- Health Benefits
- Weight Gain
- Types of Protein Powder
- Potential Risks
According to nutritionists, whey protein isolate (WPI) is the most effective type of protein powder, as long as you do not have a whey protein allergy or kidney disorder.
The best protein powder for you depends on factors such as your dietary preferences, tolerance to different types of protein, health goals, and any underlying health conditions. When looking for a protein powder, make sure it provides all 9 essential amino acids without extra fats or carbohydrates, and that it does not contain any harmful ingredients or contaminants.
What are the health benefits of protein powder?
Although the best way to meet your nutritional requirements—including protein needs—is through a balanced diet, protein powder is an option if that is not possible.
Potential health benefits of protein powder include the following:
- Helps you stay fuller for longer
- Helps you recover faster from a workout
- Helps you gain muscle mass
- Improves stamina and exercise performance
- Provides you with a higher amount of protein with fewer calories (one scoop of whey protein isolate contains about 25 grams of protein with about 150 calories)
Does protein powder cause you to gain weight?
Protein powder will not necessarily make you gain weight. However, it does contain calories—meaning that if you are consuming more calories than you are burning, you may end up gaining weight.
For example, if you need 1,800 calories a day to maintain your weight and you take two scoops of protein powder (about 300 calories) on a daily basis, your total caloric needs for the rest of the day are 1,500 calories. Consuming more than that may result in weight gain.
In some cases, you may experience weight gain despite restricting calories and exercises due to increased muscle mass. This is good weight gain, which you can track based on your body fat percentage and muscle mass.
What are different types of whey protein?
Animal-based protein powder is mainly derived from milk or eggs. Whey protein is derived from whey, which is the watery liquid that separates from curds during cheese-making, and may be from either cow or goat. Those who are sensitive to cow’s milk may find whey protein from goat milk easier to digest.
Whey contains all essential amino acids, including branch chain amino acids. Since it is absorbed quickly, it is a great pre- or post-workout choice for boosting muscle growth and athletic performance.
Whey protein isolate (WPI)
WPI is the purest form of whey, providing at least 90% of protein content per unit weight. It is therefore often more expensive than other forms of whey protein, but it is easily digested and tolerated by most people.
Because it is a quick source of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, it is suitable for sports and fitness enthusiasts. WPI provides fewer carbs and fats and has a lower lactose composition than less processed forms of whey protein. Because WPI is low in carbs, it is also suitable for weight-watchers, people with diabetes, and those following a keto or low-carb diet plan.
Whey protein concentrate (WPC)
WPC is a less processed and inexpensive form of whey protein that contains about 30%-90% of protein, and as such has a higher content of carbohydrates and fats than WPI.
WPC is generally used in protein bars and beverages, bakery products, and nutritional food products. It may not be suitable for weight-watchers, people with diabetes, and those following a keto or low-carb diet plan.
Whey protein hydrolysate (WPH)
WPH is the most processed variety of whey protein. The processing involves protein breakdown or hydrolysis, allowing it to be absorbed more easily. Hydrolysis reduces the likelihood of allergic reactions without compromising the protein quality. WPH is generally used in infant formula and products meant for medical use or sports.
What is casein protein powder?
Casein protein powder is another milk-based protein supplement that provides various essential amino acids such as whey protein. Unlike whey protein, however, it is digested slowly and therefore cannot give a rapid protein boost to the muscles right after a workout.
It does, however, keep you full for longer, making it suitable for fasting or intermittent fasting.
Which protein powder is best for vegans?
Vegans often find meeting protein demands difficult. However, plant-based protein powders may help, and can also be suitable for those who are lactose intolerant or unable to properly digest milk protein.
Common sources of plant-based protein powder include pea, hemp, rice, soy, and chia. They provide a boost of fiber along with protein and are reported to be more easily digested.
However, not all plant protein powders contain all essential amino acids, you may need to look for a blend in order to get all 9 essential amino acids.
What are the risks of protein powders?
It’s important to remember that the FDA doesn't regulate dietary supplements, including protein powder, as strictly as pharmaceuticals. Some protein powders may contain harmful substances such as heavy metals and pesticides or added sugars or sweeteners.
Therefore, when choosing a protein powder, make sure that it contains the desired amount of protein, carbs, fat, and calories without contaminants or unhealthy additives. Research the manufacturer to make sure they have taken appropriate precautions to reduce the risk of contamination and that their products have undergone third-party testing.
Since some protein powders can interact with certain medications, make sure to consult your doctor before starting any supplement regimen.
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