In today’s hectic world, protein powder and protein supplements have become an easy way to get high quality protein in a convenient package. There is nothing faster than adding a scoop of protein powder to your drink, oats or post-exercise smoothie to help meet your dietary protein requirements. While food sources of protein are plentiful, protein powders of high biological value (HBV) such as whey, casein and soy do come in handy because they contain all of the essential amino acids needed by the body. Here is what you need to know before you add a scoop to your morning mix.
Whey Protein Powder
Whey protein powder is a prime pick for a post workout drink. A dairy protein, whey protein is the liquid portion that is produced when milk is coagulated. Rich in branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s), particularly leucine, whey protein is considered the “fast-acting” protein as your body can break it down and absorb the nutrients quickly. A long standing choice for active people looking to build and maintain muscle post workout, more recent evidence shows that a good intake of whey protein throughout the day is of benefit as we age to help prevent sarcopenia (age related muscle loss).1
A whey protein concentrate or isolate is your best buy in powder form. Whey protein concentrate is typically 70-80% protein by weight with small amounts of lactose and fat. The isolate is approximately 90% protein with trace amounts of lactose and fat making it the preferred choice for those lactose intolerant but slightly more expensive.
Casein Protein Powder
The prominent protein in a tall glass of milk, casein is found in the semi-solid lumps that form when milk is coagulated and the proteins are divided. A sluggish moving cousin to whey, casein is also a complete protein but clots in the acidic environment of the stomach slowing digestion and delivery of amino acids to the body.
The different amino acid profile in casein helps to decrease muscle breakdown and thanks to its slow absorption, may be more helpful for satiety in long-term weight loss. Take full advantage of the different absorption rates of whey and casein by considering a combined protein powder to maintain proper protein balance and prevent muscle loss.
Soy Protein Powder
A popular choice for many vegetarians, this protein is isolated from the soybean. Soy protein provides all of the amino acids necessary for protein synthesis and repair but is not quite as effective as whey for muscle protein synthesis.1,2,3 Soy may be beneficial for your heart health and menopausal symptoms, but the Canadian Cancer Society does not recommend the use of concentrated soy supplements for breast cancer survivors.4 If a soy protein powder is right for you, purchase a soy protein isolate for its isoflavone properties.
For Further Reading
- The Role of Milk- and Soy-Based Protein in Support of Muscle Protein Synthesis and Muscle Protein Accretion in Young and Elderly Persons. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2009; 28(4):343-54.
- Whey protein supplementation during resistance training augments lean body mass. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2013;32(2):122-35
- Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2009 Sep;107(3):987-92.