Protein is the nutritent that builds & maintains muscle mass. Without enough of it, your body will begin to use muscle as an energy source.
A high protein diet can seem quite daunting, which is why many people use protein supplements & shakes to help them hit their protein requirements.
But what exactly is in your ‘protein shake’ and are all protein supplements created equal?
Traditionally ‘bro’ lifters have been slamming down their post workout whey and pre-bed casein shakes. But there are a ton of different types of protein powder available. These different types of protein have different tastes, textures, amino acids profiles and usages.
Today I want to take a look at the different types protein powders available, and explain what each is most commonly used for.
Whey protein is by far the most popular type of protein available and for good reason. It’s available in almost every conceivable flavour and is hugely versatile. Last time I checked, MyProtein’s range of whey supplements has over 50 flavours to pick from. The other cheap bulk suppliers are following in suit with their own unique range of flavours. Cherry Bakewell whey anyone?
It’s great for baking as well as adding to dairy products, or making high protein oatmeal.
There are two common sub varieties of whey protein – concentrate and isolate, with a 3rd, slightly less well known type – hyrolysed. Our beginners guide to whey protein covers everything you need to know about the differences between these types of whey.
You can even buy whey blends, which contain a mixture of concentrate, isolate and hydrolysed. True Whey from Myprotein was the first whey blend I used, however my current go to whey blend is Dynapro Anytime from Protein Dynamix.
Casein is a slower digesting protein which can help to keep you feeling fuller for longer. Casein was touted heavily throughout the 90’s and 00’s to be an essential pre-bed snack. However in more recent times, the overall protein consumption throughout the day has disproved the need for casein somewhat.
That being said, there is no denying that casein is a slow releasing protein, so (call this bro science if you like) if you want to take it before bed, when you know you won’t be ingesting any further protein for anywhere from 6-10hours, then go a head – it won’t do any harm.
Casein is denser than whey which will give you a thicker shake so you will need to add more water to compensate for this. I never drink casein protein. Instead I make it into a protein dessert, as you can see below. As a drink it’s too grainy. However, casein makes a perfect, high volume protein dessert.
Similarly when adding it to dairy or baked goods it will dry out your mixture and you will therefore need to water it down or adjust your other ingredients accordingly. Casein can be reluctant to mix with dairy products such as fromage frais, quark and yogurt and might require a bit of whisking.
It can be used to make really good home-made ice cream though!
Changing grears to medium releasing types of protein, Egg protein would be the most popular. It is slower digesting than whey, and faster than casein.
Old school bodybuilders used (and continue to use) egg whites as a staple part of their diet.
Eggs contain good levels of protein but also vitamins & minerals. An egg protein supplement is essentially powdered egg whites so you won’t get the full vitamin content of a whole egg (as this is mostly in the yolk).
There is not much of a selection to choose from with egg protein supplements, and the cost is relatively high in comparison to whey. Egg protein is more commonly found in protein blends, as opposed to bags of it on its own.
Soy protein has been given a bad rap recently with many claiming that soy plays havoc with hormone levels. There is insufficient data at the moment to worry too much about this but if you are concerned then try and limit your intake and vary your protein sources.
Soy protein is often added to packaged high protein products to boost the protein content due to its relatively low cost.
Many “high protein” snacks such as cookies, bars, brownies etc will contain Soy. The most recent bar i’ve had in which soy was the dominant protein source, was the Dynabar.
Soy protein does have a full amino acid profile making it a complete protein source and is a good option for vegans or those with lactose intolerance.
Rice protein is not a complete protein source as it does not contain all of the amino acids. This means that it is not an ideal choice as your primary protein source. However it is ideal for anyone looking to avoid gluten, eggs, dairy and soy. Although there is no reason to avoid these things unless you have a specific issue with them.
It’s pretty pricey stuff too, especially considering it comes unflavoured and is far from tasty. Not only that but it doesn’t mix well so rice protein is probably best used as a baking ingredient.
Don’t worry, dude! Although hemp protein is made from cannabis seeds, you’re not going to get high or get the munchies from using it.
Due to restrictions on growing hemp (for obvious reasons) the cost is pretty high. Another disappointing protein powder if you’re looking for taste as it comes unflavoured from most major suppliers.
It is however naturally high in nutrients if that is something that ever crosses your mind when buying protein. Best suited to hippies and those that insist on only consuming things that are ‘natural’.
It’s actually made from yellow split peas rather than the things you find on your plate every Sunday with your roast dinner. Being a plant based protein again makes it good for those with allergies but it does mean it is quite low in certain amino acids.
As with many of the other, less popular proteins it comes unflavoured so is not ideal for your regular shake or protein concoction.
Where it differs to the other plant based proteins though is the price. It is similarly priced to whey so those with allergies and a tight budget might want to look into pea protein.
Picking The Right Type Of Protein Powder
The “right” protein will be dictated by your own personal needs, food allergies, and need for protein (consumption – or baking).
This list has looked at different types of protein shakes, powders & supplements.
As a general rule of thumb, i always advise a beginner to go for a whey protein concentrate. These typically contain 80% protein, and contains everything you need in a protein supplement. A high quality protein source, full amino acid profile, variety of flavours, and a convenient way to increase your protein intake.
Its the most affordable & readily available protein supplement on the market. Any of the bulk suppliers in the UK sell whey protein concentrate, so it comes down to which you currently have an account for, which has the flavour you want, or which is the cheapest. Impact Whey is probably the most popular, however any from the big UK retailers will do. You can check out our full range of supplement discount codes for all the big protein suppliers to get it for the cheapest price.
If you find you struggle to digest they concentrate, then look for an isolate, its a slightly better quality, contains a higher protein count, with less fat and carbs. It is slightly pricier however.
I like casein, as it does make a good dessert. The majority of the other proteins i would only personally buy if i was following a protein recipe that called for that specific type of protein powder.
Remember – all of these different types of protein powders aren’t special. They dont make you sprout muscles in places most people don’t have places. A protein supplement won’t make you a fitness model or champion bodybuilder.
Think of each of these different types of protein powder as you would a food source. Nothing more, nothing less.