Protein Powder 101

So you’ve heard that protein powder is great for building lean muscle, boosting metabolism and even burning fat, but with so many options to choose from, which do you choose? Don’t worry, we have summarized the pros and cons of the most popular protein powders below.

1. Whey Protein Concentrate

Whey protein concentrate is derived from the first filtering step in the production of whey protein isolate. By weight it contains 70-80% protein with small amounts of lactose and fat. A major benefit of whey protein concentrate is that it is the least expensive protein powder. A downside however is that it is slightly higher in fat and sugar compared to other whey based proteins. Whey concentrate is not recommended for individuals who are lactose intolerant or bloat from dairy. Overall whey concentrate is a great protein powder for anyone looking to boost their protein intake on a budget.

2. Whey Protein Isolate

Whey protein isolate is produced by the further filtration of whey protein concentrate. The result, is a whey protein that is 90% protein by weight with negligible amounts of carbs (lactose) and fat. This protein powder is ideal for individuals with lactose intolerance, or those who bloat with whey concentrate. The only downsides of whey isolate are that it is slightly more bitter and watery than whey concentrate, and it is more expensive. Whey isolate is recommended for individuals who are looking for a fast digesting protein to consume post-workout or throughout the day.

3. Casein

Casein is a highly absorbable form of protein that makes up approximately 80% of the protein in milk. Casein contains a high amount of bioactive milk peptides that support immune function as well as enhance muscle growth. Casein unique properties allow it to form a gel in the gut, causing a slow and steady release of amino acids over a long period of time, thus making it an excellent, long-lasting anti-catabolic protein. Casein protein can take up to 7 hours to digest which make it ideal mid-day or before bed. Casein protein also provides a creamy texture and satisfying flavour profile. The cons of casein include that it is slow digestion slowing meaning it is not good for post workout. Casein protein is recommended for individuals who want a protein that helps keep them fuller for longer.

4. Egg Protein

This medium digesting protein powder is fat and cholesterol-free, and contains an abundant amount of amino acids, and is particularly high in arginine. Egg protein can elevate amino acids and maintain them for about 2 to 3 hours post digestion. In large doses, this protein can cause bloating and gas. This protein is typically combined with other protein powders in a blend. It can also be purchased on its own, but it is a pricey protein powder. Egg protein is a medium digesting protein making it a good option to meet daily protein needs. For some individuals this protein can cause bloating and gas, and it is not ideal for post-workout recovery. Egg protein is also be more expensive than whey based proteins. Overall egg protein is a good alternative to dairy proteins for those who are intolerant to dairy.

5. Soy Protein

Soy protein, just like whey protein powder, contains all the essential amino acids. However, soy protein is not as bioavailable as whey protein. Soy protein also contains phytosterols, which have heart health and antioxidant benefits. A major benefit of soy protein is that it contains beneficial phytosterols for heart health. A downside of soy protein is that it has a lower biological value in comparison to whey protein. Soy protein is a great option for vegetarians and those who are lactose or dairy intolerant.

6. Pea Protein

This relatively new form of protein powder derived from yellow peas or split peas, offers up to 25 grams of protein per serving. Pea protein does not offer the complete profile of amino acids, therefore it is usually found blended with other vegetarian protein powder sources. A benefit of pea protein is that it contains heart healthy poly and monounsaturated fats. Pea protein is recommended for those who are vegetarians, have a soy allergy or are dairy intolerant.

7. Rice Protein Powder

Extracted from brown rice and provides only 12 grams of protein per serving. Considered one of the least allergenic of all vegetable-based proteins, rice protein powder is also a source of calcium and iron. Per serving fat and carbohydrate contents are higher than other plant-based protein powders, providing 2 grams of each of these macronutrients per serving, however the source of fat is from poly and monounsaturated. Similar to pea protein, rice protein is an incomplete protein which is typically found blended with other vegetarian proteins. A con of rice protein powder is that it contains more carbohydrates and fat than other protein sources. Rice protein powder is recommended for those who are vegetarian, have a soy allergy or are dairy intolerant.