8fit’s Guide to Protein Powders – For vegans, vegetarians, smoothie aficionados and protein powerhouses.
Powders are an easy way to add protein to any diet. They are helpful in meeting protein intake goals for anyone who has trouble getting enough from whole food sources, which are always best.
While they can be useful, choosing a type of protein powder isn’t always simple. All protein is not created equal and some may be more beneficial than others depending on your goal.
You’ve probably heard of this before. Whey protein is the most common source of protein on the market and is derived from milk.
Whey is a super-cheap protein source and is absorbed quickly by the body, which makes it great for post-workout shakes.
Because it is derived from milk, individuals with a lactose intolerance may deal with some bloating or gas when supplementing whey.
Protein powder is a simple, easy way to add protein to any diet.
Casein protein is similar to whey protein in that it is an incredibly common protein powder and it is also derived from milk.
Casein differs from whey because it is absorbed much slower than whey. This makes casein a better choice for a bedtime protein shake.
Casein is generally a little more expensive than whey and comes with the same difficulties for lactose intolerant individuals.
As you can guess, egg protein come from eggs. It is created by separating the white from the yolks and the dehydrating the egg whites to create a powder.
It was very common before milk protein sources like whey and casein hit the market.
Egg protein provides a great substitute to milk proteins because of its high ratio of essential to non-essential amino acids.
Although it is a better option than milk proteins for the lactose-intolerant, it is more expensive than milk protein sources, so budget accordingly.
Soy protein is a great vegetarian source of protein. While not as efficient as milk proteins, it is still absorbed quickly. Soy also comes with a low price tag.
Soy has a high glutamine and arginine content, which help it aid in recovery. Soy may increase immune function, prevent cardiovascular disease, and promote bone health.
Soy does contain isoflavones, which were feared to lower testosterone levels. Studies have shown that this is not necessarily true.
Goat’s Milk Protein
Like cow’s milk proteins, goat’s milk protein comes in both whey and casein varieties. It is a milk protein that is generally easier to digest than cow’s milk protein.
Goat milk protein is about 65% protein, with the rest being carbs and fat. This means that it is not an incredibly lean source of protein. So it may not be the best option for those looking to get super-ripped.
Hemp protein powders are generally made up of about 50% protein, with the rest being mainly carbs, and some fat.
Hemp is a good alternative to soy because it contains a high level of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and essential fatty acids (EFAs).
Despite being a quality source of BCAAs and EFAs, Hemp protein powder comes with a higher price tag than most proteins. So be prepared.
Wheat protein comes with a high ratio of protein to fats and carbs, making it a great option for those looking for a plant source of protein.
In addition to containing a high level of protein, wheat protein powder is also very reasonably priced.
Those who are gluten intolerant would not do well with wheat protein, being that it is derived from gluten-containing wheat.
Unlike wheat protein, pea protein is completely gluten free. It also has a high ratio of protein to carbs and fat.
Pea protein is reasonably priced and is easily digested by the body. While it does contain all the essential amino acids, it is deficient in some amino acids. This means that it shouldn’t be used as a sole source of protein.
Key Protein Terms
Protein Concentrate vs. Protein Isolate
Protein concentrate is a powder comprised of 70-85% pure protein.
Protein isolate is a powder comprised of up to 95% protein.
Complete vs. Incomplete Proteins
Complete proteins contain all of the 10 essential amino acids.
Incomplete proteins do not contain all of the 10 essential amino acids.
Note: the 10 essential amino acids are amino acids that cannot be produced naturally by the body.
The Bottom Line
Protein is protein. If you eat it, your body will find a way to use it. The differences lie in the speed of absorption, convenience, overall health, and price.
Powders shouldn’t be used as your only source of protein.
Protein powders do not contain the nutrients found in whole food sources. This means that for overall health, food sources always win.
So, for the majority of your protein consumption, choose real food sources like grass-fed beef, chicken, fish, and eggs.
If you use protein powder to meet your goals, the “best bang for your buck,” in terms of price and fastest absorption among powders, is Whey protein powder.
So for a quick dose of protein before or after a workout, choose Whey powder.
For a slow-releasing pre-bed protein shake, choose Casein powder.
If you are a vegetarian looking for a quick dose of protein, opt for any of the vegetarian protein powders mentioned in this article.
Remember that protein powders are a supplement. They should never replace real food or account for all of the protein in your diet.
Use them as a means to get more protein, but remember, at best, they’re processed. At worst, they’re artificial. Remember that protein isn’t all there is to health and workout recovery, be sure to keep your electrolytes in check too.