These days, sports supplements have flooded the market. Promising better workouts, bigger muscles, and flatter stomachs. It can be difficult deciphering the good from the bad and figuring out what’s best for you and your body.
One of the mainstays of the ever-evolving world of supplements are protein powders, and luckily for you, a basic protein powder is one of the best places to start when it comes to fuelling your workouts.
But what is the best protein powder, and which one is right for you? What vegan options are there? What are the pros and cons of rice protein?
Yes, the number of options out there can seem daunting at first glance, but in this article, we will help break down the details of the various types of protein supplements and help you figure out which one is best for your needs.
Probably the most recognised and popular forms of protein on this list. Whey is a by-product in the process of turning milk into cheese.
According to research whey protein has one of the best quality amino acid profiles and has been shown to stimulate muscles protein synthesis to a much greater extent than other forms such as soy or casein.
One downside to whey protein is that it contains lactose, a milk sugar that a lot of people have trouble digesting.
However, while whey protein concentrate retains some lactose, the isolate version contains far less, as most of the milk sugar is lost in the refining process.
Like whey, casein is a protein found in milk. The primary difference between the two is that casein is digested and absorbed at a much slower rate.
As casein interacts with stomach acid it forms a gel, slowing down stomach emptying and delaying your bodies absorption of amino acids.
Although previous research has shown that casein does not stimulate muscle protein synthesis to the same degree as whey, casein has been shown to better reduce whole-body protein breakdown.
Therefore, casein protein is a great option to take before bed, as we go for long a long period without food, or for those trying to slim down without muscle loss.
Egg protein is a great alternative for those with lactose intolerances or milk allergies, but who do not mind a supplement based on animal proteins.
Like all animal products, eggs are a complete protein source. Containing all nine of the essential amino acids that your body cannot make itself.
Egg protein also contains some of the highest levels of leucine (second only to whey) the amino acid that plays the largest role in muscle health and development.
Soy protein is made from soybean flakes that have had their fat removed. It is one of the only plant-based proteins considered to be a complete protein, as it contains all the nine essential amino acids.
However, soy protein is often avoided in the bodybuilding community because of its high phytoestrogen content. Which in large quantities is thought to have adverse effects on testosterone levels.
While soy protein may not be ideal for males because of its effects on testosterone and estrogen levels, research has shown that it may be beneficial for the elderly, and those with an increased risk for heart disease or reduced bone density.
Made from, you guessed it, rice! Like soy, rice protein contains all the essential amino acids needed for muscle growth. However, it is classed as an incomplete protein due to the low levels of one of these acids, lysine.
Although there isn’t a lot of research available on the effects of rice protein, it is generally considered to be inferior to whey when it comes to muscle growth.
Mixed Plant Proteins
Although all animal proteins are complete, containing all the essential amino acids required for muscle growth and repair, unfortunately, plant-based proteins are not.
This means that for those on vegetarian or vegan diets, it can be a much harder task to increase muscle mass.
Luckily, advancements in research have shown that by combining certain plant-based proteins with enzymes, the rates of digestion and muscle protein synthesis can be greatly increased.
Therefore, although any one plant protein source may not stack up to the likes of whey or egg proteins, blended plant protein powders may do the trick. Combining rice protein with pea protein, for example, gives you something akin to whey.
The protein powder that’s best for you will vary depending on your needs and lifestyle, but in short:
- Whey protein is the best option for muscle growth due to its high leucine content and rapid breakdown.
- Casein is beneficial for preventing muscle breakdown and encouraging recovery when taken before bed.
- Egg protein is great for those that may not be able to easily digest casein or whey.
- Soy protein is a good option for the elderly, but possibly not young men aiming for performance.
- Although rice protein is a decent option for vegan athletes, it is best to go for a blended plant protein over any singular plant alternative.