Protein powders are very popular as they are a great way to meet your protein allowance. Protein supplements, powders, and other products containing protein are used in a variety of ways, including for their nutritional value, helping with weight loss, improving athletic performance, building muscles, and overall fitness. Numerous types of protein supplements and powders can make it harder to choose the best product for you and your needs. Below, we are going to look at the available options and help you choose the best product whether you want to bulk up, lose weight, or use the products for their health benefits.
Protein Powders: An Overview
Protein powders are sources of protein that contain concentrated protein. They are often included in protein supplements and other products with high protein content. The sources of the proteins in these powders are roughly divided into plant and animal sources such as soy and eggs.
Protein powders come in three main forms, which include concentrated, isolates, and hydrolysates. Protein concentrates are created using heat and acids or enzymes to extract proteins from different foods. These usually have up to 80% protein content, with the rest of the concentrate being carbohydrates and fats.
Protein isolates are protein concentrates that undergo additional processing to remove carbohydrates and fats to increase the protein content of the final product. The resulting powder is 90-95% protein.
Protein hydrolysates undergo additional processing still to break down the protein’s amino acid bonds. This results in a product that is absorbed quickly into the body. Although protein hydrolysates are great for building muscles, their high rate of absorption plus how quickly they are absorbed can lead to a spike in insulin levels.
Once the protein powder is extracted and processed, it is often fortified with minerals, usually calcium, and vitamins to make it a wholesome supplement.
Animal Protein Sources
Milk is one of the main protein sources for protein supplements. It is used in the production of whey protein, arguably the most popular type of protein in protein supplements. Because whey comes directly from milk, it often contains lactose, which can make it difficult for some people to consume. While whey protein concentrate does contain high amounts of lactose as indicated, whey isolate has very little as most of the sugar is removed during the isolation process.
Milk is also used in the creation of casein. Casein is very similar to whey but it is absorbed more slowly. Because casein interacts with stomach acid, it limits the rate of absorption into the body stream, making it a great option for those looking for a protein supplement that is absorbed slowly.
Casein can lead to higher utilization of proteins by the muscles compared to both soy and whey. It can also help with fat loss, especially where it is paired with calorie restricting diets.
Eggs are a great source of high-quality protein. Of all foods, eggs have the highest protein digestibility. For those looking to lose weight, eggs are great because they help suppress appetite and can help you feel fuller for longer.
Egg protein powders are made from egg whites, meaning they have an overall lower fat content than whole eggs. Proteins are also an excellent source of leucine, an amino acid that plays a critical role in muscle growth. Eggs are a great alternative for those with dairy allergies or lactose intolerance but who still prefer animal proteins.
Plant-based Protein Sources
If you prefer plant-based protein powder, are vegetarian or vegan, or are allergic to milk and eggs, pea protein is an excellent option for you.
Pea protein is made from peas, which are legumes with a very high protein content and almost all the amino acids our bodies need. While pea protein is absorbed slower than whey, it is absorbed faster than casein.
Another popular plant-based protein source is hemp. While you may know what hemp is related to marijuana, it contains trace to no amounts of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. What it does contain, though, is omega-3 fatty acids and essential amino acids. Because of its low levels of leucine and lysine, hemp is not considered a complete protein.
While brown rice protein has been around for a long time, it is often considered a dietary supplement and mostly a muscle-building or weight loss one. This is because it contains too little lysine compared to casein or whey. While research is continuing on the use of rice protein for muscle building, early research shows great promise.
Lastly, we have mixed plant proteins. These are protein powders that contain a variety of plants, each of which has essential amino acids. Mixed plant protein powders also contain a lot of fiber, which is great for appetite suppression but not for the absorption rate of the protein they contain.
Matching the Supplement to Your Needs
The protein powder or supplement you choose should match the outcomes you are looking for. If you are looking for a protein powder for muscle growth, you should consider protein powders, supplements, and sources that have a high biological value. Also called bioavailability, the biological value is a measure of how much protein will be absorbed into the body and how well the body will be able to utilize the protein once it is absorbed.
Information on bioavailability can be obtained by looking at detailed protein supplement comparisons. These comparisons give detailed information about the different types of proteins in the market, so you can know which protein powder or supplement would be right for you. The protein supplement comparisons provided by Ingredient Optimized compare standard whey, hydrolyzed whey, and ioWhey protein, so you can see which of these protein sources would be best for you. Ingredient Optimized manufactures ioWhey, ioProtein, and ioPea, which are all great protein sources. All their products have a high bioavailability.
For those looking for protein supplements to help them lose weight, they should consider protein supplements, shakes, and products that do not contain any sweeteners. These are usually in the form of sugars and other sweeteners made from starch. It is also important to choose products that have little to no added branched-chain amino acids, as these help promote weight gain and muscle growth.
For vegans and vegetarians, choose protein supplements that do not contain any milk -products such as whey and other milk proteins. If you are vegan or vegetarian, opt instead for protein supplements and products that include plant-based protein such as soy, hemp, or pea proteins.
People who have any kidney disease should lower their protein intake. This is because proteins put a lot of strain on the kidneys. A better option would be supplements that contain very low protein, ideally in the 10-15 grams per serving range.
The last consideration should be gastrointestinal problems such as lactose intolerance or irritable bowel syndrome. If you have any of these conditions, avoid protein supplements and products that contain artificial sweeteners and lactose sugars.
There is a lot you need to know before choosing a protein powder, whether you need it to lose weight, bulk up, or for overall health. The considerations above are a great place to start.