. Isolates have a distinct advantage when it comes to how quickly the body can utilize the protein in each serving, as they absorb so quickly. After you workout you can take your protein shake and shortly after, your body will begin using those protein nutrients to repair and grow muscle tissue.
Although whey isolates come at a higher price point, there are many advantages that can justify its price.
If are looking for a protein powder that your body will break down over a multiple hour stretch, casein protein is a great choice. That hour stretch can be around 5 to 7 hours, so it’s great if you’d like to slowly feed your body with protein nutrients.
In terms of origin, casein protein is the primary source of protein found in dairy products.
It also has a significant glutamine content that helps to not only aid in recovery but boost your immune system.
Many choose to take casein protein with their meals or even before bed. They do this because the casein protein provides the body with slow burning protein fuel that allows the body to stay in an anabolic state throughout the night.
Lastly, casein is a good choice if you’re looking to stay contently full and curve hunger.
Have you been commitment to an intense workout routine and ingested plenty of protein but you’re still not seeing any serious gains (AKA ectomorph)? This is where a weight gainer is impactful.
In addition to including a high protein content, this powder is loaded with carbohydrates. This high carb intake allows you to bring your calorie intake up and therefore increase muscle and body size.
Weight gainers are a popular choice for bodybuilders when they are in a bulking phase (may even be looking to gain a little fat). It also is for athletes who burn significant amounts of calories and are trying to prevent a calorie deficit.
When you think of premium protein, think of hydrolysate protein. It’s some of the highest quality protein on the market and it comes at a cost.
One of the primary benefits of this premium protein is that it has some of the best absorption rates among protein supplements, period. Your body can begin utilizing that ingested protein quickly. This is because hydrolysate consists of peptides, which are small amino acid chains, thus making the breakdown and absorption process of protein incredibly fast.
It can be taken before or after a workout but is a great post workout supplement because it can begin repairing and building muscle tissue quickly.
Overall if you’re looking for a highly absorbable protein that promotes the anabolic state while being easy on the digestive system, this is the way to go.
If you’re looking for a vegetarian option for protein powder, soy protein is your best bet. One of the advantages to taking soy protein is that it contains Arginine, which dilutes blood vessels and so releases nutrients into the muscles quickly.
Additionally, soy protein is a great sources of BCAAs and Glutamine which are powerful amino acids that give the body benefits like efficient muscle growth, maintenance and repair.
You can take soy protein before or after our workout, though post workout would likely be a better fit.
It can help maintain a healthy metabolism by increasing the hormone production in the thyroid gland.
For those looking to watch their cholesterol, soy protein contains isoflavones to aid in regulating cholesterol levels.
For those on a vegetarian diet, soy protein is the ideal choice. It’s not only ideal for post workout but also, throughout the day to help supplement low protein meals.
Interestingly, pea protein is crafted from the golden pea plant. If you’re vegan and you’re looking to get the slow protein/amino acid release benefits that casein protein offers, pea protein is a great choice.
Hemp protein is a vegan source of protein that’s been rising in popularity as of late. It is created from the cannabis plant.
Many like hemp protein because it’s hypoallergenic. Another benefit is that it’s a great source of essential fatty acids.
One of the primary issues with hemp protein is that it is low in the amino acid Leucine. That’s a problem because Leucine is impactful in muscle growth.
If you’re concerned about taking this and being testing for THC, there’s no need to worry as the ingredients in hemp protein are free from the psychoactive parts of THC.
If you’re looking for a vegan, hypoallergenic source of protein, hemp protein is a great choice.
Rice, particularly brown rice, is a decent choice for protein (as well as carbs).
Although it’s low in essential amino acids, rice protein is a good choice for vegans and those with sensitivities to things like soy and dairy.
Milk Protein Isolate
Milk protein isolate is unique because it contain a few different protein types, including casein and whey.
This isn’t the best choice if you’re looking for just a protein supplement but it does have advantages, such as a reasonable amino acid content.
As it’s not an ideal protein supplement, the timing for taking it can be anytime during the day.
Think Rocky in his training days. Egg albumin is a great source of egg whites, which as you probably know, are protein rich.
Egg albumin is also great because it is full of beneficial amino acids. If you’re looking to build lean muscle, egg albumin is a great choice.
Whereas many of the other protein on this list are purchased in a powder form, egg albumin is bough in a carton and then cooked. It’s also a common ingredient in meal replacement kits.
There's also other egg protein products that can be purchased in the form of an egg white powder.
Just like eggs, you can enjoy egg albumin throughout the day.
Get the Protein That Works Best for You
As you can see, there are many different options for protein supplements. When it comes to finding the best protein for you, it just comes down to what your specific needs are. The protein market is pretty comprehensive and offers options for many different needs such as those of vegans and those with allergies. To get the best protein for you, just decide your price point and pick the category above that has the characteristics you need in a protein powder.