Many of us have been told the benefits of eating protein in the past. Protein is one of the big three macronutrients along with Fats and Carbohydrates. You’re probably aware that dietary protein provides the necessary components for muscle repair and tissue regeneration. Despite our knowledge and understanding of the benefits of protein many of us still fall short of getting adequate protein on a daily basis. Protein supplementation can help to round out your nutrition and fill in any gaps.
Now, when you think about protein supplementation you may be conjuring up images of muscle-bound meatheads mixing powders in shaker bottles while calling each other “bro” at the gym. The truth is that protein is essential for recovery and helps maintain lean tissue and body composition. So you don’t have to be a bodybuilder to benefit from taking a supplement. Read on to see a further break down of the different verities of protein supplements that are out there.
Whey is the liquid material created as a by-product of cheese production. The Whey then undergoes a process to isolate the globular proteins and this becomes the powder that can be flavored, packaged and purchased. It is a fast absorbing form of protein making it ideal for post workout and recovery and is usually much lower in lactose than regular milk products meaning easier digestion. Since it is a milk-based protein some brands may contain hormones and additives from the milk cow’s food supply. Go with a Grass Fed Whey option whenever possible even if it means spending a little more.
Rice protein is a vegetarian alternative to whey. Rice protein comes from treating brown rice with enzymes that cause carbohydrates to separate from proteins. The protein powder is than flavored and packaged for use in smoothies or on its own just like more common whey proteins. Rice protein tends to have a very distinct flavor that can be difficult to cover even with added flavors. Check your ingredients label to avoid artificial chemicals, sweeteners, and additives.
Extracted from the yellow pea, this protein option has an amino acid profile similar to legumes. This can also be a good alternative to whey. On the downside it tends to have a slightly gritty or sandy texture. Often times some type of oil will be mixed with the protein powder to give a smoother texture. As always check the ingredient label to see what type of oils are being added to the protein.
Beef Protein Isolate
Ever heard of gelatin? It’s the throwaway parts of the cow, essentially joints, ligaments, hide, ears, and any other parts left over after the butcher is finished. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? It might sound gross and bizarre but gelatin is usually the primary ingredient in most Beef Proteins. They take the gelatin, turn it into a powder, add creatine and BCAA’s along with flavoring and PRESTO: Beef Protein Isolate. Considering the origin of this protein source not being the highest quality to begin with, you’d be better off eating 6-8 oz. of sirloin.
Here you have the isolated protein from soybeans. It is made from soybean meal that has been dehulled and defatted. I’ve written before about the potentially negative side effects of soy protein including increased estrogen levels, hormonal imbalances, and possible increased risk for some types of cancer in women. I recommend staying away from this form all together. Although soy is extremely common in most packaged protein bars, some whey powders will include a soy/whey blend to cut costs. Be careful and always read the labels.
Overall, whey protein tends to be the most popular of protein powder supplements due to it being a high quality, complete, and fast absorbing protein. If you are sensitive to whey or have GI distress as a result of taking then I am partial to pea and rice alternatives. As always go with the highest quality possible. If using whey select a grass fed option. When using vegetarian protein go with organic as much as possible. Check your labels. This may sound redundant but most protein supplements contain a laundry list of artificial chemicals, preservatives, and additives. If you can’t pronounce it you probably shouldn’t be eating it.
If you are looking for a recommended brand, I personally am partial to Thorne Research Products. They are a reputable company with high purity standards.