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Breaking Down Protein Powders

Posted March 09, 2020 by Hanna Rice RDN LD

Protein Shake

In the last decade or two, protein powders have become increasingly popular among physically active and health-conscious individuals.

Protein powders are concentrated sources of protein — the essential building block for muscle, tissue, bones and blood — made from either animal or plant sources. While whole foods come complete with the essential vitamins, minerals and fiber you require, protein powders are an easy, convenient way to bolster your protein intake when food isn’t enough to meet your training goals.

People are using protein powders for a variety of reasons, from building muscle mass and losing weight to improving sports performance. But with so many options to choose from, how do you know which protein powder is best for you to yield optimal results? There are various types of protein powders made from numerous sources.

So before you grab a tub of protein powder off the shelf, get the scoop on which protein powder is right for your personal health goals and dietary restrictions.


Whey protein

Whey protein is the most common and complete protein powder. It contains all nine essential amino acids — essential because our bodies cannot make them — providing muscles with the necessary fuel to grow and repair.

Whey protein is best for building and maintaining muscle mass, assists in recovery after hard workouts, and increase strength in response to strength training. It also boosts energy and can reduce stress levels!


Casein protein

Casein is the other main milk protein, though it’s not as effective as whey protein at building muscle.

Casein is digested and absorbed much more slowly than whey protein. Therefore, casein protein is ideal for a meal replacement and for losing weight. Not to mention, it’s a great source of calcium.


Soy protein

Soy protein is another common choice and is a great option for a plant-based complete protein. It’s considered the most effective plant-based source for building muscle while at the same time, can help with weight loss by helping you stay fuller for longer.

It also contains greater amounts of amino acids than other plant-based proteins that help support immune function, digestive health and brain function. Some studies have shown bio-active components found naturally in soybeans can ease symptoms of menopause and also can help with osteoporosis by helping to build bone mass. The content of bio-active components in soy protein varies from product to product depending on how the soy protein is processed.


Egg protein

Egg protein is good for those who do not eat dairy because it’s still a complete protein. It’s not quite as effective as whey protein at building muscle, but it’s still a good option after a hard workout.

Egg protein is also beneficial for decreasing appetite and helping you stay fuller for longer.


Pea protein

Plant-based pea protein is derived from yellow split peas and is hypoallergenic. In fact, it’s the most highly digestible of the plant-based proteins and a great option for vegetarians or those with allergies or sensitivities to dairy or eggs.

Though it’s not a complete protein — it’s low in some essential amino acids — you can pair it with rice or hemp protein to make it complete.

Pea protein is a good option in weight loss by suppressing your appetite and boosting your nutrition profile.


Hemp protein

Hemp protein is derived from hemp seeds and is 100 percent plant-based, so it’s a great option for vegetarians!

Although it has a lower protein content — so it’s not great for building muscle — it offers a good source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, it’s great for people who don’t have strong protein needs but want to ramp up their overall nutrient intake.

Hemp contains all nine essential amino acids. This is pretty impressive as it’s quite rare for a plant source to contain all nine amino acids. That being said, research is inconclusive regarding the quantities of each amino acid contained within hemp.


No matter what reason you’re using protein powders, it’s important to know how to incorporate them into your diet. If you’re using protein powders to enhance your workout performance, you should consume it within 60 minutes of your physical training. That’s when muscles are most responsive to protein for growth and repair.

But, if you’re trying to amp up your nutrition intake or lose weight, it’s best to have a steady amount of protein at every meal to help keep you fuller for longer.


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