As with any products out there in the fitness and health industry, there is a lot of variety for protein powders. Most individuals default to whey protein, the most popular powder supplement in the industry. However, there are plenty of alternative protein powders out there that may be a better fit for you.
Without any further ado, here are the types of protein powders out there, their pros, and their cons.
- Whey Protein: whey protein is a dairy-based type of protein, one of two proteins in milk, that includes a fair amount of vitamins and minerals and all 9 amino acids. The first advantage of this type of powder is that it is the most common, and therefore the most cost-efficient. Whey has been proven to help repair muscles and increase muscle strength, and is recommended to take within two hours of a strength training session.
The difficulty with whey protein is that there are different options amongst whey choices, such as hydrolyzed or isolate. Hydrolyzed significies that the protein has been broken down further into smaller amino acid groups, which in theory speeds up the process of digestion. Isolate signifies that the company your purchasing from has attempted to find the purest form possible of the whey protein.
At the end of the day, these changes essentially just bump up the price of your whey protein supplement and haven’t really been proven to have more than slightly beneficial advantages.
- Casein Protein: casein protein is the other protein that comes from milk, much like whey. The difference lies in how casein digests in comparison to whey protein. Casein digests significantly slower because of the manner by which it interacts with amino acids. Casein is preferable not after workouts, but in situations where a slow release of nutrients makes more sense, such as before bed when you’re going for a long period without any food consumption.
Individuals often choose to use casein protein on top of another type of fast-digestion protein, choosing the casein, as mentioned, before bed or during other long periods away from normal food consumption.
- Pea Protein: pea protein is made from yellow peas and is, obviously, a 100 percent plant-based protein. While one may not think pea protein would have any sorts of advantages over whey simply because a vegetable doesn’t seem like a huge protein source, pea protein definitely has some serious benefits.
Since it is a vegetable, pea protein has zero fat and zero cholesterol. It is also healthier than whey protein and easier for your body to digest. If whey protein is giving you stomach issues, you may want to give pea protein a try. However, one complaint about pea protein, despite having similar protein levels per serving, is that is deficient in cysteine, one of the amino acids.
- Soy Protein: Soy beans are widely consumed by most vegetarians, as they are often a substitute for many vegetarian dishes. Soybeans are a complete protein, meaning that they contain all of the essential amino acids, and have been shown to be comparable to whey protein in muscular growth following strength exercise sessions.
Soy protein also have organic compounds that have the potential to lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. However, these same organic compounds, known as isoflavones, can interact with hormones like estrogen and may throw off hormone levels when taken in large quantities. In men, this may lead to reduced testosterone levels.
For those that are vegetarians and already using a lot of soy in their diets, you may want to stay clear of this type of protein powder to avoid consuming these isoflavones in excess.
- Vegan Protein (Blends): With many vegetarians wanting the same benefits that protein powders such as whey have to offer, many companies are using vegan protein blends to meet these needs. These blends tie together rice, peas, quinoa, and/or other types of vegetable based protein.
Vegan blends of plant-based proteins have definite positives when compared to whey protein. Plants are much easier to digest, putting less stress on our stomachs with our daily use of protein powder. Additionally, they are overall healthier, as most brands do not add artificial sweeteners.
Finally, plant-based protein is not as heavily processed as whey protein. Processing degrades the nutritional and overall quality of the protein. Some have even contained unsafe levels of certain metals.
- Hemp Protein: Most typical consumers haven’t heard of hemp protein, or attach a certain stigma to this protein type based on the fact that hemp is a derivative of cannabis. However, hemp protein has only trace levels of THC, the marijuana ingredient that leads to feeling high, so this type of protein is safe to consume without any side effects.
Hemp has more than just protein, boasting high levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It is also plant-based, so it is easily digested. The negative here is that hemp protein does have a higher calorie count due to high fat content. If you’re trying to lose weight this may not be the best protein for you. Also, due to the fact that growing hemp is illegal in most US States, prices for hemp protein are often higher than other protein powder alternatives, as it needs to be imported.
So, as you can see, there are definitely options when it comes to choosing what type of protein powder you want to add to your health and fitness regimen. Many times it comes down to personal preference. If you’re a vegetarian, obviously the many plant-based options are going to be your go-to. This may be the case as well if you have digestive issues and want to avoid stomach discomfort or excessive flatulence.
In general, plant-based protein is definitely healthier. Not just with low calorie and digestion, but also because it is not heavily processed like whey and casein protein often is. But, if you have a strong stomach and don’t mind processed foods, whey is probably going to be your cheapest option.
The facts are all there. All you have to decide is what you’re looking for. Each supplement is going to give you that protein boost you need to meet your fitness goals. Make your choice, and hit the gym hard!