Sources of protein found in most protein powders can be divided into two categories: animal-based and plant-based.
Animal-based protein powders are often made of either whey or casein. Whey comes from the translucent liquid part of milk while casein comes from the top solid portion of milk. Both contain all nine essential amino acids. Other animal-based protein powders are made with egg white protein.
Meanwhile, plant-based protein powders typically include proteins from soy, peas, hemp, rice, chia seeds and/or pumpkin seeds.
Whey Protein Powder
If you opt for a whey protein, consider the form you want to use. In addition to whole protein powder, options include:
- Whey protein concentrate, which excludes water and other minerals from the protein
- Whey protein isolate, a very pure protein source, which excludes all fat and lactose from the protein
- Whey protein hydrolysate, which is often considered a “predigested” form of protein
Casein Protein Powder
About 80% of cow’s milk is made of casein protein, while whey protein makes up the rest. Casein is a slower digesting protein, and because of this, is often taken before bed or before lengthy periods of fasting. Because it takes the body longer to digest casein protein than whey, casein is often a better choice for a meal replacement. Casein protein also contains lactose, which may be an important factor for those with allergies and sensitivities.
Pea Protein Powder
Extracted from green and yellow peas, pea protein is lactose-free and safe for people with milk and dairy allergies or sensitivities. The three types of pea protein extracts include isolates, concentrates and hydrolysates.
While pea protein can offer a boost for athletic performance, it also has the potential to provide other health benefits. Research into pea protein isolate specifically has found that it may assist with lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Organic and Vegan Protein Powder
Those who follow vegan diets may have a tougher time getting the necessary amount of protein, which can make protein supplementation through the use of protein powders important. In addition to pea protein powders, other popular ingredients in vegetarian and vegan protein powders include quinoa and amaranth. Vegetable proteins are incomplete proteins, so choosing a blend of plant proteins, or mutually supplementing, could be the way to go to ensure you’re getting all the amino acids your body needs. One example of this supplementation is mixing bean and rice protein powders together in one smoothie.
Egg White Protein Powder
Produced from dehydrated egg whites, egg white protein powders are low calorie supplements that provide a more easily-digestible and complete source of protein. In addition to helping to promote muscle growth and strength, research indicates that egg white protein powder offers a host of other benefits, including helping to lower cholesterol and improving muscle fatigue and liver function.