Protein is an essential macronutrient that our body needs for normal functioning and Is considered the building blocks of our body’s tissues. Our body uses amino acids, which is protein broken down into its smaller form and is utilized for cell building and muscle mass.

As our society has continued to become more health conscious and aware of important nutrients our body needs, so has the food industry in creating products that can be useful for reaching an individual’s nutrition goals. One product that has been seen to have a continued growth in the field is protein powder.

What is it? Where does it come from? Why would we need it? Below we will dive down into the whole “scoop” on protein powder.

What is Protein Powder?

Protein powder is a dietary supplement that is used to increase overall protein intake and comes in a variety of forms. You may have also heard of a “protein shake,” as it is most commonly consumed as a drink. The three most common ones on the market include whey, casein, and soy.

Protein powder is a great tool to utilize because it can also be used in a variety of ways! It can be used alone by just adding liquid, adding it to smoothies, or it can even be used in soups, oatmeal, or alternative desserts! The product is very versatile and there are many recipes you can find online on how to use protein powder creatively in your routine.

As this nutritional supplement has continued to grow in popularity so has its expansion to tailor toward a variety of people. Growing in popularity include protein powders that are vegetarian and vegan friendly, as well as derived from different sources than the common ones mentioned above.

So What’s the Difference in Protein Powders?

You may be finding yourself wondering what is the difference between all of these different kinds of protein powders and which one is better for me? Well, this is solely dependent on what your nutritional concerns or goals may be! Continue reading to learn about the differences between each kind to help determine which might be the best fit for you.

Whey – This source of protein comes from milk! When cheese is being made it is separated out into curds and a liquid, and this liquid is where we get the whey protein. Whey is digested pretty quickly and provides a good source of amino acids needed for muscle growth. This type is typically found to be inexpensive in comparison to other forms. One importance to note about whey is that it does come from an animal product and can contain some amounts of lactose after being processed. This may not be a good choice for those experiencing dairy allergies or individuals following a vegetarian/vegan diet.

Casein – This type of protein comes from the same as Whey and is the other source of protein found in cow’s milk. While casein does provide similar benefits as whey protein, it does have a slower digestion time meaning it may keep you fuller longer. This product is also derived from animal products, contains lactose, and usually costs more than whey.

Soy – Protein powders made from soy are one of the few plant protein sources that contain all the essential amino acids. Our essential amino acids are important for us to consume in our diet due to our body not being able to make them. This is beneficial not only for muscle growth but other physiological functions and also avoids the consumption of an animal product.

Egg – Just as you thought, this protein source comes from eggs! It is created by separating out the yolk and then the powder is created from the egg white. This protein powder contains many vitamins and minerals that are beneficial for a well-balanced diet. This source does come from animals so it may not be a good choice for individuals who have an egg allergy or have dietary preferences of vegetarian or vegan. It can also be more expensive than other products.

Pea – This protein source is obtained from the yellow split pea and is a great choice for vegetarian and vegan diets. It is known to be a good hypoallergenic source of protein and is minimally processed. While this protein powder does have its benefits, it is important to know that it is not a complete source of amino acids and shouldn’t be a primary source of dietary protein.

Hemp – This protein powder has gained more popularity over the years and is derived from the cannabis plant. Hemp has gained a lot of credibility in the nutrition realm, often coined as a “superfood” due to its variety of beneficial nutritional content. This includes many essential fatty acids necessary for our body’s daily functioning needs. This source of protein is also vegan/vegetarian friendly! Unfortunately, this powder has been commonly viewed as one of the most expensive types on the market.

Why Would I Need Protein Powder?

While most Americans do not have an issue with reaching their daily protein goals, some individuals look for a more convenient source or may have higher needs than others. Protein powder is a great tool for quick and convenient sources of protein and can assist with meeting higher nutritional needs when unable to reach them through diet of whole foods. An example of this could potentially be individuals who are vegetarian/vegan or increased protein needs from physical exercise or training.

When selecting your protein powder, it is important to make sure you are looking at a few things on the nutrition label as well. First and foremost, the amount of protein it provides! Protein powders can provide anywhere from 10-40 grams of protein per scoop. It is important to assess your individual needs and goals to make sure you are getting a product that will be beneficial for you.

It is also important to make sure that you are checking the amount of sugar! While these products are marketed as health products, many contain added sugars to enhance flavors. While carbohydrates are fine and essential to our bodily functions, make sure to select a product that has minimal added sugars in the protein powder.

Regardless of the reason, it is important to do your research and find which one is best for your lifestyle and preference! Still having trouble deciding what is best for you? Contact Lifestyle Medical Center and get your appointment set up today so we can help you with all your nutritional needs!