Protein powders are generally taken as supplements by athletes and bodybuilders who require a large amount of protein to build muscle mass through exercise. Protein is essential for the human body, because muscle and tissue are made from protein amino acids. Although combinations vary, protein powders are made from four basic sources: whey, rice, soy or egg.
Whey is a protein that makes up approximately 20 percent of the total protein content in cow’s milk. It is also a byproduct of cheese manufacturing and is used commercially. Whey protein is the name given to globular proteins that are isolated from whey and are usually a combination of alpha-lactalbumin, beta-lactoglobulin and serum albumin. It may contain glycomacropeptides as well. According to the Dairy Council of California, whey protein contains a rich amino acid profile. Whey is easily digestible, which facilitates easy absorption of protein, and is useful for building muscle mass. It enhances the flow of nutrients to help rebuild and repair muscle tissue.
Rice protein is a vegetarian protein that more easily digestible than whey protein. It is made from brown rice and treated with enzymes that lead to the separation of carbohydrates from proteins. According to RiceProteinConcentrates.com, rice protein is made from non-genetically-modified rice. It is suitable for people with food allergies and gives the body a sufficient amount of protein effectively.
Soy protein is derived from soybeans and is packed with multiple health benefits. It is ideal for vegetarians who wish to add protein to their diet and is a good source of protein for those who are lactose-intolerant. Although it is easily digestible, it does not mix well in drinks and shakes. Apart from adding protein to the diet, soy protein has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol, slow cancer cell growth, build strong bones and lessen symptoms of menopause, according to the Journal of Prenatal Education.
Egg protein can be consumed with any meal, as opposed to whey, which should ideally be consumed before or after working out. Egg protein is a healthy source of protein for those allergic to dairy or soy. Additionally, it provides the body with many essential amino acids.
Additional ingredients that are generally used in protein powder formulas include natural and artificial flavors, lecithin, creamer, salt, acesulfame potassium and sucralose. Some powders are fortified with selected vitamins and minerals. Since the body uses calcium to break down protein amino acids, many protein powders contain calcium. Additional amino acids may be included in protein powder, such as tryptophan, valine, threonine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, phenylalanine and methionine.