Protein Powders: Knowing Your Options

Supplements are meant to be just that. A supplement should add to a nutritious and balanced diet. With that being stated, it’s not always easy to get all your meals in over the day. Commitments like work and family often make it hard to find time to prepare meals and in these cases, bringing along a shaker cup with a ready to mix protein shake can help bridge the gap to your next meal.

But then what happens? You walk into your local supplement store and are bombarded by hundreds of jugs of protein and a friendly know-it-all sales representative throwing terminology at you that you’re just not familiar with.



Protein comes from several food sources. It is “concentrated” when the non-protein parts are removed. This gives you a protein powder that is 70%-85% pure. The leftover amount is made up of a combination of carbohydrate and fat. This can be purified even more by continuing to remove the non-protein product and “isolating” the protein with up to 95% purity. This gives you the “Whey Isolate”.

Isolate protein absorbs quickly into your system since it doesn’t have the extra macronutrients in it. Overall, it’s the most popular protein on the market and typically consumed immediately after a workout to help muscles begin recovery as soon as possible. It tends to cost a little more than concentrate, but the extra dollars are for a higher quality of protein.

Both isolate and concentrate are products of whey protein. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of whey as well as other types of protein on the market today.


It’s easily the most sold protein powder on the market and has been around for decades. Whey is made by extracting whey curd as milk is converted into cheese.

Pros: The consumption of whey protein after training promotes muscle growth. Its fast absorption allows for quicker muscle recovery and because the industry is so competitive, it’s relatively low-cost when you break down the price per gram compared to beef or fish.

Cons: At the end of the day, this isn’t a real food source. People who are lactose intolerant may have to shop around to find a whey protein that is low in lactose. Also, keep in mind that these same products are filled with a lot of artificial sweeteners and flavouring.


Casein protein is derived from dairy products. Unlike the quick absorption in whey, casein protein is slowly released into the bloodstream and absorbed over a longer period of time.

Pros: Because of its slower time release, casein would be an excellent choice before bedtime. The extended absorption would continuously feed your muscles over a longer period of time while in your sleeping-fasted state.

Cons: Since casein is derived from milk, you’ll find yourself with some digestive problems if you’re sensitive to lactose. As for post workout? This is one to forget about.

After an intense training session, you don’t want a slow release protein source taking its time to replenish your muscles. You need a fast absorbing protein to do the job. If you’re on a budget, casein might not be the best option since it’s typically priced higher than whey.


Well, there’s no secret as to where this type of protein comes from. Mother nature’s greatest gift to bodybuilders is converted into powder by dehydrating egg whites (the yolk is extracted).

Pros: Egg protein has a very high absorption rate in the body. In fact, it boasts the highest absorption out of all the protein sources available at a rate of over 90%. Apart from this, it’s full of many minerals and vitamins that provide us with great health benefits.

Cons: You’re looking at a price increase from casein as egg protein is one of the priciest on the market. Some people might have an allergic reaction to eggs, typically because they are higher in sodium than other protein sources.


Soybean is an anomaly in the world of protein because while it is a plant source, it still contains a complete amino acid profile.

Pros: Soy protein has been showing to help boost the immune system as well as prevent pulmonary diseases. It’s mass produced, which makes it relatively cheaper than most other sources.

Cons: Unfortunately, this mass production raises some eyebrows. GMOs have taken soy production to all new levels and there has been some cause for concern lately as to the nutritional value left in the soy. Also, research has shown soy can raise estrogen levels; so if you’re a guy looking for a protein supplement, soy is probably not the route you want to take.


Hemp protein has become heavily popular over the last few years. It’s very popular with vegans and vegetarians because, like soy, it is a plant-based protein but does not have any hormonal effects.

Pros: Hemp comes from cannabis seeds. It has a wide arrange of healthy fats and is a very high-quality protein. It’s great for vegan, vegetarians and omnivores alike.

Cons: Your wallet will be the first to feel the effects of this protein because hemp is not widely popular or harvested in many countries. It is the most pricey protein powder on the market today.

As you can see, protein supplements are very different. Go with the protein supplement that works for your body and your dietary needs.


Anthony Hill

When you put together the sum total of my 30 years of bodybuilding training, the contests, the vast array of diets I have experimented (tortured) myself with as well as the experiences I have been through with various training partners in the gyms I have trained in all over the world, it’s been a great ride and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to be able to do lots of personal training for private clients alongside my day job. For a few years during my 30’s, I moved to Asia and worked as the Fitness Manager and head personal trainer at one of Thailand’s leading gyms in Bangkok. Learn More

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