Choosing the best Protein Powder
With so many types of Protein Powders on the market, it can be confusing trying to choose the best protein powder for your needs.
What makes the best protein powder for you depends on your training goals – whether you’re looking to improve recovery, build muscle or lose fat – and your dietary and religious requirements.
For the vast majority of people a standard off the shelf whey protein powder like is ideal, but if you have more specific requirements you might want to try one of the alternatives below.
Check out the comparison tables and help guide below and we’ll help you determine the best protein powder for your needs.
How is protein is used by the body?
Our bodies use protein in the growth and repair of muscle cells. Consuming the right amounts of protein at the right time can help your body recover quicker and your muscles grow leaner and larger.
Faster recovery means you’ll experience fewer aches and pains and you’ll be able to get back to the gym and push yourself harder, helping further improve your fitness or physique.
How much Protein Powder is needed in my diet when training?
As a general rule of thumb, to gain lean muscle and speed up your recovery after training, you’ll need to consume at least 1g of protein per day for every pound of your body weight.
If you weigh 12 stone (168 pounds), you’ll therefore need to consume at least 168g of protein a day to see basic results.
While it’s possible to get your protein intake from regular foods alone, you would need to spend a small fortune at the supermarket and you’d also take in lots of unwanted fats and carbs in the process.
Protein powders make it possible to load up on protein without loading up on too many fats and carbs, and keep the costs to a reasonable minimum.
They’re quick and easy to mix, whether you’re at home, at work or at the gym, and they taste great so it’s easy to fit them into your diet. The trickiest part is choosing the best protein powder for your personal requirements.
About Different types of Protein?
While protein is found in most foods, not all protein sources are made equal – 1g of premium quality whey protein isolate powder is rather different to 1g of cheaper soy protein powder, and despite its widespread popularity, there are times when another protein source is a better choice than whey.
Some protein sources contain more fats and carbs than others, some have higher levels of beneficial amino acids, and they all vary in their biological value (or BV) which determines how much of the protein your body can utilise.
They also vary in price, and not everyone can use them, depending on their religion and any allergies or intolerances they may have.
What’s the best protein powder for everyday use?
Providing you don’t have any specific dietary or religious reasons not to use it, whey protein is by far the best protein powder for everyday use.
For most people, a standard whey protein concentrate will suffice. It’s cost-effective to use provides good results.
Why are dairy proteins so popular?
Dairy proteins such as whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, milk protein, micellar casein and calcium caseinate are popular for a number of reasons.
Dairy proteins are readily absorbed by the body due to their high bioavailability and they provide a good range of amino acids including lots of important BCAAs and glutamine.
They also generally taste nicer than non-dairy protein, and they’re good value for money, providing large amounts of readily utilised protein for a reasonable price. However, one of the main reasons why they’re used is due to their speed of their digestion – dairy proteins are the best protein powder if you want a slow release.
Why does speed of digestion matter?
One of the reasons you might choose one type of dairy protein other the others is the rate at which it is digested and absorbed into the muscles. The right protein to choose is largely decided by the time of day at which you plan to use your protein powder.
Whey protein is a fast release protein meaning that your body will digest it more quickly than other dairy protein sources and your muscles will be rapidly fuelled with the amino acids required for recovery.
This makes whey protein the best protein powder to choose when you need protein fast, for example immediately after training or in the morning as you won’t have eaten during your sleep. As whey protein isolate is lower in fat and carbohydrates it will be absorbed slightly more quickly than whey protein concentrate.
Micellar Casein and Calcium Caseinate are at the other end of the spectrum in terms of absorption rate. These proteins form a “gel” in the stomach and are digested much more slowly than whey protein.
As they are digested more slowly they keep your amino acids levels raised for a longer period of time than whey protein, making them a good choice before bed and when you are likely to go without food for a number of hours.
Why use a milk protein source instead of regular whey?
Milk protein concentrate is milk protein in the ratio in which it is found naturally in milk. This is approximately 80% casein and 20% whey, meaning that milk protein concentrate has a natural combination of fast and slow release protein; however this is more towards the slow end due to it containing predominantly casein.
Milk protein concentrate is ideal in between meals as the whey will be digested quickly and the casein will be digested more slowly meaning your muscles will have a sustained supply of amino acids.
Milk protein consists of around 20% whey protein and 80% casein protein. While whey protein is released quickly, casein is released much more slowly, making milk protein and casein protein better for use between meals and at night. It’s also a little cheaper to buy.
What’s Micellar Casein?
Micellar Casein is another popular protein derived from milk. Unlike milk protein, which is a mixture of 20% whey and 80% casein, Micellar Casein is pure casein protein and it has different qualities to milk protein.
Micellar Casein provides a better mix of amino acids that some other protein sources, and has similar benefits to milk, in that the higher casein content means the protein is delivered to the body much more slowly, making it particularly good between meals and overnight.
Why choose Calcium Caseinate?
Calcium Caseinate is effectively the next step up from Micellar Casein in terms of its performance. At 90% Calcium Caseinate is higher in protein but contains very low levels of fats and carbs, making it ideal for those aiming to cut fat and gain lean muscle.
It’s comparable to the top-end whey protein isolate, but has undergone more processing to get the protein level so high. The minor drawback is that it’s a little more expensive and it has a slightly chalky taste, which is why some prefer to go with the tastier but lower protein Milk Protein or Micellar Casein instead.
Why use non-dairy proteins?
Non-dairy proteins fall into three main categories: egg protein, meat protein and vegetable protein. They tend to be used most commonly by those who either can’t eat dairy proteins for religious reasons or due to dietary intolerances, but they also have some benefits of their own.
The minor downside is that, as a general rule, non-dairy protein sources aren’t quite so tasty as the dairy ones, which are naturally creamy and nice to drink.
Why use Egg White Protein powder?
Egg White Protein is probably the most readily utilised form of non-dairy protein, scoring 88 on the bioavailability index, compared to 104+ for whey protein and 59 for soy protein. It’s also really low in fats and carbs, making it particularly good if you’re trying to keep body fat levels low.
Egg White Protein is also suitable for those who follow Halal or Kosher diets, it’s dairy, gluten lactose free and it’s suitable for vegetarians. The trade-off is that it’s a little more expensive to use than other non-dairy protein sources and that the taste isn’t as good – but for many these are worthwhile sacrifices given the high protein content and incredibly low fat and carb levels. It has a medium release speed.
Is Soy Protein worth using?
Soy Protein is the most widely used non-dairy protein, mainly because it can be eaten by people who can’t have dairy products or gluten and it’s relatively inexpensive. It works well, but it lacks the digestibility of whey scoring a much lower BV. The benefit comes when you use it alongside whey and milk protein, as the results then are better than whey alone.
What about Brown Rice Protein?
Brown Rice Protein is hypoallergenic and contains no allergens whatsoever. Again, like soy, it’s not as easily digested as whey but is cost effective to use and works well if you can’t use a dairy protein source.
Who should use Paleo Protein?
Paleo Protein is a little different from the other products here in that it’s a protein blend made from Egg White Protein and Beef Protein. It’s designed specifically for those on the Paleo Diet, which restricts the food sources that can be consumed.
While an effective protein source, and one which is free from lactose and gluten, it’s not the sort of product you’d choose for its taste, especially if you’re able to drink whey instead.
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