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Choosing the Right Protein Powder: Protein Types and Uses

Updated on June 17, 2012
Sources of Protein
Sources of Protein | Source

There are many types of protein powders available. Choosing the right protein powder can be rather daunting and confusing. Here is a review of the main types protein powder available and how they are used. This information will help you choose a protein powder based on two factors: its innate characteristics and when it should be used for best results.

Reasons for Consuming Protein Powder

People use protein powder to meet specific physical goals. The amount and type of protein powder you consume is based on your specific physical goal. Typical reasons for using protein powder include:

  • Weight loss
  • Weight maintenance
  • Toning
  • Muscle gain

Protein Powder Types

Protein powders can be made up of a single ingredient, or a blend of ingredients. Each protein type has its own characteristics and properties that make it suitable for specific uses. The main types of protein are whey, casein, egg and soy.

Whey Protein

The protein component of whole milk is approximately 20% whey protein and 80% casein protein. Whey protein is quickly absorbed into the digestive system. It comes in two forms: whey concentrate and whey isolate.

  • Whey concentrate is the best-selling protein powder. It is inexpensive, contains small amounts of fats and carbohydrates, and has low levels of lactose making it tolerable for most lactose-sensitive people.
  • Whey isolate is nearly fat-free, virtually lactose-free, has a thinner consistency due to the lower level of fat, and is typically thought to taste better than whey concentrate.

Casein Protein

Casein protein makes up the majority of protein found in milk and may be referred to as “milk protein”. Casein protein is a slow-digesting protein, which allows the body to continue metabolizing and absorb protein longer. This prevents the body from breaking down muscle tissue for energy.

Egg Protein

Egg protein is derived from the egg whites and is low in fats and carbohydrates. Egg protein powder is lactose free making it an ideal choice for people with dairy sensitivities.

Soy Protein

Soy protein is the most common vegetable protein consumed in protein powder form. Soy protein contains all eight essential amino acids. People typically prefer the taste of the whey and casein proteins over soy protein. Soy protein can be especially beneficial for women going through menopause.

Protein Powder Timing and Uses

When choosing the right protein powder you need to factor in what time of day you will consume the protein powder and why you are using it. Certain proteins are more beneficial at specific times during your daily routine. Are you using protein powder to fuel a workout, replace a meal or boost muscle growth while you sleep? Here are typical times when protein powders are consumed:

  • First thing in the morning – Whey is used to jump start the metabolism in the morning because it is quickly digested by the body, which provides immediate energy.
  • Pre-workout – Whey protein or a blend of whey and casein protein are used to provide the energy needed for your body during workouts and help you maximize your physical potential during workouts.
  • Post-workout – Whey protein provides quick energy after a workout, which prevents your body from burning muscle while it is depleted of energy. If you are not eating a meal within an hour of having a whey protein shake, it is more beneficial to have a whey/casein blend protein powder post-workout, which will provide quick energy, as well as long-term energy.
  • Meal replacement – A protein powder blend that contains multiple sources of protein (whey, casein, egg and/or soy), as well as supplemental vitamins and minerals, is used to provide the energy and nutrition required for meal replacement.
  • Before bed – Protein powder is consumed in the evening by people looking to build muscle. Casein protein is ideal in this situation because it is slow-digesting and will provide your body with energy throughout the night as muscle tissue rebuilds an grows.

Summary of Factors in Choosing the Right Protein Powder

Here is a list of factors previously discussed, as well as other factors that should be considered when choosing a protein powder.

  • Price per gram
  • Fat content
  • Carbohydrate content
  • Protein content
  • Supplemental vitamins and minerals
  • Allergies and food sensitivities
  • Sweeteners (artificial or natural)
  • Taste
  • Flavors available
  • Time of day protein will be consumed

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      Vicky 2 years ago

      Hi Jenny, love your advice and vioeds! So far in a month and a half I've lost a total of 8kgs so that's just under 4pounds by your maths (lol joking) i mean about 17.6 pounds. I only joined a gym last week and I'm starting to hit the weights and want to get more protein. Just want to know when you say .8 grams per kilo do you mean I should get at least that amount and more than that is better or get that amount but try not to go over. Thanx you're great

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