Are you struggling with food cravings, or bad sleep, muscle cramps and get sick often?
Protein has so many functions in our body. It is what our cells consist of, not only our muscles. If you are a teenager or over 60, or engaging in frequent sports activities, your protein requirements are much higher than of those individuals spending all day sitting at their desk. As most people struggle to get in enough protein and amino acids with their diet, especially fitness enthusiasts opt for protein powder.
However, when choosing to supplement protein, you should be careful and know which kind of protein powder is best for your body. I hope this guide to supplementation with protein powder will help you find out which kind of protein you need.
Guide to Protein Powders: Who needs them?
Before I explain the different sources of protein powder, let us have a look at who actually needs to supplement with protein. I always recommend to get your protein intake from natural whole foods and only use protein powders once to twice a day maximum.
- Muscle building: If you are strength training, your protein requirements are much higher, as you break down muscle tissue. It is very hard to get all essential amino acids from whole foods, thus using a protein powder once a day can help you get in enough amino acids.
- Growth: Teenagers need more protein to be able to grow.
- Dieting: When you are cutting calories, your hunger hormones can easily get out of balance if you don’t increase protein intake. Protein increases release of Ghrelin, a hormone that decreases hunger and appetite.
- If you are injured: Your body tries to repair its tissue by using amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Thus, your protein requirements will be higher than of healthy individuals.
- If you are vegan: As your intake of plant-based food increases as you go vegan, you will most likely lack amino acids. Thus, a good plant-based protein powder will help you prevent muscle loss and osteoporosis and prevent diseases.
- If you get sick often: Protein, or amino acids, boost our immune system and help improve the activation of our lymphocytes, the immune cells. Thus, if you get sick often, you might benefit of a higher protein intake.
Guide to Protein Powders: Which kind is best for what?
Whey Protein Concentrate
This is the most basic form of protein. It is oftentimes cheaper compared to the other kinds of protein powders and best suited for those starting out.
Make sure to choose a protein that comes from grass-fed cows. Otherwise, your body will not be able to use all those amino acids to build and repair muscle tissue.
Some facilities produce their protein from dead animals. As you can imagine, those amino acids don’t have the same effect in our body as those derived from milk or protein rich plants.
In addition to that, grass-fed protein contains high amounts of Omega-3 essential fatty acids, which is important for heart health, a proper functioning immune system and prevents many metabolic diseases, as well as aiding in weight loss.
If you are lactose-intolerant like me, whey isolate is the best protein for you. Sure, you could choose a plant-based protein powder as well but those do not contain all essential amino acids (unless you are vegan of course).
Whey Isolate is one of the quickest absorbing proteins. It is typically a bit more expensive. This kind of protein is best for those dieting as well. As you are cutting carbohydrates, you might experience trouble in recovery properly. Your body needs essential amino acids to repair muscles and balances hormones as well. As Whey Protein Isolate contains the highest amount of BCAA’s (branched chain amino acids), it will help you sleep better, recover quickly and reduce appetite as well. Again, make sure to choose grass-fed Whey to get all the benefits.
Casein-rich protein is most found in all kinds of dairy products. It is broken down very slowly, over the course of several hours. Thus, it is not suited to refuel your muscles quickly after a workout.
Instead, it is great to reduce hunger when taken either at night or in the morning for breakfast. It takes up to 5-7 hours to fully breakdown this kind of protein and absorb it, thus it will keep you full and satiated for long.
In addition to that, casein protein is great for baking. It makes delicious and fluffy protein pudding, cakes and cookies you can snack on while still staying on track with your nutrition.
Also, casein protein contains a lot of the amino acid glutamine. This amino acid is one of the key amino acids to not only reduce muscle soreness, but also boosts our immune system.
Milk Protein Isolate
This kind of protein is a blend of both casein and whey protein. I like using this in my morning oatmeal to keep me full for the whole day but also supply my muscle with quick digesting whey protein. It is typically a little bit pricey, but worth the money. Again, opt for grass-fed kinds to get all health benefits.
Egg White Powder
Along with Whey Protein, Egg White Protein is the best way to get in as many essential amino acids as possible. Egg albumin is an excellent supplement to reduce muscle soreness, boost immune system, prevent Insulin resistance and improve sleep.
You can either use pure egg white protein powder or simply separate it from egg yolk. Don’t throw away the egg yolks though! You can use them for baking, soups or preparing delicious creamy protein pudding. Also, make sure to use eggs or egg white protein powder from cage-free razed hens.
This source of protein is quick digested as well but it will also keep you fuller for longer than Whey Isolate. It is mostly used for pre- and post-workout nutrition.
Brown rice protein
Brown rice protein is a good source of complex carbohydrates, vitamin B, and fiber. However, make sure to use rice protein from a brand whose products are laboratory-tested, as most rice proteins contain pesticides. These induce cancer and speed up the aging process of our cells.
In addition to that, rice protein does not contain all essential amino acids, thus it is not suited for those looking to get complete protein by using this supplement.
Pea protein comes from the yellow split pea and is very popular among vegetarians and vegans. Pea protein is hypoallergenic and is a great whole-food source. It also tasted much better than rice protein and can be used for baking and preparing protein puddings. However, again, it is not a complete source of protein, as most plant-based proteins.
Hemp protein is derived from the seeds of the cannabis plant. It is one of the only plant-based proteins containing all 21 essential amino acids. It is vegan-friendly and hypoallergenic as well. Aside from its high protein content, it is also suited for those looking to increase their daily intake of essential amino acids. It is higher in calories compared to the other protein sources, but well worth it.
Almond flour/ protein
Almond flour or protein is not a complete source of protein. However, just as hemp protein, it contains a high amount of essential fatty acids and calcium. I love to use almond flour to bake high-protein goods, as it makes the batter very creamy and fluffy.
Soy protein is a good source of protein as well. It contains all essential amino acids and is loaded with glutamine, arginine (helps dilate blood vessels and allows for quicker digestion of nutrients) and BCAA’s.
In addition to that, it helps balance your cholesterol levels. It raises the healthy kinds of cholesterol, HDL, and lowers the bad kind, LDL. The isoflavonoides found in soy are also great to boost thyroid and sexual hormone output. Thus, it can help speed up the metabolism to aid in weight loss.
However, I never recommend anyone to use soy products. I know tofu is one of the main protein sources of many vegans and you can choose yourself what you want to eat. I just want you to know that it is nearly impossible to buy truly organic soy protein products nowadays. Most of them are loaded with additional growth hormones, which increases the phytoestrogen content. This is a plant-based form of estrogen. Too much of this has shown to contribute to breast cancer in women, as well as colon cancer.
If you are able to get fresh soy from the farm, then definitely use it to get your protein from as many different sources as possible.
Sweet lupine flour
Sweet lupine is not well-known, but it is actually a complete source of protein. In addition to its high protein content, it contains complex carbohydrates as well. Thus, it is not suited to be used alone as a protein supplement. I prefer to use it for baking, as it acts as a thickener.
Aside from its high protein content, it contains a lot of vitamin b and fiber as well and is good for mental and heart health. People allergic to peanuts could have problems digesting this kind of protein though, so be careful at first.
How to get enough protein without using animal / dairy products
If you look at the protein powders I explained above, there are plenty of options for you! However, regarding optimal health and accepting the fact that the nutrition industry does not always truly care for our health, I think it is safest to stick to hemp protein and sweet lupine flour, or a vegan blend.
You can use pea protein and increase your consumption of certain vegetables, oatmeal and brown rice as well.
Even if you are not vegan or vegetarian, like me, try to get your protein from as many different sources as possible. Opt for organic meat, wild caught fish and organic eggs. There is no need to overboard here, as all three macronutrients are important to build muscle, lose weight and simply live a healthy lifestyle.
One last thing …
When buying a product online or in the store, make sure to ask the brand to send you the lab test results. If they refuse to give you more information, that is generally a bad sign, so stay away from those brands, even if they claim to be “organic”. Most organic protein powders are very pricey but they are not actually lab-tested and are not officially labeled as organic. So, be careful and don’t shy away from asking for more information. This is your health after all!
Please share this article, if you liked it, and let me know in the comments:
What is your favorite kind of protein powder and which brands do you use?