Protein supplements have been around for ages in a variety of forms such as, most popularly, the ready-to-mix powders. Protein supplements are fantastic for consumers who want to build or maintain natural muscle mass, or those that want to lose weight while gaining muscle. But, there isn’t just one protein that fills every niche, so you should know what kinds of protein companies and manufacturers have available on the market today.
What is Protein?
Found in meats, dairy products, nuts, and beans, protein is a macronutrient composed of amino acids. Amino acids promote healthy hair, skin, bones, nails, and muscle tissue. Most experts would suggest that the best place to source protein and amino acids from, is whole food sources. While they’re correct, sometimes it isn’t always that simple.
Protein powders and ready-to-drink supplements are more convenient for those consumers that are always on-the-go, or the ones that want to refuel right before or after an intensive exercise routine. But how do you choose the right kind of protein for you?
Sources of Protein
There are many sources of protein, and all have their pros and cons. Here are the most popular ones available today according to a leading protein manufacturer:
Whey is a by-product in the process that turns milk into cheese and is one of the most popular protein supplements on the market today.
- Whey has been shown to promote fat loss and lean muscle growth
- Supports cardiovascular health and a healthy metabolism
- The sugar found in lactose is a common allergen, and can be totally indigestible for some
- Often come with artificial sweeteners and chemicals
Casein is produced when using a separation process applied to liquid milk that concentrates or isolates the milk protein from the carbs and fat.
- Offers similar benefits to whey, but with a different release process
- Digests over a longer period of time, and therefore is optimal before bed or rest.
- Like whey, contains lactose and may be an allergen to some
- Is absorbed slowly, so it not ideal for post-workout refueling
Egg protein is appropriately named, as it comes straight from the egg. It’s a complete protein, produced by separating the yolk from the egg whites, which are then dehydrated.
- Egg protein powders are rich in natural vitamins and minerals, not just protein
- One of the most expensive proteins on the market
- Egg allergies can be common, and will cause a reaction
Being one of the very few plant protein sources that offer all essential amino acids, soybean protein is concentrated after the beans have been hulled and dried into flour.
- May help improve the body’s immune function, neurochemistry, and promote bone and brain health
- Often genetically modified
- Has effects on hormone levels and may cause sensitivities in some individuals
Despite being thought of previously as only a carbohydrate, recently it has been found as a popular source of protein, especially for vegetarians and vegans.
- Alongside offering protein, brown rice is a good source of complex carbohydrates, vitamin B, and fiber
- Hypoallergenic and easily digestible
- Deficient in some amino acids
Yes, hemp has protein – at least the seeds do, and it’s extracted to make protein powder for commercial consumption.
- Offers a mix of essential fatty acids and is mostly hypoallergenic
- It’s only harvested in mass quantities in select countries, and that usually results in being the most expensive option on the market.
Being derived from the yellow split pea, pea protein is a fantastic and popular protein option for vegetarians and vegans alike.
- Very few additives or artificial ingredients; closest to the whole-food source
- Is a happy medium for absorption between whey and casein
- Isolated pea protein contains most of the spectrum of essential amino acids, but not all
With all of the options for protein supplements, you would think one would naturally taste good. Most consumers don’t believe so, however, and will go to untold lengths to find particular flavors they prefer. Whey proteins, for example, work well with creamy flavors: often you’ll find whey flavored with vanilla or chocolate.
Masking agents and flavors are especially important to balance in plant-based proteins like soy, which can have a grainy texture and gritty taste if not smoothed and flavored properly. There is a balance in everything, and most manufacturers have it down to a science. It’s incredibly important to have a proper balance of flavor and actual protein, to balance taste with effectiveness.
There is a protein supplement out there for everyone, no matter what source or flavor. Keep in mind to stay active and only consume what is safe and suggested for your body type and size. Remember that, like all supplements, protein supplements are not replacements for whole food items or meals – they are there to help along with a healthy diet, not in lieu of one.