The term “protein powder” has significantly been used over the past few years. A popular expression among health enthusiasts, protein powder refers to the concentrated form of protein that comes from different sources such as plant or animal foods like dairy, soy, rice or eggs. Protein powder consumption is good for athletes as it helps increase muscle mass, improve body structure and refill depleted protein reserves in the body.
The average person requires 0.3–0.6 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. However, those looking to gain muscle or athletes utilizing protein for high-volume endurance training need up to 1 gram per pound.
According to Renee McGregor, a performance and clinical dietician, “They are portable and useful in situations where food availability is limited or when an individual struggles to consume real food before or after a workout.” Based upon the percentage of protein concentration, protein powders can be classified into three broad categories.
- Protein Concentrates: This type of protein powder contains about 60-80% and 20-40% of calories in the form of fats and carbs. The protein is distillated by using enzymes or acid and heat from whole foods.
- Protein Isolates: These powders have a higher concentration, about 90-95% protein. Protein is further clustered using a filtering step that helps in the removal of fats and carbs.
- Protein Hydrolysates: This type of protein powder yields quick results as the bonds between the amino acids in the protein are broken down by augmenting the heating process. Broken amino acids increase insulin levels in the body such as whey protein which help in improving blood sugar. The quick absorption of broken amino acids and increased sugar levels in the body contribute to rapid muscle growth.
Types of Protein Powder Derived from Plant or Animal Sources
1. Whey Protein
Of all the protein types, whey is the most famous one. Whey protein comes from whey in the milk. In layman’s term, the water that separates while making cheese is known as whey. Another main constituent of whey is lactose, which is often difficult to digest. The reason why whey protein powder is immensely popular among bodybuilders and health enthusiasts is because of its ability to quickly assimilate into our muscles and tissues. Studies by health experts reveal that consumption of whey protein helps in building and enhancing muscle mass, aids in recovery from cumbersome workouts, and reduces appetite while improving muscle strength. Therefore, whey protein intake can be taken before, during or after a workout to achieve desired results.
Less expensive than other protein options, whey protein has a rich concentration of building blocks. It is highly recommended for people with tolerance to dairy and animal byproducts.
2. Casein Protein
Similar to whey, casein is a protein found in milk. However, it’s relatively unknown in comparison to whey and health savants are oblivious of its ability to complement its counterpart. The most significant feature of casein is its make-up, which is similar to breast milk and extremely easy for some people to digest. Since it comes from a similar source, it is somewhat akin to whey. In comparison to whey, the amino acids in casein take longer to break down, reducing the rate of muscle protein breakdown. It is recommended for people who prefer animal derived slow-releasing protein, and look for reduced muscle protein breakdown and fat loss during a calorie-restricted diet.
3. Soy Protein
Soy protein is considered to be one of the quality proteins for muscle gain although it is derived from soybean plants and is quite different from milk-based protein alternatives.
Its intake helps the body process amino acids that it cannot make on its own. It’s useful in controlling cholesterol levels and its persistent use strengthens cardiovascular system overtime. Although soy protein is not the most sought after amino acid in the market, its continuous consumption yields encouraging results. It is suitable for people looking for a vegetarian source of protein and a healthy way to deter appetite between meals.
4. Hemp Protein
Derived from the same plant that produces marijuana, hemp protein is devoid of any hallucinogenic side effects. Hemp seed is a good source of protein and helps in providing the body the building blocks it needs. Whether you are looking for muscle gain or not, hemp protein can be a good addition to daily lifestyle. A naturally complete source of protein, hemp protein is easier to digest than any other kind of protein. A complete source of protein without any additives, it is ideal for people who seek vegan protein alternatives.
5. Rice Protein
As the name suggests, rice protein is derived from rice and comprises of similar qualities found in rice milk. Pleasant to taste as compared to whey protein, one can find rice protein in a variety of flavors including strawberry and chocolate. However, in terms of the amount of protein per ounce and the way the body responds and uses the protein, whey protein surpasses all other options.
Rice protein is free of gluten and can be ideally used by people who show sensitivity to dairy and soy products. A good alternative to animal based proteins, it is suitable for people who are fond of rice based products.
6. Egg Protein
Widely known as a high-quality protein source, the egg whites have more protein than egg yolks. Egg white protein powder offers a higher concentration of protein than just eating egg whites. The protein supplement is devoid of fats and carbohydrates, and suitable for people who want to improve their body structure without gaining weight.
7. Pea Protein
A relatively newer substitute to dairy proteins, pea protein is becoming more and more popular among vegetarians or people with an intolerance to milk and eggs. Packed with branch-chained amino acids, it has all the essential building blocks except methionine. Its absorption rate in the body is faster than casein but slower than whey, and helps in lowering blood pressure. Although high-market demand of pea protein is reflective of its effectiveness, more studies are needed to fully analyze the benefits of the newfound animal protein substitute.