One of the most common questions we receive from our clientele is about supplementation, specifically what kind of protein powder we recommend. While we are quick to recommend Whey as our protein of choice, it’s easy to understand how this choice can be daunting for those who are new to working out. When you enter any supplement or health food store you are immediately greeted with a large variety of different protein powders. You have Whey, Casein, Soy, Egg, and a slew of plant based proteins from Hemp to Pea protein. It can certainly be overwhelming. While there are many that may choose a plant-based or egg-based protein powder because of dietary restrictions or personal preference, the majority of consumers will pick from Whey, Casein, or Soy.
With that in mind we wanted to take a moment to highlight these three sources and give our pros and cons for each. We hope this information will help you make a more informed decision next time you venture out for some protein powder.
Whey protein is derived from dairy products such as milk and cheese and, it is important to note, that there are 2 main forms of Whey protein. You will likely find both Whey protein concentrate and Whey protein isolate for sale in most supplement stores. Whey protein concentrate is low in fat, has a high biological value and is typically about 75% pure protein by weight. Biological value, or BV, is the measure of the efficiency of a protein and how it can be absorbed and used by the body for growth – the rule being higher is better. Whey protein isolate is whey in its purest form. Isolates are processed to remove fat and lactose. Typically whey protein isolate is about 90%, or more, pure protein by weight and normally has a BV similar to concentrate. The main difference is in the calories and the cost. Expect to spend more for the isolate form of whey.
Whey protein provides the body with the perfect amino acid profile for muscle building, strength and recovery, and is quick digesting-meaning your body can utilize the nutrients faster than with the other two forms. When your body is in a catabolic state, such as right after resistance training, it needs that injection of protein to maximize the benefits of the workout. With this in mind we feel that Whey protein is the best choice for a post workout shake. The downside to Whey protein is that it can have negative effects on those who are lactose intolerant to one degree or another. Isolate is the best choice in this case and there are even some Whey proteins on the market that are formulated to be completely lactose free.
Much like its counterpart in Whey protein, Casein protein is another source derived from dairy. In fact Casein protein makes up about 80% of the protein found in milk. Casein also has a very high BV, meaning the body also absorbs it just as well as Whey. So what’s the difference? The difference is that Casein proteins are digested at a much slower rate than Whey. This means that the amino acids and nutrients provided are released into the blood stream at a sustained rate over several hours rather than immediately. This makes Casein an ideal protein supplement for almost anytime other than immediately following your workout, when your body needs the amino acids and nutrients in a shorter window to begin the repair process.
In our experience, Casein protein is an excellent choice to help your body recover and build muscle while you sleep. Because of Casein’s slower absorption rate, drinking one of these low-calorie shakes before bed will allow your body to digest and absorb the protein while you sleep. This will undoubtedly aid in the recovery process and help provide additional nutrients for your body while it repairs itself from your workouts, whereas typically you might not have anything in your system when you go to sleep. This type of late-night snack is a significantly better option than any snack foods or other processed, quicker digesting, foods you may have lying around the house. Also you will likely be able to wake up and start the day without being starving helping you avoid overeating to start your day.
Soy protein is one that elicits a lot of strong responses either for or against its use. Soy does contain a complete amino acid profile, and in some studies has shown to aid in the development of lean muscle mass in the same way as Whey or Casein, and has even been shown to be an effective post workout shake. Soy is considered to be the only plant-based protein that qualifies as high-quality protein making it the first choice for many who are looking for a plant-based or lactose-free option.
The argument against soy is typically two pronged. One is that Soy is used in many, if not most processed foods because of its relatively cheap cost for manufacturers. So if someone has a diet that has a high consistency of processed foods they are likely consuming a good amount of Soy already. The other argument revolves around claims made that Soy protein intake can affect Testosterone and Estrogen levels in those using it in concentrated doses such as protein powders. These same individuals also speculate that intake can lead to thyroid problems resulting in low energy, and even possibly increase the chance of cancer in women. The true problem with Soy protein is that the studies are all so contradictory and it is hard, or nearly impossible, to know who to trust and who is right. With that in mind, at least at this point, it is our recommendation to limit Soy Protein intake in favor of Whey or Casein. If you are needing a lactose free or vegan friendly protein power we suggest looking into Hemp or Pea protein or one of the many other plant sources that have recently become available on the market.