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Protein powders are concentrated sources of protein from animal or plant sources, such as dairy, eggs, rice or peas. There are three common forms of protein powder:
1. Protein Concentrates:
These are produced by extracting protein from whole food by using heat and acid or enzymes. Protein concentrates contain about 60–80% protein, with the remaining 20–30% of calories from fat and carbohydrates.
2. Protein Isolates:
These go through an additional filtering step that removes additional fat and carbohydrates, further concentrating the protein. Protein isolate powders contain about 90–95% protein.
3. Protein Hydrolysates:
These are produced by further heating with acid or enzymes, which breaks the bonds between amino acids. This allows your body to absorb them more quickly, and your muscles to take them up more easily.
Facts about Protein Powder
Not all Protein Powders are created equally. For instance, hydrolysates appear to raise insulin levels more than other forms, at least in the case of whey protein. This can enhance your muscle growth response
Some powders are also fortified with vitamins and minerals, especially calcium.
It’s important to note that not everyone will benefit from taking a protein supplement. If your diet is already rich in high-quality protein, you likely won’t see or feel much difference simply by adding a protein powder.
However, athletes and people who regularly lift weights may find that taking a protein powder supplement will help them to maximize muscle gain and fat loss.
Protein powders can also benefit individuals who find it difficult to meet their daily protein needs with food alone, such as the elderly, some vegetarians or vegans, and people who are suffering from an illness.
The Top 25 Best Protein Powders Reviewed
How To Choose The Best Protein Source For You
Walk up and down the aisles of any supplement store, and you will be overwhelmed by the many different kinds of protein powder available. Sources range from whey to soy to pea. And they come in many different flavors. Buyers are presented with premium options like “hydrolyzed” and “isolate,” which come with a considerably higher price tag.
Is it worth spending the extra money for higher priced blends of protein powder that claim to digest faster or slower? Or deliver more nutrients to your muscles? How do your personal goals and dietary needs factor in? To help clear up the confusion for you in the world of protein powders, and to help select the right variation for you, we’ve highlighted the most common types of protein powder and the best uses for each.
Here Is A List Of 7 Protein Sources
1. Whey Protein Powder
The most common and inexpensive variety of protein powder on the market is whey protein. It can be found at any supplement retailer and even in most grocery stores. Whey protein has an impressive array of vitamins and minerals. This dairy-based product has become a post-workout staple in the diets of pro athletes and recreational gym-goers alike. There is a good reason whey is the way to go for many: It has been shown to help repair muscle post strength training session. It will increase muscle strength and size when consumed within two hours of your workout.
Consumers have the option of “hydrolyzed,” “isolate,” and more. At its core, “hydrolyzed” means the product has broken down from whole proteins, down into smaller groups of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), also referred to as peptides. This method is meant to improve the speed of digestion. Another term, “isolate,” refers to a purification process where supplement companies attempt to get the purest form of whey protein possible.
2. Casein Protein Powder
Although it may not be quite as popular as whey protein, casein protein is actually quite similar in many ways. Like whey, casein protein comes from dairy and is actually the primary protein found in cow’s milk. Unlike whey protein, however, it digests much slower due to a complex interaction with acids in your stomach. This results in a slower release of essential proteins and amino acids. This makes casein the preferred supplement when a slow release of nutrients is desired and beneficial (such as before bed when you’re going 7-8 hours without food).
This is the main reason casein protein has been considered a less than desired supplement post-workout (when you want nutrients quickly). However, research indicates this might not be as big of a deal as we thought. In many cases, whey and casein can be interchangeable. The research that compares whey to caseins post-workout is almost equivocal. Your total protein intake far outweighs anything else. While that total amount will vary from person to person, the experts recommend taking in 0.6 – 1.0 grams per pound of bodyweight depending on activity levels (more active individuals need more protein).
3. Pea Protein Powder
It is hard to imagine that protein fuel can come from the pea. This 100 percent plant-based protein is typically made from yellow peas and towers above common protein powders in a few regards. It is naturally fat- and cholesterol-free protein source. Pea protein isn’t derived from dairy, making it a perfect choice for those who are lactose-intolerant. And lastly, it’s completely gluten-free, which can help individuals avoid gastric distress when supplementing frequently.
Pea protein has its benefits, particularly for those with specific dietary considerations. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect for everyone. Pea protein is an affordable protein source and contains similar levels of protein per same-sized serving as whey and casein, but it has been shown to be deficient in one amino acid (cystine). If you’re having stomach trouble with your current protein powder, it might make sense to give pea protein a try. Otherwise, you could try rotating it into your supplement schedule to avoid boredom and mix up your nutritional routine.
4. Soy Protein Powder
The favorite of many vegetarians, soybeans are another form of plant-based protein that contains all of your essential amino acids (referred to as a complete protein). In studies, soy protein is comparable to whey protein in terms of stimulating muscle growth after a tough strength training session. However, the benefits of soy extend beyond the gym. Research suggest, isoflavones, organic compounds present in soy, have been shown to possibly reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Soy protein doesn’t come without a possible negative. The isoflavones can interact with hormones like estrogen and potentially skew hormone levels when taken in excess. For males, specifically, the fear is that increased soy intake could reduce testosterone levels. Research suggests that this shouldn’t necessarily be a huge concern for men who use soy protein. If you are having the occasional shake with soy protein in it, it is more than likely fine. For those still a little wary of any ill effects, a soy protein concentrate is always an option. Due to the way this protein is processed, it has a lower amount of the potentially-negative isoflavones.
5. Hemp Protein Powder
Made from hemp seeds, hemp protein is actually a derivative of another cannabis. Of course, hemp protein contains very little THC, the ingredient in marijuana that makes you feel high, so it’s safe to consume without any side effects. Nutritionally speaking, hemp seeds have more to offer than just protein content. For one, they are often thought of as a superfood due to their high content of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Hemp protein is also 100 percent plant-based and highly digestible, which means less GI distress for some users.
Hemp protein does come with a few negatives. The high-fat content results in a higher calorie count, making this protein powder a less-optimal choice if the goal is weight loss. It is also worth noting that because growing hemp is illegal in many U.S. states, most hemp products are imported from other countries. This drives up the price making hemp protein one of the more expensive protein powder options on the market.
6. Brown Rice Protein Powder
Rice protein is a 100 percent plant-based protein that stacks up well against the competition. In an eight-week study comparing the benefits of both whey and rice protein supplementation, researchers concluded that both offered nearly the same benefit. Rice protein is also gluten-free, making it a safe (and economical) choice for those with gluten allergies.
The one downside to rice protein is that it tends to be low in the amino acid lysine. This means that relying on rice protein powder as your sole source of protein is probably not a good idea. Incorporating another plant or animal based protein into your diet, without experiencing the downsides of missing out on essential amino acids.
7. Vegan Protein Powder Blends
Vegan protein powder blends have become a popular choice, harnessing the power of hemp, peas, rice, quinoa and more — all in the same bottle. The result is a gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free supplement that can nutritionally stand up against animal-based products, without users having to worry about amino acid deficiencies (or an upset stomach).
While some plant-based blends can be a bit more pricey than whey protein, they can be a great choice for vegetarians, vegans (or anyone who does not want to ingest animal-based products), while still getting a satisfactory amount of protein in their diet. And because these varieties can satisfy most dietary needs or restrictions, vegan protein powders are a smart choice.
When making a decision on which protein powder to use, buyers really do have many choices. Powders come from many different sources, both animal and plant-based, and have a wide range of price tags. Ultimately, the type of protein powder you choose will be based on your dietary needs. Another very important decision to consider is the taste test. If you are drinking a protein shake regularly, it better suit your liking as far as taste goes. If you’re still stumped on which variety to choose, consult with your trainer or a certified nutritionist to review your current diet, training goals and intended use in order to make the best possible decision for you!