Protein powders, what are the differences?

Protein supplements always get a lot of publicity, as there are many different suppliers looking to sell you 100s of different types of protein powder. As an Old Munki protein is one of the main supplements I use and I’m sure most active athletes will use too.  It can help promote a healthy weight and can help muscles recover after a good workout, which is important for me, to maintain my lean muscle mass.  But when it comes to supplementation, which type of protein is best? I am hoping the following explanations will help you navigate the sea of different protein supplements out there.

So why is protein important?

Protein is a macronutrient found in many different foods meats, dairy products, nuts, and beans, to name a few. It’s comprised of amino acids, which are the building blocks of lean muscle tissue amongst other things. Obviously it is better to get our protein from natural food sources, protein supplements can make it easier to get those aminos on-the-go. But something you need to remember is that not all protein supplements are created equal and that is what I am going to look at, the positives and negatives of the different protein supplements.

Two of the terms you will come across in the descriptions  of different Protein supplements is Concentrate and Isolate. I think a quick explanation of these terms will help. So protein powder is derived from various natural food sources and it is “concentrated” by removing the non-protein parts. The result: a powder that’s 70-85 percent pure protein (with the remain 15-30 percent consisting mostly of carbohydrates and fat). Taking the concentration process a step further, “isolation” removes a much higher percentage of non-protein content. The additional processing yields a premium protein that is up to 95 percent pure. So the two terms will give you an indication of the percentage of pure protein your supplement will provide.

Comparison Time

Whey Protein

As I already said this is the most popular protein supplement on the market today.

The positives to whey protein is that it has been shown to promote lean muscle growth and fat loss, as well as support cardiovascular health and a healthy metabolism. Whey is quickly absorbed by the body, this makes it very useful for post-workout recovery.

There are some negatives with whey too. The sugar found in milk known as lactose, is a common allergen, you may have heard the term lactose intolerant before. This intolerance can make whey indigestible for some. There are many flavoured versions of whey protein, but it may be worth checking what what the flavourings consist of, as you don’t want to be consuming stealth processed carbohydrates or some less-than-desirable artificial sweeteners and chemicals.

Casein Protein

Casein is another type of protein powder that comes from cow juice. Casein is produced using a separation process applied to liquid milk that can concentrate or isolate the milk protein from the carbs and fats.

The positives of Casein protein powder are similar to the benefits of whey protein, but with a slower release rate. Because casein digests over a long period of time, research has found it’s the best type of protein to have before bed, which will help with your night time recovery.

Because casein is a by-product of milk, it has the same potential allergenic issue like whey. It’s best to use as a post-workout supplement because it’s absorbed so slowly. After exercise the body needs a quick hit of nutrients to replenish and rebuild, which is why whey or a combination of the two, is probably better for this purpose. Casein also tends to be more expensive than whey and can contains artificial ingredients to help make it more palatable.

Egg Protein

Egg protein as the name suggests comes from eggs! It is a complete protein made by separating out the yolks and dehydrating the egg whites into a powder.

The positives of egg protein are that aside from just protein, egg protein powders are rich in vitamins and minerals that can help support a healthy diet.  It is also easily digestible like whey protein, so is good for a post work out recovery drink.

The negatives are once again the allergy issues.  Allergies to eggs are common, similar to milk (lactose) allergies. Egg protein can also be one of the most expensive protein supplements available.

Soy Protein

Soy beans are one of the few plant protein sources that offer all of the essential amino acids. The protein can be either concentrated or isolated after the soy beans have been hulled and dried into soy flour.

The positives of protein from the soy bean are that it may help improve the body’s immune function and promote bone health. Soy may also help prevent cardiovascular disease and reduce the risk of certain cancers.

On the negative side soy has come under heavy scrutiny because it is often genetically modified in an effort to produce greater crop yields. Some research has also singled out soy due to its effects on hormone levels. Many foods are already full of soy due to its extremely low-cost protein. This has led some to question whether adding even more dietary soy (via protein supplements) is a wise choice, especially for men.

Rice Protein

Although mainly thought of as a carbohydrate only, brown rice is becoming a standard source for vegetarian protein powder.

For the positives brown rice protein is considered a good source of complex carbohydrates, vitamin B, and fiber. It’s also hypoallergenic, meaning it’s easily digestible with virtually no chance of an allergic reaction and therefore almost entirely used by the body.

The negative of rice protein is that unlike soy as a plant-based option it’s deficient in some amino acids and therefore should not comprise your main source of dietary protein.

Hemp Protein

Hemp protein is derived from the seeds of the hemp plant that’s gained popularity in recent years. It has nothing to do with

There are a number of positives for hemp protein. Hemp has been shown to improve metabolism, brain function, and circulation. With a similar profile to egg, it contains all the essential amino acids making hemp protein the most complete source of protein in the plant kingdom. The vegan-friendly supplement is also extremely hypoallergenic, high in fibre which makes it excellent for digestion. Also it is free from estrogen mimickers so it does not present the same hormone issues as soya.

The negative to hemp is that similar to egg it is an expensive protein powder. Since hemp is only harvested in mass quantities in select countries due to its association with cannabis, it is often the most expensive protein powder available.

Pea Protein

Pea protein comes from the yellow split pea,  making it a popular choice for vegetarians and vegans alike.

The positives of pea protein are those of the other plant-based proteins and the body is able to process the vast majority of each serving. Due to it being highly satiating protein it can help promote weight loss.

The negative is that despite pea protein often being considered a complete protein because it can contain the spectrum of essential amino acids, it remains deficient in certain amino acids and should not be used as a primary source of dietary protein.

These are the basic protein groups.  Some suppliers will mix them and flavour them to different degrees, but when it comes to protein powders there really is something for everyone. It is also worth noting that the amount of protein required by the body depends on a person’s activity level, physical size, and gender. Testing various sources and quantities of protein can help determine a mix that works best.

I personally mix up both hemp and whey proteins because of their differences.  I tend to use hemp in my pre training shake and whey as part of my recovery drink as it absorbs quicker.

Also protein powders can be used for more things than just shakes, there is a big thing now for protein baking.  Substituting flour for protein powder.  The baking side of it is a post I’ll leave to Mrs Munki as she makes awesome pancakes amongst other things with it.

I hope this clarifies some issues for you, as it was just a very basic run through.  But just remember protein powder is a food supplement and should not replace whole foods entirely.

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