High quality whey protein powder is a “complete protein” because it contains all the essential amino acids and more that our body needs. Whey protein is also an excellent source of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) and actually contains more BCAAs than any other known food source. Why is this important? Because during a workout and during any time of exercise, BCAAs are the first amino acids to be used and metabolized into our muscles. Therefore, you need to replenish that supply so you can recover quickly and start rebuilding lean muscle tissue. It is also proven to boost and enhance the immune system which is weakened to some degree during exercise. It is considered by some to be “the perfect protein” which is able to be absorbed and distributed throughout your body quickly so recovery time is rapid. Whey protein leaves the stomach and enters the blood stream faster than other proteins which means more amino acids can make their way to the muscles and muscle protein synthesis and rebuilding can occur quickly.
Soy protein powder is made from soybeans. It is the only plant-based protein and is considered a high quality protein. It is soluble, easily digested, anti-catabolic to muscle tissue, anabolic to bone tissue and performs equal to whey or milk proteins in growth and performance studies. Soy is composed of 30% carbohydrates, 38% protein, 18% oil and 14% moisture. It contains all 9 essential amino acids. Soy protein concentrate is what is essentially left at the completion of the de-fatting process. It contains at least 65% protein and most of the carbohydrates contained in the soybeans. Soy protein isolate is the most pure and refined soy available. It is made from the de-fatted beans, but with most of the other ingredients removed, leaving almost a pure protein source. Some studies have suggested that the phytoestrogens contained in soy protein lead to both unwanted decreased in testosterone and increases in estrogen. The American Heart Association states that soy protein has a more beneficial effect on lowering LDL cholesterol than soy isoflavones, estrogen-like compounds found in the plant. In 1999, the FDA approved the use of labeling soy products stating reduced cardiovascular risks and lowered blood cholesterol benefits with the daily consumption of 25 grams of soy protein. It has also been shown to increase bone mass in postmenopausal women, stabilize blood sugar in type II diabetes and reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancers.
Casein protein is a high quality protein that contains all essential amino acids. It is digested more slowly by the body and provides a steady stream of amino acids to the muscles, long after whey proteins have dropped off. The main benefit of casein protein is its high glutamine content. This is beneficial for bodybuilders and those looking to gain weight because it helps preserve muscle mass and aids immune system function. It is also more thoroughly absorbed by the body because it moves through the digestive tract more slowly than whey protein. Because it digests more slowly, it is an ideal protein to consume before bed time or anytime throughout the day when there will be a prolonged amount of time between meals.
Egg protein is made from egg white making it fat-free and high in protein. It is a perfect source for protein because of its complete makeup of essential amino acids, branched chain amino acids and glutamic acid. It is completely absorbed by the body. It has also been shown to improve recovery from workouts enabling harder and more intense workout routines without the downtime in between.
Rice protein powders are produced by isolating proteins from rice. It provides essential amino acids, vitamins B and E, fiber and carbohydrates. Rice protein powder lacks fat, cholesterol, sugar and sodium. Rice protein powder is hypoallergenic which means it would not irritate the stomach and is easier to digest. So people with gastrointestinal problems or who are lactose intolerant may find rice protein as a great alternative source or protein. For vegetarians, rice protein powder is also a good protein supplement.
These are just some of the differences between the most common types of protein powders available. The key to choosing the right protein powder for you is your overall goal and how you plan to utilize your protein powder to help you achieve that goal. Of course, a well-balanced diet and exercise plan is necessary as well.