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What to Look for in a Protein Powder

What to Look for in a Protein Powder

People searching for a way to build a better body have undoubtedly discovered the benefits of protein. There are diets touting the benefits of protein in order to lose weight such as the Atkins and the South Beach diets. Bodybuilders, too, embrace the protein rich diets to encourage muscle production.

There is an ample supply of protein powder options available commercially. Before heading to your local nutrition or health food store, arm yourself with some knowledge about the specific protein powders. The choices can be overwhelming if you’re not prepared in advance.

Whey Protein

Whey concentrate is the most commonly sought protein powder, and, as a result, is the least expensive. Whey protein is also sold in isolate and hydrolyzed form, though they're slightly more expensive than the concentrate because they’ve undergone more processing:

  • Concentrate: Whey is the liquid part of milk. The other part is curd. The liquid whey is filtered and dried, forming concentrated whey protein. Whey is a complete protein, meaning it provides all of the amino acids needed for a healthy diet and body maintenance.
  • Isolate: This is the most purified form of the whey protein. The concentrated form of whey undergoes this process to produce a protein product that has more protein per unit that the concentrated form.
  • Hydrolyzed: Whey can be further broken down through enzymatic hydrolysis. This breaks the whey protein down into smaller fragments, allowing a much speedier digestion and absorption.  This is the best quality whey protein available, and therefore is the most expensive.

Casein Protein

Similar to whey, casein is dairy-derived but it digests slowly in the human body. Casein is best taken right before bedtime, allowing for a slow release of nutrients while you sleep. Casein protein is also a good protein to take in during the day if you’re looking for an appetite suppressant since you’ll feel fuller longer. This isn't an ideal post-workout protein powder.

Soy Protein

Soy Protein

Soy is an excellent source of protein that can stimulate muscle growth after working out. It's primarily consumed by vegetarians rather than bodybuilders. Soy contains isoflavones, which may aid in the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease, but also are thought to interfere with hormone levels. For bodybuilders, the potential risk of testosterone reduction may be unwanted.

Pea Protein

This protein is typically derived from yellow peas. It’s an excellent source of protein for those who are lactose intolerant since it’s completely plant-based. It’s also gluten-free, so it's a good alternative for people who have gastric issues caused from whey. The down side to pea protein is that it is not a complete protein. It’s missing cystine, one of the amino acids.

Hemp Protein

Hemp protein is well-known as a super-food. It’s a complete protein, and is rich in all of the essential fatty acids. It’s also a great source of dietary fiber. It’s derived from hemp seeds which are derived from cannabis. There’s only a limited amount of THC in hemp seeds so there should be no side effects similar to those experienced from using marijuana. Hemp protein is a good choice for vegans because it’s plant-derived. Expect, though, to see a high price tag on this protein powder since it’s mostly imported from outside the U.S.

Brown Rice Protein

This is probably the last choice of protein supplement for most body builders. It's deficient in some amino acids and should be used only as a supplement to a diet that includes other natural sources of protein.  

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