Protein Powder Types Explained

Isolates, Concentrates and Hydrolysates… What does all this mean?

BUT WHICH PROTEIN DO I CHOOSE?

With so many scientifically formulated protein products we are inundated with scientific terms like isolates, hydrolysates, whey, casein. Its understandable we start to get confused and wonder which is really best for us.

We have made things a little easier with this simple guide to some of the terms that are thrown about and how they may apply to you and your goals. What you take is important and choosing the right product for the right purpose is essential for getting the best result.

WHEY PROTEIN

The most common protein supplement is whey protein, and for very good reason. Whey protein is made from milk and contains the highest content of essential amino acids for the lowest cost. Whey protein is rapidly digested, which makes it ideal for consumption after a workout when your body needs it most.

Whey protein supplements are broken down into three main types based on how much protein content is available in the supplement. These types in order are Concentrates, Isolates and Hydrolysates. Isolates are the most common type and are generally the best value for money. Some products contain a blend of both Isolates and Hydrolysates.

Whey Protein Concentrates

Concentrates are the least processed form and contain approximately 80% protein. Concentrates also contain the largest amount of non-protein content. They also include some fat and a high lactose content. This form is the cheapest, however can also cause digestive issues, especially for those that are lactose intolerant. This product is suitable for ingestion both before and after your workout.

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Whey Protein Isolates

Protein Isolates are the most common form of protein supplement and are best used post-workout. This form is made by filtering out most of the impurities found in a concentrate including lactose which makes this product far easier to digest. We would recommend using this product post workout as it is digested quickly and available for muscle growth and repair directly after your workout when the body needs it.

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Whey Protein Hydrolysates

Hydrolysates are isolates which have undergone further processing which both removes even more impurities but more importantly pre-digests the product. This means that some of the amino bonds have been broken down which allows your body to absorb the amino acids in the protein supplement more rapidly. Due to the extra processing, this product is usually far more expensive. It also tends to have a slightly bitter taste and this may not be as palatable to some.

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Protein concentrates are the most basic form but also the lowest cost.

  • Protein:
  • Digestion Speed:
  • Fat:
  • Cholesterol:
  • Carbohydrates:
  • Lactose:
  • Usage:
  • Price:

Concentrate

80%

Protein concentrates are the most basic form but also the lowest cost.

  • 80%
  • Moderate
  • Low
  • Low
  • Low
  • High
  • Pre / Post Exercise
  • Low

Isolate

90%

Protein Isolates are refined for better digestion and represent good value.

  • 90%
  • Fast
  • Negligible
  • Negligible
  • Negligible
  • Negligible
  • Post Exercise
  • Medium

Hydrolysate

94+%

Protein Hydrolysates are highly refined for rapid digestion, but expensive.

  • 94+%
  • Very Fast
  • Nil
  • Nil
  • Nil
  • Nil
  • Post Exercise
  • High

CASEIN PROTEIN POWDER

Most milk protein supplements are made from “whey”, but this only makes up about 20% of the protein found in milk. Whey is often used because it’s rapidly digested, so your body can make use of the essential amino acids quickly after exercise for muscle growth. However Casein makes up the other 80% of protein in milk and has unique benefits of its own.

In comparison to whey, casein is not digested quickly. Its peptide and micelle structure are disturbed by the acid in your stomach and this causes the casein to form a gelatinous structure which slows the digestion process. This means that rather than flooding your body with essential amino acids, it forms a steady flow of amino acids over a far longer period of up to 7 hours. While this may not be useful for after a workout, it makes casein ideal for its anti-catabolic effect while sleeping. Use of casein before sleep maintains muscle mass and reduces muscle breakdown during your sleep.

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Directions:

We recommend taking casein protein before bed as it keeps you in an anabolic state, preventing your body from burning muscle tissue for energy.

Usage
Pre-Sleep

Digestion Speed
Very Slow

Absorption Rate
6.1grams / hour

PRO's

Slow Release Protein

Amino Acids are absorbed slowly over a prolonged period of up to seven hours.

Sleep Protein

Casein helps prevent the natural process of muscle cell breakdown while you sleep.

CON's

Post-Exercise Unsuitable

Due to the slow release nature of Casein it is not well suited for use after exercise.

Milk Allergy

As casein is a product of milk, it can cause milk allergy symptoms in some.

EGG PROTEIN POWDER

Eggs have been the favoured source of protein since long before powdered supplements became popular. There is good reason for this, as eggs are the most concentrated naturally occurring source of protein. Athletes have used this bioavailable source to naturally increase their protein intake for more than a century.

Egg protein powder is a complete protein source including all of the essential amino acids. It has no lactose so is ideal for those that are lactose intolerant. Egg protein generally has a very low carb content, no cholesterol and is a high source of vitamins and minerals.

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Directions:

We protein powder sourced from pure egg whites only. Egg protein powder should be used directly after exercise. We also suggest stirring rather than shaking as it tends to froth up excessively.

Usage
Pre/Post Exercise

Digestion Speed
Moderate

Absorption Rate
3.5grams / hour

PRO's

Excellent Nutrition

High in all essential amino acids in addition to vitamins and minerals.

No Nasty Inclusions

Egg protein has no cholesterol, lactose, gluten and is low in carbohydrates.

CON's

Egg Allergies

Egg protein powder can cause issues for those with egg allergies.

Expensive

Egg protein is one of the more expensive protein powder supplements.

BEEF PROTEIN POWDER

Beef protein has become a popular alternative to dairy based protein powders for athletes and bodybuilders alike. It has a complete essential amino acid profile as well as being high in creatine content. This makes beef protein powder an ideal supplement for muscle development.

In addition, beef protein powder is often close to 99% pure in isolate form, with minimal to no fat or cholesterol remaining.

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Directions:

We recommend beef protein for use directly after exercise as it provides exceptional amino acid delivery for muscle repair and growth.

Usage
Post Exercise

Digestion Speed
Moderate to Fast

Amino Acid Absorbtion
3.5grams / hour

PRO's

Low Alergenic

Beef protein powder provides a low allergenic alternative to whey powders.

High Creatine Content

The high creatine content is especially beneficial in promoting strength and endurance.

CON's

Difficult To Mix

Beef powders can sometimes be difficult to mix into shakes and require blending.

Poor Taste

Beef protein powder tends to have a poor taste.

SOY PROTEIN POWDER

Soy protein powder is perhaps the best plant based source of protein worth considering. As an abundantly available low cost protein source, its also has one of the best amino acid profiles. It includes all of the essential amino acids that your body needs.

In studies it has been shown to perform comparably with whey protein in terms of promoting muscle growth. It has also been shown that the isoflavones in soy protein can help reduce the risk of cancer as well as cardiovascular disease.

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Directions:

We recommend soy protein powder be used either before or after exercise. We should also note that soy has been shown to effect hormone levels including testosterone levels. Excessive intake of soy products is not recommended.

Usage
Pre/Post Exercise

Digestion Speed
Moderate to Fast

Amino Acid Absorbtion
3.9grams / hour

PRO's

Best Vegan Protein

Soy has the best amino acid profile for those looking for a vegan option.

Health Bonus

Soy boosts your immune system and helps prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer.

CON's

Hormone Effects

Excessive use can effect hormone levels including testosterone.

Genetically Modified

Some products contain soy sourced from genetically modified crops.

PEA PROTEIN POWDER

Many would dismiss the humble pea for their protein source, but pea sourced protein has a lot going for it. Not only is it fat, cholesterol, gluten and lactose free, but it has high levels of amino acids.

Pea protein powder is especially rich in lysine and glutamine. However while it does contain all essential amino acids, it is very deficient in certain amino acids and should not be used as a primary source. We would recommend using a blended product or using multiple products to ensure a good supply of all the essential amino acids. If you are looking for a hypoallergenic protein powder, this is one to consider.

In order to get the full benefit of all of the essential amino acids we recommend combining rice and pea protein. These two proteins compliment each other and provide a good balance of the essential amino acids needed.

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Directions:

We recommend using this protein powder before or after exercise. It can also be used to reduce hunger as a weight loss product. In addition we suggest combining pea with rice protein for a complete amino acid profile.

Usage
Pre/Post Exercise

Digestion Speed
Slow – Moderate

Amino Acid Absorbtion
3.4grams / hour

PRO's

No Nasties

Pea protein powder has no fat, cholesterol, gluten or lactose.

Rich In Amino Acids

Pea protein has very high levels of Lysine, Leucine and Glutamine.

CON's

Amino Acid Profile

Pea protein is very low in Tyrosine, Threonine and Methionine.

Low Bioavailability

Pea protein is not digested as easily as whey and even other vegan products.

BROWN RICE PROTEIN POWDER

While you would have to eat more than just a bowl of rice to gain any real benefit, brown rice protein powder surprisingly does work. In studies it has been shown to offer similar benefits to whey protein powder.

However rice protein powder tends to be very low in some amino acids, especially lysine. So while this powder can be an economical choice, we wouldn’t recommend using it as a sole protein supplement. We recommend using it with other sources of protein to ensure you are not missing out on some important essential amino acids.

In order to get the full benefit of all of the essential amino acids we recommend combining rice and pea protein. These two proteins compliment each other and provide a good balance of the essential amino acids needed.

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Directions:

We recommend rice protein powder be taken after exercise. In addition we suggest combining it with pea protein for a complete amino acid profile.

Usage
Pre/Post Exercise

Digestion Speed
Moderate

PRO's

High Bioavailability

Rice protein is highly digestible and ranks as the best digesting of all vegan protein powders.

No Nasty Inclusions

Rice protein has no cholesterol, lactose, gluten and is low in carbohydrates.

CON's

Amino Acid Profile

Rice protein is low in essential amino acids Lysine, Histidine and Tryptophan.

Genetically Modified

Some products contain rice sourced from genetically modified crops.

HEMP PROTEIN POWDER

Hemp sourced protein might seem like an unusual option, but has some unique properties which make it an option worth considering. Hemp protein powder is high in fibre in addition to its protein content.

Hemp includes all of the essential amino acids your body needs. It also proves to be a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Hemp protein has also been shown to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and helps bolster your immune system. On the downside, hemp protein powder can be quite expensive due to its limited source.

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Directions:

We recommend using hemp protein directly before and after exercise due to its slow absorption rate as compared with other protein powders. We also would recommend not using hemp protein powder as your only protein powder supplement.

Usage
Pre/Post Exercise

Digestion Speed
Slow

PRO's

Rich In Fatty Acids

Hemp is high in essential fatty acids which is why its often referred to as a superfood.

Hypoallergenic

Hemp is extremely hypoallergenic, so makes a great choice for those with many allergies.

CON's

Expensive

Hemp can be quite expensive due to legislation of many countries preventing crops.

Poor Texture

Hemp can have a gritty texture which also effects its solubility.