What's the difference between protein powders?
There are so many different types of protein powders and brands on the market these days that it can be overwhelming finding the right protein powder for you.
Whey, Egg white, Soy, Casein, Hemp, Pea, Brown Rice... What's the difference?
QUICK RELEASING VS. SLOW RELEASING
Protein powders can basically be divided into two categories:
Quick Releasing Protein and Slow Releasing Protein.
QUICK RELEASING PROTEIN
Quick releasing protein (like whey) are ideal for pre-workout. Within 20 minutes of consuming quick release protein, blood amino levels are increased (this is the energy for your workout) and these levels will peak around 90 minutes.
This means your body will have the fuel it needs to get through your entire workout.
Quick releasing protein is also a good option to use in your snack shakes and smoothies. Because of the quick releasing properties, they do a great job at curbing mid-morning or mid-afternoon cravings.
SLOW RELEASING PROTEIN
Slow releasing protein (like casein) is ideal before bed or during the day as a meal replacement. While you sleep, your body goes into rest and recovery mode, which is essential for muscle growth and repairing your body from your workouts.
Slow releasing protein provides your body with the fuel it needs while in a fasted state (sleeping) to repair itself from your workouts.
Slow releasing protein (like egg white protein) is also a great meal replacement option since it takes longer to digest and will keep you full from meal to meal.
TYPES OF PROTEIN POWDERS
(Quick Releasing Protein) Whey protein is one of the most common types of protein powder on the market.
Whey is the most versatile protein powder and can be used for most of the average person's protein powder needs.
If you're new to protein powders, start here.
Because whey is quick releasing, it's ideal for pre-workout fuel. Whey also makes a great option in protein shakes and smoothies. Another benefit of whey is the variety of flavors available on the market.
There are some companies, like Progenex, that also offer Whey recovery protein that also contain some simple sugars and carbohydrates.
This is a nice post workout option because the quick releasing whey, combined with the simple sugars and carbohydrates is exactly what your muscles need to recover post workout.
EGG WHITE PROTEIN
(Slow Releasing Protein) Egg white protein is a good option to use as a meal replacement protein source because it's slow digesting and will keep you full longer than quick releasing protein.
When used as a meal replacement, be sure to add healthy carbohydrates and a healthy fat source to round out your protein shake.
Egg white protein is also a nice option for baking. Use egg white protein in pancakes, protein cookies, protein bars, etc.
(Slow releasing protein) Casein protein is what you want to use before you go to bed.
Casein is a slow releasing protein that can keep you full for 3-5 hours (you can sleep through the night and not wakeup with hunger pangs).
This type of protein is ideal when you're in a fasted state (sleeping) and your body is in rest and recovery. Casein provides your body with the protein necessary to aid muscle growth and repair your body after a tough workout.
Did you know that your body did all of this while you sleep?
PLANT BASED PROTEIN
This category includes all of the vegetarian/vegan proteins and blends such as: soy protein, hemp protein, brown rice protein, pea protein, etc.
Some plant based proteins like soy and brown rice are referred to as slow releasing though they're not nearly as slow releasing as casein. Think of them as comparable to egg white protein, they make good meal replacements.
It's important to note that plant based protein is notoriously bad tasting.
You may have to try several before you find a type and brand that you like. Also, some types of plant protein have a grainy texture and may not be good for texture eaters.
Plant based protein also typically doesn't have as much protein per serving as whey or eggwhite protein. All and all, it's nice that there are options available for vegetarians and vegans.
If you are open to whey protein or eggwhites protein, I would recommend either of those first.
Protein blends can be any combination of protein powders, most commonly a slow release protein powder and a quick release protein powder mixed together.
Common examples are whey-soy blends and casein blends.
Protein blends are used most commonly as a post workout supplement. The quick release protein will give the body the protein it needs right after working out and the slow releasing will provide the body with the protein it needs into recovery.
MEAL REPLACEMENT SHAKES
There are a ton of meal replacement shakes on the market these days: Shakeology, Isagenix, Advocare, etc.
If you're going to implement meal replacement shakes into your daily nutrition, look out for a few things:
- PROTEIN, HEALTHY CARBOHYDRATES, HEALTHY FATS. Make sure they contain a balance of protein, healthy carbs, and healthy fats to constitute a full meal.
- READ THE INGREDIENTS. Make sure you can pronounce all of the ingredients, that it contains minimal sugar, and be aware that more ingredients isn't necessarily better.
- 20g PROTEIN. If the meal replacement shake doesn't have AT LEAST 20g of protein, don't bother and find another one.
I personally do not use packaged meal replacement shakes.
I prefer to make my own meal replacement shakes with my own trusted protein powder, healthy carbohydrates (fruits and vegetables) that I select, and healthy fats (nuts, nut butters, and oils). I prepare my smoothies and shakes in minutes, this is more cost efficient than meal replacement shakes, and I can control the quality of my products.
It's important to me that I know EXACTLY what is in my shake.