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Protein Powder 101: How to Choose the Best Option for Your Needs

Updated: Dec 27, 2022

Protein powders are concentrated sources of protein from animal or plant foods, such as dairy, eggs, rice, or peas.

Why do you need protein powder?

Protein powders offer an easy way to meet your protein goals. Especially if it is hard for you to meet your daily requirements through food alone. This could be because you

  1. eat only plant-based meals

  2. don’t have the time to source and prepare lean protein options in your meals

  3. don’t have access to a fully functional kitchen to cook

  4. are traveling and your meal options are limited

  5. are training hard and need more protein than you can fit in 3 meals

There are 3 common forms of protein:

  1. Protein concentrates - This is produced by extracting protein from whole food using heat and acid or enzymes. These typically provide 60-80% protein per serving, with the remaining 20-40% composed of fat and carbs.

  2. Protein isolates - An additional filtering process on the above form removes more fat and carbs, further concentrating the protein. It provides about 90-95% protein per serving.

  3. Protein hydrolysates - This form is obtained by further heating with acid or enzymes. This breaks the bonds between amino acids. These are absorbed more quickly by your body and muscles.

What is the right protein powder for you?

That depends on many factors. Your dietary preference (whether you are on a plant-based diet ), and your food intolerances. If you are someone who tolerates milk and milk products well, then Whey Protein is a great option for you.

Whey Protein comes from milk. It is the liquid that separates from the curds when cheese is made. It is high in protein but contains some lactose. But the isolate version contains very little of it as most of the milk sugar is lost in processing.

Casein is a protein found in milk. But it is digested differently than whey. It forms a gel when it interacts with the stomach acid, slowing down stomach emptying and delaying the absorption of amino acids. Research indicates that this is more effective at increasing muscle protein synthesis and strength (at least more than soy and wheat protein)

Pea protein and other Plant powders are popular choices among vegans and people who are lactose intolerant. It is made from yellow split pea which contains all but one of the essential amino acids(EAAs). So a combination of pea and rice protein helps you get all the EAAs required by your body. This is absorbed slower than whey protein but faster than casein.


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