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The Ultimate Guide to Protein Supplements

May 04, 2018

The popularity of protein supplements in the market is a testament that protein is necessary for a healthy and well-balanced nutrition. When it comes to health and fitness, both exercise and protein are always paired together in order to get the best results possible. Protein is also known to aid in the body’s muscle recovery after a workout which is why it is a staple supplement for athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness enthusiasts.

However, if you want to understand more about protein and what it can do for your health, we’ll give you the most important details. This will also give you an idea of the various sources you can get protein from and which type of protein is the most suitable for you.

The Lowdown on Protein

Protein is a type of macronutrient that is found in various types of food including dairy, meat, nuts, beans, and plants among many others. This nutrient is famously referred to as the building blocks of life. It is packed with essential amino acids that are necessary to promote healthy skin, nails, hair, bones, and muscles.

The amino acids found in protein are not naturally produced by the body. Therefore, making it necessary for you to source these amino acids from food and supplements. A lot of health experts recommend getting protein from whole food sources. However, many prefer to receive their recommended protein intake from supplements as it is easier and more convenient.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that not all protein supplements are equally produced. First, let us identify the different types of protein supplements available for better understanding.

Types of Protein Supplements

1. Protein Concentrate and Isolate

Since protein can be sourced from different types of food, it only becomes concentrated once you remove the non-protein parts. As a result, it is produced in powder form that provides 70% to 85% pure protein. Meanwhile, the 15% to 30% left is made up of carbs and fats.

Protein becomes isolated when a huge percentage of non-protein content is removed during the concentration process. This process creates a pure and high-quality protein that amounts to 95%.

2. Complete and Incomplete Protein

The essential amino acids cannot be produced by the body. Therefore, these nine essential amino acids are referred to as complete proteins. On the other hand, the incomplete proteins contain some of these essential amino acids too but not all.

Below are some of the most commonly used protein powder supplements available in the market.

Protein Supplements: Pros and Cons

Whey Protein

Whey protein is perhaps the most popular type of protein supplement in the market and is used mostly by gym, fitness, and sports enthusiasts. This involves the process of converting milk into cheese.

Pros:

  • Whey Protein helps promote the growth of the body’s lean muscle mass.
  • It supports cardiovascular health and maintains a healthy metabolism.
  • This protein speeds up your body’s fat loss.
  • Since it is easily absorbed by the body, it is often the go-to supplement for most athletes to help their muscle recover faster after each workout.  
  • This type of protein supplement is complete and is inexpensive too.

Cons:

  • Its lactose content is a known common allergen which sometimes makes it hard for the body to digest.  
  • Whey protein may come in various yummy flavors but most of the products in the market are produced with chemicals and artificial sweeteners.

Casein Protein

Casein is a type of protein powder that undergoes a separation process in liquid milk that can either isolate or concentrate the protein from the fats and carbs.

Pros:

  • Casein protein powder provides a number of benefits that are quite similar to whey protein. However, it uses a different process of release.
  • Since casein may be digested over a long period of time, it is one of the best choices for a protein supplement, especially before bedtime.

Cons:

  • Since casein is a by-product of milk, it is also considered as an allergen similar to whey protein.
  • It’s not recommended to be used as a post-workout supplement due to its slow absorption rate. After working out, the body needs nutrients to help resupply, rebuild, and recover the muscles. Therefore, experts recommend using whey protein instead or combining whey with casein protein.
  • This type of protein is more expensive compared to whey and most products often contain artificial ingredients.

Soy Protein

Soybeans are considered as one of the few sources of plant-based protein that provides all the essential amino acids needed by the body. Soy protein is either concentrated or isolated after it has been dried and hulled into a soy flour.

Pros:

  • Soybean protein helps boost the body’s immune system.
  • It promotes healthy bones.
  • Soy prevents signs of cardiovascular disease and minimizes the risk of certain types of cancers.

Cons:

  • Soybeans are often scrutinized because of the genetic modification it goes through in order to produce more harvests.
  • It is known to have effects on hormone levels. Experts question if adding soy protein supplements to your diet is a good choice.

Egg Protein 

Eggs are infused with complete protein. The process involves the separation of the egg yolk and dehydration of the egg whites.

Pros:

  • Egg protein is packed with vitamins and minerals that are essential for a healthy diet.

Cons:

  • Some people are allergic to eggs.
  • Egg protein is considered as one of the most expensive types of protein supplements in the market.

Rice Protein

A lot of people think of rice as a source of carbohydrate. Not all are aware that rice is actually a good source of protein. In fact, brown rice is becoming a popular source of vegetarian protein.

Pros:    

  • Brown rice protein is known as an excellent source of vitamin B, complex carbohydrates, and fiber.
  • Rice protein is considered hypoallergenic and is easy to digest.

Cons:

  • Rice protein is a plant-based protein. However, it doesn’t contain all the essential amino acids.
  • Hence, it shouldn’t be your sole and main source of protein in your daily diet.

Pea Protein

Pea protein is one of the most popular sources of protein for many vegetarians and vegans.

Pros:

  • Similar to most plant-based protein, pea protein is also hypoallergenic.
  • The pea protein is appealing to those who are looking for a source of protein that is somewhat close to whole food sources.
  • This type of protein doesn’t taste bad as you think.

Cons:

  • Isolated pea protein is also considered a complete protein because it is packed with essential amino acids. However, it still lacks specific types of amino acids. Therefore, it should not be used as the main source of your protein diet.

Weight Gainer

What exactly is a weight gainer? A weight gainer is a combination of protein such as whey along with a mix of ingredients that are high in carbohydrates. Compared to other types of protein powders, the weight gainer has thicker calories.

Hence, it is mostly used by bodybuilders who want to gain weight. It is also an ideal supplement for serious athletes who are having a hard time packing up sufficient amounts of calories to replace what they’ve lost during their training.

Pros:

  • Weight gainer is packed with huge amounts of calories.  
  • It allows your body to generate more calories compared to eating food alone.
  • Weight gainer is an economical and practical way to bulk up on calories.

Cons:

  • Weight gainer is produced with tons of additives, fillers, and artificial sweeteners. The main reason is so that users will be able to receive the high calorie and protein content their body needs.
  • However, the high amount of calorie found in weight gainer doesn’t immediately result in gaining more muscle. The extra calories will eventually be stored as fat on your body.

Hemp Protein

Hemp protein is taken from the seeds of a cannabis plant. This type of protein is continuing to become a popular choice of protein source in the past couple of years. The Natera Hemp Protein 369 Vanilla Caramel provides numerous health benefits and acts as an excellent source of fatty omega acids.

Pros:

  • The hemp protein is also popularly referred to as a superfood thanks to its combination of essential fatty acids.
  • Hemp protein is vegan and vegetarian-friendly.
  • It is hypoallergenic and easy to digest.

Cons:

  • Hemp is harvested in mass quantities in selected countries. Therefore, it is one of the most expensive types of protein powder available in the market today.

Which Type of Protein is For You?

Protein supplements are incredibly beneficial for your health. After reading about the different kinds of protein sources available in the market, you now have a general idea of what may or may not work for you. However, be aware that there are low-cost proteins that are infused with inexpensive protein ingredients that may not be easily digested by the body.

Generally, the amount of protein required by the body depends on your size, activity level, and gender. So, how do you know which of these type of protein supplements will work for you best? The best way to find out is to test it.

Remember that consuming protein supplements isn’t intended to replace your whole food nutrition. Instead, it should complement it and add more value to your daily diet.



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