The Ultimate Guide To Protein Supplements

The whole protein supplement thing can be confusing. It is clear that protein is essential for good health but when it comes to supplements, what's best? Look no further, we've got all you need to know!

Protein 101

Protein is a macronutrient found in foods like meats, dairy products, nuts, and beans. It is comprised of amino acids, the building blocks of lean tissue and muscle. It is recommended that we get most of our protein from whole food sources but supplements can be helpful when you need to get your protein on the go. Before looking at the pros and cons of certain protein sources, it is important to understand the 2 ways protein supplements are classified: 1. Protein Concentrate vs. Isolate: Protein is derived from various food sources and concentrated by removing all the non protein parts. This gives you a powder that is 70-85% pure protein with the rest being made up of carbs and fats. Isolation takes this a step further and removes even more non protein content. This can yield a protein that is up to 95% pure. 2. Complete vs. Incomplete Protein: Amino acids that cannot be produced by the body are known as essential amino acids. "Complete proteins" contain all nine essential amino acids whereas "incomplete proteins"  contain some, but not all, of the essential amino acids. Now that you've got the skinny on classifications, it is time to look at the types of protein and what it means for you.

1. Whey Protein

This is the most popular variety on the market. Whey is a by-product of the process of turning milk to cheese. Pros:   Whey protein has been shown to promote lean muscle growth and fat loss, as well as support cardiovascular health and a healthy metabolism. Whey is also processed quickly by the body which makes it a great post workout recovery choice. Cons: Lactose, found in milk, can be an allergen for some which makes whey indigestible for some.

2. Casein Protein

Casein is produced using a separation process applied to liquid milk that can concentrate or isolate the milk protein from the carbs and fats. Pros: Casein has similar benefits to whey but with a different release. This protein digests slowly so it is a great choice before bed. Cons: Again, like whey, casein can be an allergen to some. And it isn't ideal post workout because it is absorbed so slowly. It is more expensive than when and often contains additives to make it more palatable.

3. Egg Protein

This is a complete protein that comes from eggs. It is made by separating out the yolks and dehydrating the whites. Pros: Egg protein powders are rich in vitamins and minerals. Cons: Egg protein powder is expensive and like the milk derived proteins, you can be allergic.

4. Soy Protein

Soy beans are one of the few plants that offer all the essential amino acids. Pros: Soy protein may help improve immune function and promote bone health. Soy may also help reduce cardiovascular disease and reduce the risk of certain cancers. Cons: Soy has come under heat lately because it is often genetically modified for a greater yield. Soy has also been singled out for its effects on hormone levels. Many foods are already full of soy because it is a cheap protein so there are questions as to whether or not supplementing with it is a good idea.

5. Rice Protein

Often thought of a carbohydrate, brown rice is becoming the standard source for vegetarian protein powder. Pros: brown rice protein is considered a good source of complex carbohydrates, vitamin B, and fiber. Cons: Rice protein is deficient in some amino acids so it should not be a primary source of protein.

6. Hemp Protein

Hemp protein is derived from the seeds of the cannabis plant. Pros: Hemp is often referred to as super food because it contains all 21 amino acids. It is vegan friendly and hypoallergenic. Cons: Because it is only harvested in mass quantities and in certain countries (because of it's connection to cannabis),  it is often the most expensive protein.

7. Pea Protein

Popular with vegetarians and vegans, this protein comes from yellow split peas. Pros: this one has few additives so it is a go to for those looking to get a protein closest to its whole food state. Cons: It is deficient in some aminos so again, it shouldn't be the primary protein source.

8. Weight Gainer

Weight gainer combines protein, often whey, with a mix of high-carbohydrate ingredients that makes it much more calorie-dense than typical protein powders. It is often used by bodybuilders or serious athletes who have a hard time consuming enough calories. Pros: Allows you to consume more calories than you could through diet alone. Cons: They contain lots of additives, artificial sweeteners and fillers. If you are not using these calories for recovery, they will be stored as fat. Remember, the protein you need depends on your activity level, your size and your gender. With that in mind, bring this list to the protein aisle and narrow down what is the best option for you.

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