The 6 Major Types Of Protein Powder
Once upon a time, protein powders were a staple for body builders, muscle heads and fitness fanatics. Nobody else seemed terribly interested. Times have changed. Women and men of all ages and varying lifestyles are supplementing their diets with one of the many protein powders on the market. Alas, all proteins (and protein powders) were not created equal.
I can say without doubt that at one time or another we all learned the basics of good nutrition. I am equally certain that the vast majority of us have forgotten much of what was taught! In order to understand protein powders, we need to refresh our memories and remember the protein basics. Let’s do a lightning fast review of complete and incomplete proteins, essential amino acids and the like.
Protein is critical to the functioning of the human body. It builds muscle and other body tissues as well as facilitating their repair should they suffer damage. After a strenuous workout, protein provides support to tired muscles and ensures a speedy recovery. Proteins also assist in regulating our metabolism. The production of digestive enzymes, the stabilization of blood sugar levels and other metabolic functions are all affected by the quality and quantity of protein available to us.
Protein occurs in a variety of forms, and most importantly, contains amino acids. There are 20 amino acids the human body needs to survive. Nine of these cannot be manufactured by our own bodies, and hence are known as “essential” amino acids. Essential amino acids include lysine and phenylalanine. Since we need them, but we can’t make them; the best way to get them is to eat them!
A complete protein is one that contains all nine essential amino acids. Meats, seafood, eggs and dairy products are examples of complete proteins. Incomplete proteins are just that; incomplete. They lack one or more of the nine essential amino acids. They must be combined with other foods to ensure we are getting enough of all nine acids. Plant-based protein is usually incomplete. It must be combined with other foods to ensure that our body is receiving all the amino acids it needs.
Here are some of the most common powdered proteins on the market. Some are complete and a few are not. Some are suitable for vegans, and vegetarians, others are derived from dairy and may contain animal by-products. A few may be unsuitable for those who are lactose-intolerant or who suffer from food sensitivities. Here’s the short list…
Dairy products contain two kinds of proteins, whey and casein. Whey is a best-seller, perhaps because many athletes and bodybuilders prefer whey protein powders to others. It’s considered the most effective protein supplement for those looking to build more muscle, while maintaining their existing mass in top form. It’s also a “quick release” protein and is available to muscles immediately after it is taken. Vegetarians need to know that some whey and casein protein powders may contain rennet, an animal by-product used when making cheese.
Also a derivative of dairy products, casein is a complete protein. Casein releases slowly once ingested which makes it a good supplement to take after a workout. It provides a steady supply of protein that your muscles will need for several hours after a workout to prevent tissue damage. The slow release also helps maintain a stable blood sugar level. Casein keeps you feeling full longer, controls food cravings and may help you lose weight.
Soy is unique. It is 100% plant-sourced, complete protein. An excellent protein powder for vegetarians, soy-based protein powders undergo a purification process that produces a 90% protein packed power punch! There may be issues for some women taking soy protein on a regular basis in relatively high doses.
Soy contains compounds that mimic the effect of estrogen on a woman’s metabolism. For older women, especially those in menopause, this may be a good thing. Hot flashes and other symptoms may be reduced. For younger women who take high levels of soy protein powders, their systems may get overloaded with estrogen they produce naturally, and the phytoestrogens in soy.
Brown Rice Protein Powder
Like most plant-based protein powders, brown rice is an incomplete protein. It comes close to complete status, but it lacks lysine. Soy protein does contain lysine so by combining the two a complete, vegan protein powder is possible. It is easy to digest and hypoallergenic, making it a perfect protein powder for those with an easily upset stomach.
Another vegan option, but not considered a complete protein. Hemp also fights inflammation and helps your muscles recover following a workout. Hemp-based protein powders will help keep your heart happily ticking away by lowering cholesterol. Hemp is high in fibre and has lots of omega-3 to boot.
Yellow Pea Protein
Protein powders produced from yellow peas are suitable for vegetarians, low in fat, cholesterol-free and high in the essential amino acid, lysine. Yellow pea protein powders are particularly well-suited to those looking to turn body fat into lean body mass. Cardiovascular health may also be improved given that yellow pea protein contains no cholesterol. It’s also a good option for those with a sensitive stomach and food sensitivities or allergies.
Why Take Protein Powder?
Bumping up your protein intake will help strengthen and improve your muscle performance. During a workout, you’ll have more energy available, burn more calories and improve your endurance. Taking the right combination of protein powders will provide support for your muscles during periods of exertion, and help them recover afterwards. Damaged tissues repair faster when they have access to adequate protein.
Certain protein supplements can help you achieve your weight loss goals. They effectively maintain blood sugar levels, reduce cravings and help with appetite control. Slow-release proteins can be especially effective in helping you convert fat to lean body mass. But not by themselves! A proper diet and regular exercise must be a part of the plan. Protein supplements are a tool to help you get the body you want; they are not a magic bullet.
Increasing your protein intake following an injury, illness or surgery may help you make a speedy recovery. Components in some protein powders support the body’s immune system and may protect against cancer
Are you switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet? You’ll need to pay closer attention to your diet than in the past. While meat, seafood and dairy products contain complete proteins, the vast majority of veggies, fruits and grains do not. By combining a plant-based diet with the appropriate protein powders, you’ll be getting all you need to stay fit.
Protein Powders that Work for Women
Combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise, protein powders can be a powerful weight loss tool. By enabling your body to convert fat into lean muscle more efficiently, you’ll end up with a toned, fit and fantastic figure. IF you stick with it!
Protein powders energize your muscles during workouts. You’re burning more calories and the energy is the result of fat being burned. Sticking with the program long term will help you melt body fat and convert it to lean muscle. Be sure to check the ingredients before you buy any protein powder. Some contain high levels of sugar and artificial flavours which will boost their calorie count. That’s working against your workout and your weight loss goals!
Vegetarian women may prefer soy protein powders as they are one of the few complete plant-based proteins that exist. As mentioned before, soy contains phytoestrogen that mimics the way the female hormone estrogen acts on a woman’s system. But one benefit with soy protein is that it can reduce cholesterol levels in women. You’ll have to weigh the benefits with any perceived risks to decide if soy is the way to go.
Protein Powder For Men
Men looking to build muscle are frequent fans of protein powders. Whey powders are a best seller with body builders and athletes who regularly compete. They release quickly into the system providing an immediate energy burst. To maintain muscle growth (even when you are asleep) a slow-release protein such as casein mixed into a smoothie before bed time may be a good idea. Soy protein releases at moderate rate, and can provide your muscles with all day support.
The types and times when men take protein powders will depend on their workout schedule and fitness goals. Of course, our bodies are unique. We may need to experiment with different products and routines to get optimal results.
How To Choose The Right Protein Powder For You
Identify your needs and decide what you want protein powders to help you achieve. Are you most concerned with losing weight? Or do you want to see body fat transformed into lean muscle? Gaining muscle mass is a priority for many men and women who enjoy lifting weights, or take part in body building competitions.
Certain protein powders can support your immune system following a surgery or illness. Casein in particular contains loads of glutamine, proven to improve the immune system. Anti-oxidants and cancer-fighting properties are characteristic of certain proteins. There are even protein supplements that claim to improve the condition of your skin.
The shelves at your local store are overflowing with protein powders, supplements, shakes and more. Don’t be overwhelmed by the immense range of products, a well-managed store will have staff on hand to help you make a decision. Consult with a personal trainer or dietician. Ask your own doctor a few questions at you next check-up. Whey, soy and brown rice are the best-selling protein powders. But what works best for you will depend on your goals, your schedule, and your body.