Whether you are new to the fitness industry or you have been visiting supplement shops for years, you have likely gone through the search for the best protein product out there. If you check out online websites and vitamin shops, you will find that not only is there a variety of brands but also a variety of types. This can make choosing the right protein for you a little more difficult. Couple that with the fact that there is a lot of conflicting information out there when you search the internet, and you can see that you may never find your answer. The truth is, when it comes to choosing the best protein it depends on the individual goal.
The main protein powders that are sold are Whey protein, Casein Protein, Soy Protein, and Egg Protein. Other proteins that are becoming more popular are plant-based protein products and collagen protein. Within these types of powders, there are also subcategories. For this article, we will focus on the first four mentioned as they are the more commonly used protein products.
Whey protein is a milk protein. Whey is separated from other components of milk when a coagulant is added. At this point, whey protein is in a liquid form where it can be pasteurized and dried, turning it into a powder. Whey protein can then go through various filtration techniques as well as ion exchange to give us the various whey protein products that we have today. The most common whey protein supplements are:
- Whey Protein Concentrate: This form of whey protein contains a lower percentage of protein and a higher amount of other ingredients like lactose, fat, and other minerals.
- Whey Protein Isolate: This form of whey protein is much more pure form meaning that is has gone through filtration to make sure it contains a higher percentage of protein and lower amounts of lactose and fat.
- Whey Protein Hydrolysate: This form of whey protein has had certain components known as protein polypeptides broken down to allow for easier digestion.
Together, whey protein is considered a complete protein meaning that it contains all of the essential amino acids.
Casein protein is also a milk protein but it comes from the “curds” that are left during the separation process mentioned regarding whey. Casein is actually the same part of milk that is used to make cheese! Or they can go through a drying process to result in casein protein powder. The two most common forms of casein protein are:
- Micellar Casein: This type of casein protein has not been manipulated to alter digestion speed.
- Hydrolyzed Casein: This type of casein protein, like its whey protein counterpart, has had its polypeptides broken down to allow for easier digestion.
Casein protein like whey protein is also a complete protein.
Soy protein is very common in the vegetarian and vegan community. However, it also used by others. Soy protein easily enough is a protein that is isolated from soybeans. Soy protein also comes in several different forms:
- Soy Protein Concentrate: What is left after the de-fatting process
- Soy Protein Isolate: Refined, resulting in a greater percentage of protein.
Soy protein, like whey and casein, is also a complete protein.
Egg protein, like it sounds, is made from eggs. It is made from isolating the whites of eggs and drying them into a powder. Most egg supplements only use egg whites but some products do include the yolk.
Choosing the Best Protein
When it comes to choosing the best protein, it really comes down to the preference of the person. If you are someone who is focusing on post workout nutrition and nutrient timing (a topic for another day) then you may consider whey protein to be your best protein since it is the most rapidly absorbed. To take that a step further, if you are looking for the most rapidly absorbed, then you will want to consider the hydrolysate or the isolate. However, these proteins are more expensive compared to their concentrate counterpart.
However, if you are looking for a slower digesting protein that may allow you to feel full longer, than casein protein may be the best protein for you. Studies have shown that casein protein is a much slower digesting protein compared to whey.
When it comes to muscle building, many think that whey protein is the best protein available because of its digestion rate. However, it is worth considering that egg protein has been reported to contain 10-20% more leucine compared to other proteins. Leucine is an amino acid that is responsible for activating a process known as muscle protein synthesis. This process results in muscle building.
If you are a vegetarian or vegan then, of course, soy protein could be a great option for you. Also, those sensitive to whey or lactose may benefit from a soy protein product. One of the main hesitations with soy protein is that it contains phytoestrogens or little compounds that could increase estrogen levels. This obviously scares most men away from these products. However, it is speculated that because of this, soy protein could be a great option for women enter the menopausal years of their lives.
Protein blends are also now becoming rather popular. However, there is not a whole of research out there demonstrating these blends as being superior to the individual protein types.
Regardless of the protein type, it is important to consider the brand being used and the quality of the protein. Companies in the industry are now being found guilty for using a process known as nitrogen spiking or protein spiking. When a product is measured for its protein content, they are actually measuring for nitrogen content. Companies have found that if they add cheap amino acids to their protein products they can increase nitrogen content thus allowing them to promote their product as having a certain amount of protein that it may not actually have. To watch out for this, be sure to check the ingredients and look for cheap amino acids like creatine.
It is important to reiterate that when it comes to the best protein powder, it is important to consider not only the individual person but the goal of that person. For many, it may take some self-experimenting to figure out which protein is best for you. Another important aspect to note is that it may be worth mixing up your proteins to prevent yourself from becoming intolerant. It is not uncommon for individuals who consume a lot of whey protein to develop gastrointestinal issues when taking this product. Moral of the story is that it will take some time to find out which protein is best for you.