With the massive selection of protein powders on the market today, it can feel overwhelming to choose one. There are also many misconceptions out there about protein powders. Which protein powder is the best? Is protein powder safe? Will protein powder make me bulky? These are all very common questions. I’m going to discuss some of the most popular protein powders on the market and break each of them down. So you, as a consumer, are able to confidently select the protein powder that is best for you!
Before you start to dive into the differences between protein powders, I suggest taking a moment to reflect on why you’re looking to use protein powder in the first place. Because if you’re hoping for an answer to what the “best” protein powder is, you won’t be getting a direct answer here. Why? Because there really is no such thing as the “best” protein powder. Rather, there is a protein powder that is best for you. And that will depend on your goals, preferences and more! Keeping your goals in mind will be helpful as you decide which protein powder is the best fit for you. So, without further adieu, let’s dive in!
Chances are, if you’ve looked into protein powders, you have heard of whey protein. It is a fast digesting and complete protein, and it makes up 20% of the protein content in milk. Compared to casein, (the other 80% of protein in milk) whey protein contains higher amounts of leucine, a key amino acid involved in muscle protein synthesis. It is also typically the most cost friendly of the various protein options on the market. There are three types of whey protein which I will discuss further. All three types of whey are great options for supporting muscle growth and repair.
1.Whey concentrate. Of the three types of whey, whey concentrate undergoes the least amount of processing. Therefore, it has higher amounts of carbohydrate, fat and lactose. It’s not as quickly digested as whey isolate or hydrolysate.
- Whey isolate. Whey isolate has been processed to create a product with higher amounts of protein and lower amounts of carbohydrates and fat. The processing removes more of the lactose, fat and carbohydrates than whey concentrate. It is very quickly digested. It may be a good option for those who are sensitive to lactose due to the processing removing large amounts of lactose.
- Whey hydrolysate. Whey hydrolysate has undergone the most processing out of the three types of whey. The processing partially breaks down the amino acids, so they are very easily and rapidly absorbed. This makes hydrolysate a good option for those who may otherwise have digestive trouble when consuming whey.
Casein is another popular choice among protein drinkers. The other 80% of protein in milk comes from casein. Similar to whey, casein is also a complete protein. The main difference you will notice with casein is that it takes much longer to digest when compared to whey. This means it will keep you full for a longer amount of time. It is also typically more expensive than whey. Casein will also support muscle growth and repair!
The final type of protein powders I want to discuss are plant-based protein powders. There are many different types of plant-based protein powders on the market, including, but definitely not limited to soy, pea and hemp. Many plant-based proteins are not complete proteins, but this does not mean you should write them off! Soy is an example of a plant-based protein source that is a complete protein. However, other options such as pea protein are not. If you are consuming a plant-based protein powder that is an incomplete protein just make sure you’re eating a variety of other protein sources to ensure you’re consuming the amino acids that the protein powder is missing.
A common myth about protein powder is that it will make you bulky. Though protein powder can help support muscle growth, protein powder on its own will not make you bulky. To become “bulky” takes a huge amount of effort in the weight room and also requires a surplus of calories and protein. So, rest assured that your protein powder alone will not inherently lead to bulkiness.
As a final note, I want to touch on the safety of protein powder as a supplement. Protein powder is generally a safe supplement. However, it is important to remember that supplements are not regulated by the FDA, or anyone for that matter. Look for protein powders that have NSF approval to ensure they contain what they are claiming!