Protein powder can be added to shakes and oatmeal for a quick protein boost. People often choose protein powders because they are convenient, portable and contain less fat and cholesterol than meat, fish, eggs and dairy. You may also turn to protein powders if a restricted diet like veganism makes it difficult to meet your daily protein needs. Not all protein powders are created equal, though.
The protein in whole milk breaks down into 20 percent whey protein and 80 percent casein protein. Because these proteins are highly digestible and easily assimilated by the body, manufacturers often use them to make protein powders. Both whey and casein proteins are high in branched-chain amino acids, which increase the rate of protein synthesis -- or the process by which your body makes new proteins to carry out various functions --, and may enhance immune system function. Because these proteins are milk-based, they contain lactose and may cause stomach problems if you are lactose-intolerant or sensitive to dairy.
Egg-white protein powder is cholesterol-free and naturally low in fat and carbohydrates. The protein in egg-white protein powder is also as easily absorbed and digested as milk-based protein powders, making it a safe, effective option for those who cannot consume dairy. However, Precision Nutrition notes that egg-white protein powder can upset your stomach.
Jump for Soy
Like milk- and egg-based protein powders, soy is a complete protein, which means it contains all of the essential amino acids. Soy also contains isoflavones, which act as antioxidants and provide heart benefits, like lower LDL cholesterol levels. Because soy protein powder is derived from plants, it is safe for vegetarians and vegans. Although soy is highly digestible and absorbable, the process is slower than with animal-based protein powders, so soy protein powder is not recommended as a post-workout drink supplement. After a workout, your muscles use protein to repair themselves and grow. Providing your muscles with a quick-digesting protein source may speed up this process.
More Veggie Options
Although soy is the most popular vegetable-based protein powder, others -- like hemp protein, pea protein and rice protein -- exist for those who would rather avoid soy due to intolerance or allergy. These protein powders are not as highly digestible as animal-based and soy-based protein powders, but they are beneficial for vegetarians and vegans looking for more options. Hemp, pea and rice protein are higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein than the other protein powders, but they provide other health benefits. Hemp protein contains omega-3s and fiber, and pea protein is particularly rich in the amino acids lysine, arginine and glutamine.
- NOLA.com: Protein Powder 101: How to Choose the Right One for You
- Precision Nutrition: All About Protein Powders
- Joyous Health: Choosing the Best Protein Powder
- The Journal of Perinatal Nutrition: Soy Protein
- NYU Langone Medical Center: Whey Protein
- The Journal of Nutrition: Branched-Chain Amino Acids Activate Key Enzymes in Protein Synthesis After Physical Exercise