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Top Seven Types of Protein Powders and How to Choose the Right One

03/05/2020
By Corey Lewis, CPT, CSCS

Protein powder has quickly become one of the most popular nutritional supplements among health-conscious individuals. But, it can be confusing to choose among the various options. Proteins play a significant role in ensuring your health and wellness. When you think of protein, what is the first image to pop into your mind? If you’re like most people, then is usually a plate of chicken breast or a spoonful of peanut butter. In this article, we will cover these seven types of protein powders:

Protein Sources

Before we break down the different types of protein powder, let’s consider the various sources of protein, including:

  • seafood
  • dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • eggs
  • beans
  • soy
  • lean beef

Proteins are molecules that can contain a combination of 20 different amino acids. Each amino acid has a unique shape and function. This contributes to the three-dimensional structure and role of the proteins that merge to form who you are today.

How Much Protein to Consume

Protein macromolecules are vital. That said, too much or too little of a “good thing” can have harmful effects on your body. That may have you wondering, how much protein do you need? The amount of protein that you should consume daily will vary based on several factors. Generally, average people take in approximately 0.35 grams per pound of body weight per day for muscle maintenance.

Top 10 Protein Sources – PsycheTruth

Budget Considerations

Nowadays, protein powder is readily available. This makes getting your recommended amount of protein as simple as a couple of scoops throughout the day. However, there a multitude of options available. Consequently, choosing the right protein powder can get a little tricky. This is apparent with dietary restrictions from vegetarian to keto-based lifestyles. Personally, I lean towards grass-fed protein because they are much easier on my stomach. However, this pricier option might not fit everyone’s budget. So, to help you find the protein powder that best works for your lifestyle, I’ve researched seven of the most popular types.

Whey Protein Powder: Isolate, Concentrate, Hydrolysates

Biochemically, milk is composed of two proteins: whey, and casein. Whey is the watery part of milk that remains after the formation of curds. It is high in protein, but the concentration of protein can vary depending on the processing method. Whey stands out in the arena of protein supplements because it contains all nine essential amino acids. Furthermore, it is low in lactose content. The nine amino acids within whey include histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. These amino acids cannot be produced naturally by the body. Therefore, we must obtain them from the food we eat, thus making them essential.

Three glasses of protein shakes with different flavors, vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate. Showing different types of protein powder.
Whey Protein Has Three Types (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Not all whey protein is the same. The three main types of whey protein include whey isolate, concentrate, and hydrolysate. Varying processing methods contribute to the nutritional and superficial differences between all three types of whey.

Whey Isolate

Whey isolate is the more processed whey protein of the bunch. Here is its nutritional value breakdown:

  • Protein: 23 grams
  • Carbs: 1 gram
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Lactose: up to 1 gram

This whey type is for those aspiring to maintain or achieve their physical fitness goals while remaining on a restricted-calorie diet. This option enables people to limit their consumption of carbohydrates and instead fill up on protein. Thus, this is an ideal protein supplement for bodybuilders and intense athletes.

Whey Concentrate

On the other hand, whey concentrate is the less processed version of whey isolate. Due to that, the nutritional breakdown looks a little different:

  • Protein: 18 grams
  • Carbs: 3.5 grams
  • Fat: 1.5 grams
  • Lactose: up to 3.5 grams

For those with a more intense workout regimen and meal plan, whey concentrate is probably not the best protein supplement. Instead, whey concentrate is more for those who have stricter financial constraints and have more leniency concerning their macronutrient intake.

Whey Hydrolysates

Diverse protein processes like filtration and purification contribute to the formation of whey isolate and concentrate. As opposed to regular milk, the synthesis of these types of whey leads to a supplement that could provide you with all of your needs without the added fat, carbs, or lactose.

Nevertheless, if you consume whey isolate or concentrate, your body still faces challenges. It must use enzymes in your digestive system to adequately use the incoming protein. So, to aid the absorption process, manufacturers have created protein hydrolysate that eases the stress put on your digestive system. Thus, whey protein hydrolysate is an exemplary supplement if you are looking to stimulate muscle growth while reducing fat. It has also been known to improve muscle recovery, reduce hunger, and induce thermogenesis.

Three different protein powders in glass jars next to a shaker bottle.
Not All Whey Protein Is The Same (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Whey Protein Powder Recommendations

If you are looking to dive deeper into whey protein and try it out for yourself, try Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein. The product line is a diverse collection that is sure to help you with your dietary needs. In addition, read our top 6 whey protein powder reviews.

Casein Protein Powder

In addition to whey, casein is the other protein that is found in mammalian milk. More specifically, casein is a family of phosphoproteins that form large colloidal particles in combination with calcium phosphate to create casein micelles. Besides its nutritional roles, casein has other benefits. It is as a binder to make safety matches, it is a component in quick-drying water-soluble paint, and it can be used to mineralize tooth enamel. It makes up a whopping 80% of cow’s milk and 20%–45% of human milk. Casein comes in two different forms: micellar casein and casein hydrolysate. Micellar casein is the natural form of casein found in milk, while casein hydrolysate is a hydrolyzed protein that is easier for the body to digest.

Casein vs. Whey Protein

Despite working in conjunction with whey, casein has distinctly different properties that you should consider. First, while whey protein is easily absorbed, casein protein moves at a much slower pace through the gastrointestinal tract. This is due in part to the delayed release of the protein’s amino acids into the bloodstream. Another difference is that casein protein is much thicker than whey protein. So, it requires more water if you are going to make it into a shake. But if you opt not to make it into a protein shake, you can also use casein powder to make delicious homemade protein bars.

Chocolate protein powder in a measuring scoop next to a shaker bottle filled with protein shake.
Casein Protein Can Also Be Used To Make Protein Bars (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Consume Casein Before Going to Sleep

Due to its slow absorbing nature, casein-based powders are best consumed before going to bed. This is because it can help with recovery after an intense workout. If consumed directly before going to sleep, it can provide essential amino acids while you are sleeping and aid with your body’s normal nighttime biological functions. Furthermore, casein contains calcium and phosphate. This means that it has potential enamel strengthening abilities that can help your teeth fight against acid erosion and damage.

On the flip side, casein powder is not perfect. Recent studies note that casein containing A1 and A2 beta-casein has the ability to cause inflammation of the gut and digestive discomfort. So, as when adding any new component to your diet, proceed with careful consideration.

Casein Protein Recommendations

Ideally, casein is great for individuals who need longer recovery times. So, if you are a professional athlete, you should consider casein brands such as Dymatize Elite Casein Protein Powder. Also, be sure to read our top 6 casein protein powder reviews.

Egg Protein Powder

If cooking up a couple of eggs in a frying pan doesn’t seem appealing to you, you might want to dive into egg protein powders, instead. Typically, when people decide to explore egg protein powders, they are looking to avoid consuming the yolk. The yolk of an egg is the yellow portion of the egg, which makes up about 34% of the liquid portion of the egg. It contains around 55 calories and is responsible for the emulsifying properties of the egg.

Egg White vs. Whole Egg Protein

Most egg protein powders exclusively focus on extracting and maximizing the benefits of the egg white. The egg white, or albumen, accounts for 66% of the liquid weight of an egg. Healthwise, it contains more than half of the egg’s total protein, no fat, and about 17 calories. Cooked egg whites arguably provide many of the same benefits as egg white protein powder. However, adding fat and seasoning as you cook eggs may diminish the egg white’s health benefits. To isolate the benefits of egg whites, many people choose to invest in protein powders that provide a concentrated version of egg whites.

Eggs in a clear glass bowl next to a spoonful of white powder.
Eggs Are Rich In Protein Too (Image Source: Shutterstock)

An added benefit of incorporating more egg whites in one’s diet is a significant decrease in bacteria over time. A recent study showed that, when combined with chocolate milk, egg whites were seen to not inhibit the polymerization of coliforms, salmonella, mold, or yeast.

Since egg white protein is directly derived from egg whites, no fat or cholesterol is present in the protein powder. Egg white protein is also lactose-free. So it is a non-dairy protein powder option that suits individuals with a sensitivity to lactose.

Limited Micronutrients in Egg White Protein

Keep in mind, while egg whites are high in protein, they are low in various essential vitamins and nutrients. In addition to the absence of egg fat and cholesterol, egg white proteins lack or contain relatively small amounts of certain key vitamins, such as:

  • Vitamin A,
  • Vitamin D,
  • Folate,
  • Selenium,
  • Vitamin B12,
  • Vitamin B2,
  • and Vitamin B5

It is important to be cautious with just relying on egg white protein to provide all of your nutritional protein needs. You’ll get the protein intake you desire. However, you might also miss out on important micronutrients needed for your body to properly function. For example, if you opt for egg white protein, you will not be receiving any vitamin A from this dietary source. A deficiency in Vitamin A can lead to impairments in bone development, vision, reproduction, and skin.

Cracked egg with white powder inside.
Egg Protein Powder Is Mostly Extracted From Egg Whites (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Egg White Protein Recommendations

After weighing the pros and cons of egg protein, you can decide if this is the right protein source for you. A good introductory brand to test out is It’s Just! Egg White Protein – Nothing Else! Not only is it keto-friendly, but it also provides you with a cheap launch into egg-based protein. Or, if you’re feeling ambitious, then read our top 5 egg protein powder reviews.

Pea Protein Powder

Vegetarians and vegans need not worry; there are plenty of plant-based protein powders that can help you acquire the protein you desire. Plant-based protein powders, like meat- or dairy-based protein powders, have the ability to provide you with the right amount of protein intake.

Pea Protein Extraction

Traditionally, pea protein is made from the yellow pea (Pisum Sativum). During the manufacturing process, the outer shell of the pea is removed by mechanical action. Then, flour containing soluble fibers, starches, and proteins is obtained. Finally, the manufacturer isolates the protein. They do this by precipitating the solution at the isoelectric point at an abnormally high temperature. Or, they bring it to its isoelectric point and then solubilized using a dry spray.

A bag of peas and some peapods on a cloth surface.
Pea Protein Is A Good Protein Source For Vegans (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Pea protein powder is an ideal protein powder for health. While low in calories, peas are a good source of Vitamin A, iron, folate, thiamin, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and manganese. These vitamins are essential to maintaining a healthy metabolism and helping the body carry out its normal functions. Pea protein powder also is smooth on your gastrointestinal system, since it is easy to absorb. Unlike whey or egg whites, pea protein is not an allergen, and it is rare that individuals have adverse reactions to consuming it.

Pea Protein and Appetite Control

In addition, pea protein powder helps promote appetite control and thus helps with weight loss. With its high protein content, it is able to keep you fuller for longer. As opposed to the previously mentioned protein powders, pea protein powder is different in the sense of taste, texture, and processing. Protein powders such as egg, whey, or casein can sometimes be heavily processed, ridding them of their maximum nutrient potential. But pea protein powder is different. As well as being a bit less processed, its sweet flavor and less chalky texture can combine with other proteins for added nutritional benefits.

Green peas in a wooden bowl on a wooden chopping board.
Pea Protein Powder Helps Promote Appetite Control (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Pea Protein Recommendations

Besides its plethora of benefits, pea protein powder can be relatively high in sodium. So, if you are on a low-sodium diet, it might be wise to moderate your use of this type of protein powder. Besides this one potential issue, pea protein powder is not associated with a lot of side effects. If you are looking to try this type of protein powder, consider Wholistic Botanicals Live Plant Pea Protein Vanilla Powder. Or, read our top 5 pea protein powder reviews.

Hemp Protein Powder

Another veggie protein source is hemp protein. There has been a lot of controversy over the use of hemp. But how many of us know exactly what hemp is?

Hemp’s Health Benefits

First, let’s get one thing straight—hemp is not marijuana, so you do not have to worry about accidentally getting high while trying to get your recommended daily amount of protein. Rather, hemp is a variation of cannabis sativa that is used for food, body care, and fuel. On the health side, hemp has proven to be a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega fatty acids are great contributors to our cardiovascular health. Also, recent studies have identified hempseed as having diversely expansive cardiac and vascular effects.

Hemp protein powder in a bowl with a leaf of cannabis on a wooden board.
Hemp Is A Great Source of Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Hemp protein powder has endless benefits that are associated with its hempseed origin. For one, due to its globular protein components (edestin and albumin), it boosts your immune system. While this may be taken lightly, your immune system is responsible for protecting your body against foreign pathogens. So any strides you can make in improving its functionality can have great benefits for your health.

Hemp and Inflammation

Hemp contains an abundance of fatty acids. So, when it’s digested it is able to produce an excess amount of carbohydrates that can fuel your day. These fatty acids in hemp can also contribute to the protein strength of your hair. In addition, its ratio of fatty acids has been known to reduce inflammation, which is no easy feat. Inflammation occurs when the body’s white blood cells and other substances attempt to protect you from bacteria and viruses. This can lead to headaches and other serious medical conditions if not treated properly.

Hemp protein powder in a wooden bowl with a leaf of cannabis on the side.
Hemp Protein Helps Reduce Inflammation (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Despite its added benefits, ingesting too much hemp protein powder can have adverse effects on your liver. This, in turn may lead to excess nitrogen in your blood. This can also cause diarrhea, nausea, and even death in serious cases. As with any food or supplement in your diet, help protein powder should be used in moderation.

Hemp Protein Recommendations

Are you in the market for a protein powder that is high in nutritional benefits and healthy fatty acids? If so, then hemp protein powder might be the one for you. If you are going to invest in hemp powder, a great introduction might be Nutiva Hemp Protein Powder. Furthermore, you can look into our top five hemp protein powder reviews.

Brown Rice Protein Powder

Brown rice protein powder is a lactose-free vegan protein powder alternative. Outwardly, brown rice is distinguished from its counterpart, white rice, because of its dark coloration. Unlike white rice, brown rice maintains its color. This is because it is a whole grain that contains antioxidants and other nutrients of natural rice.

Brown Rice vs. White Rice

Additionally, unlike white rice, it has not been hulled, so it contains the three parts of the rice:

  • bran: outer fiber-filled layer
  • germ: nutrient-rich core
  • endosperm: starchy middle layer

Brown rice protein powder is extracted from brown rice by treating it with enzymes. Compared to other protein powder types, it is an extremely versatile option to have in your cupboard. Brown rice is hypoallergenic, has a faster absorption rate than other protein powders, and is simply better tasting.

Brown rice powder in a wooden bowl, beside a spoonful of uncooked brown rice.
Brown Rice Protein Powder is Lactose-Free (Image Source: Shutterstock)

If you choose brown rice protein powders, you may see added benefits. These include an improvement in your gastric digestion and a reduction in your cholesterol. This may have the net effect of aiding in weight loss.

Brown Rice Protein vs. Other Protein Sources

Brown rice protein powder is unlike many of the protein powders mentioned. It does not have all nine essential amino acids that are not produced by the body. So, in terms of protein synthesis and repair, it might not be the most complete nutritional choice. In addition, it’s high in carbohydrates. So, it’s not a match for low carb diets. Nevertheless, due to its palatable taste, brown rice protein powder can be used to make delicious treats including low sugar protein bars.

Brown Rice Protein Recommendations

A reputable brand to try if you are just diving into this type of protein powder is Naked Rice. In addition, you can read our top five brown rice protein powder reviews.

Mixed Plant Protein Powders

Mixed plant protein powders combine with other plant-based proteins to give you added benefits. So you might find a plant-based protein powder that is mixed with hemp or pea. You can get the benefits from multiple protein sources at once, giving this supplement a more complete nutritional profile.

Different plants like vegetables, seeds, and beans on a table shown as protein sources.
Plant-Based Protein Give Added Benefits (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Mixed Plant Protein Recommendations

Are you looking for a cheap but effective type of mixed plan protein powder? If so, then try Purely Inspired Organic Protein Shake Powder. It is composed of pea and brown rice, making it a great blend. In addition, you can read our top 5 mixed protein powder reviews.

Choose the Best Types of Protein Powders for You

Top 5 Types of Protein Powder Supplements – The Gym Rat World

Protein powders are not only for bodybuilders. Nowadays, everyday people utilize this nutritional supplement to fulfill their dietary needs. Considering that protein powders are relatively new to the market, their effects on diet are not completely understood. Make sure you do your research and, in some cases, consult your physician before investing in this nutritional supplement.

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