Protein powder has immensely grown in popularity— not only in body builders and elite athletes, but also in the general population. Everyone is always talking about protein—discussing questions related to the “what”, the “when” and the “how much”. These questions are often complex and difficult to answer. With that being said, the goal of this article is to help you better understand the “ins” and “outs” of protein powder—everything from the different forms to the different types of protein.
First, it would be best to define what protein powder is—which is simply a powdered form of protein available as a protein concentrate, isolate, or hydrolysate (1).
Protein concentrates are produced by separating protein from whole foods using heat and acid or enzymes. They typically contain 60-80% of calories from protein and approximately 20-30% of calories from fat and carbohydrates (2).
Protein isolate powders go through an additional filtration that removes additional fats and carbohydrates in order to further concentrate the protein to make up 90-95% of the powder (2)
Protein hydrolysates are produced by further heating with acid or enzymes, which breaks the bonds between amino acids to allow for quick absorption (2). Due to its quicker absorption, casein hydrolysate has also been shown to be approximately 30% more effective in stimulating muscle protein synthesis than intact casein (3).
Protein hydrolysates are commonly used to induce rapid increases in plasma amino acids before, during, and after exercising, which can maximize muscle protein anabolism and serve as an aid for recovery (3). Additional research has also shown protein hydrolysates to have an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect on the body (4).
Protein powders do not only come in different forms but also in different types, such as whey, casein, soy, and quinoa protein.
There is a growing interest in the use of dairy hydrolysates containing bioactive peptides as facilitators for maintaining general health and preventing chronic human diseases (4). For example, a clinical trial found that the consumption of whey protein hydrolysate for 6 weeks reduced of systolic and diastolic blood pressure in hypertensive patients (4).
Milk contains two types of protein, whey and casein, which have been characterized based on their rate of digestion as “fast” and “slow” proteins, respectively. Soy, on the other hand, contains a single homogeneous protein type, which is digested in a manner more similar to whey than casein (6).
Tang and colleagues hypothesized that the consumption of whey hydrolysate, casein, and soy proteins would differentially stimulate muscle protein synthesis, based on the rate at which they are digested both at rest and after resistance exercise (6). Their findings suggest a greater muscle protein synthesis after whey hydrolysate or soy protein than casein both at rest and after resistance exercise. In other words, the fast-digested whey protein promotes muscle protein synthesis while the slow-digested casein inhibits the breakdown of protein (6). These differences may be attributed to the speed at which these proteins are digested or to differences in leucine concentrations of each protein (6).
Additional research supports these ergogenic characteristics of whey hydrolysate by demonstrating greater gains in muscle strength and lean body mass when taking whey protein hydrolysate, compared to casein. However, casein hydrolysate ingestion was shown to prevent increases in plasma creatine kinase and muscle soreness after exercise (3).
Furthermore, whey protein hydrolysate, in combination with exercise, has been shown to aid recovery from intensive exercise by suppressing the signal for muscle breakdown, reducing markers of muscle damage, and improving overall performance (7).
Soy protein products can be classified into three major categories: soy flour, soy protein concentrate, and soy protein isolate. Soy flour contains about 50% protein and 30-35% carbohydrate, while soy protein isolates contain a higher protein content than both soy flour and soy concentrates, with about 85-90% protein and almost no water-insoluble carbohydrate (8). However, the protein yield from the process can be as low as 45%, making soy protein isolates expensive to produce (8).
Quinoa protein has reasonable concentrations of essential amino acids, with a very high level of lysine (17.13%). In fact, quinoa protein contains higher amounts of essential amino acids than amaranth and chai (9). Its high solubility, digestibility, foaming capacity, and stability makes it an impressive source of protein (10).
Luckily for you, VeganSlim’s High Protein Weight Control Shake contains quinoa protein, along with pea protein isolate, potato protein, chlorella protein, and chia protein. These plant-based proteins contain 25 grams of protein per serving and includes all the essential amino acids your body needs to support lean muscle mass, weight loss, and tissue repair after exercise.
Other types of protein powders include…
- Brown Rice
- Mixed Plants
(1) Sifferlin A. Is Protein Powder Good For You? Time Web site. http://time.com/4901309/is-protein-powder-good-for-you/. Published August 15, 2017. Accessed August 17, 2018.
(2) Spritzler F. The 7 Best Types of Protein Powder. Healthline Web site. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/best-protein-powder. Published August 29, 2016. Accessed August 17, 2018.
(3) Manninen AH. Protein Hydrolysates in Sports Nutrition. Nutrition & Metabolism. 2009; 6:38.
(4) Hernández-Ledesma B, García-Nebot MJ, Fernández-Tomé S, Amigo L, Recio I. Dairy Protein Hydrolysates: Peptides for Health Benefits. International Dairy Journal. 2014; 38(2):82–100.
(5) Miralles B, del Barrio R, Cueva C, Recio I, Amigo L. Dynamic Gastric Digestion of a Commercial Whey Protein Concentrate†. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.2018; 98(5):1873–79.
(6) Tang JE, Moore DR, Kujbida GW, Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM. Ingestion of Whey Hydrolysate, Casein, or Soy Protein Isolate: Effects on Mixed Muscle Protein Synthesis at Rest and Following Resistance Exercise in Young Men. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2009; 107(3):987–92.
(7) Hansen M, Bangsbo J, Jensen J, Bibby BM, Madsen K. Effect of Whey Protein Hydrolysate on Performance and Recovery of Top-Class Orienteering Runners. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 2015; 25(2):97–109.
(8) Loman AA, Islam SM, Li MQ, Ju L. Soybean Bio-Refinery Platform: Enzymatic Process for Production of Soy Protein Concentrate, Soy Protein Isolate and Fermentable Sugar Syrup. Bioprocess and Biosystems Engineering. 2016; 39(10): 1501–14.
(9) López DN, Galante M, Robson M, Boeris V, Spelzini D. Amaranth, Quinoa and Chia Protein Isolates: Physicochemical and Structural Properties. International Journal of Biological Macromolecules. 2018; 109:152–59.
(10) Elsohaimy SA, Refaay TM, Zaytoun MA. Physicochemical and Functional Properties of Quinoa Protein Isolate.” Annals of Agricultural Sciences. 2015; 60(2):297–305.
Written by Nicole Lindel, MS in Nutrition Education from Columbia University