Shake it ’till you make it.

I’ll be the first to admit that the word protein tends to get thrown around and misused. I mean, am I wrong? Every time I see something that says “with protein” on the box, I’m more inclined to buy it– even if it only has six grams of the dang stuff. 

Okay, maybe that’s just me. But still, protein is an essential nutrient required for growth and repair. It feeds our muscles, helps them grow, and helps us stay functioning at optimal capacity.

A lot of us don’t realize it, but we don’t get nearly enough protein in our diets as we should. The recommended amount for an active individual is about 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. That may seem like a lot, but it really does make a difference in strength, function, and all around health.

Getting the Scoop On Protein Powders

I remember very clearly when I first heard about protein powder. It scared the crap out of me. I thought that taking it as supplementation would make me bulky and man-like. Boy, was I wrong!

I’ll say it louder for the people in the back: protein does not make you huge or bulky, it really just feeds your body with the amino acids that it needs in order to rebuild tissue and continue to grow. 

There’s a ton of reasons to add protein powders to your diet– whether you want to gain muscle mass, maintain your fitness level, or even lose weight. It’s great to add to yogurt, smoothie bowls, pancakes, and so much more. You can bake with it, make energy balls, or drink it straight with milk or water. The possibilities are endless!

But before you get to it, you’ve got to pick a type: so here’s the lowdown on all of your protein powder options.

Which Powder Is the One for You?

Before reading about each type, let me explain the order: the quality of protein is measured by BV (biological value), which is essentially a measurement of how much nitrogen your body is able to retain for use and absorption of the protein itself. Whey protein comes in first, egg proteins come in a close second, and plant-based proteins come in last. 

Whey Protein

Getting the Scoop On Protein Powders

Whey is the most commonly used and well-known powder out there. You can get it virtually anywhere and for relatively cheap.

It can enhance your immune system, reduce overtraining, and reduce cortisol levels which pertain to stress. It is also a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids for the body. There are two types of whey protein:

  1. Concentrate. This is the more popular of the two. Whey concentrate can be taken at any time of the day and is absorbed rather quickly. It is a milk protein but is rather low in lactose, making it easily digestible. 
  2. Isolate. This is an extraction of the protein itself, so it contains very little fat and lactose. Whey isolate is best taken post-workout and has little use otherwise, as the body will use it for energy production rather than muscle building. Isolate tends to digest a bit better and has a slightly better taste.

If you’re just getting started using protein powder as a supplement and have no dietary restrictions, I would recommend whey protein concentrate. A few of my favorites are Cellucor and PE Science, but if you’re looking for a more natural protein, True Nutrition (best price) and Earth Fed Muscle are awesome as well.

Casein/Milk Protein

Getting the Scoop On Protein Powders

Casein is interchangeable with milk protein, as milk is 80% casein and 20% whey. It is a complete protein, containing all of the essential amino acids.

They key difference between whey and casein is that casein is slow-absorbing. This makes it a good choice to take at night before going to bed, as the amino acids will be released slowly throughout to aid in muscle protein synthesis.

Egg Protein

Getting the Scoop On Protein Powders

Though I personally hadn’t heard of egg white protein before researching this topic, it is out there and does have one of the highest BV measurements among powders.

It releases slower than whey but faster than casein, so it would make sense to take throughout the day.

Egg protein is more expensive and apparently not as great tasting as milk proteins, which may explain why they’re not as popular. However, egg protein is still a great option.

Plant-Based Proteins

Getting the Scoop On Protein Powders

Plant proteins such as soy, rice, hemp, pea, and a few others, are great options for those following a vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based diet.

Plant-based proteins tend to have more antioxidants, vitamins, and phytochemicals. While the taste can be a bit hard to mask and the mixability varies, vegan protein powder is a great option.

I’ve tried a few like Vega and Aloha and really liked them, but there are plenty of others available as well.

All in all, adding a protein supplement to your diet can be very rewarding. The protein aids in muscle growth/repair and supplies your body with all the necessary amounts of amino acids.

Whether you’re vegetarian, gluten-free, lactose intolerant, or anything else, there is a protein out there for you. But if you’re not feeling the powders, there are lots of real food sources of protein out there that will do the trick!

Sources:

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About The Author

Hannah is a sophomore at Virginia Commonwealth University studying Health Science and English with hopes to become your go-to trainer, dietitian, and wellness expert! When she's not planning her next four meals you can find her at a music festival, a yoga class, or the cutest coffee shop in proximity.

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