When the first protein powder, Hi-Proteen, hit the stores in the 1950’s, it was made from soy flour and the taste was notoriously bad. Nevertheless, bodybuilders flocked to this protein powder as an easy way to get the nutrients they need to build muscle.
Now almost seven decades later in 2019, there are hundreds of varieties of protein powder, and the market has expanded far beyond just bodybuilders. Discover differences between the many types of protein and how you can make protein shakes a part of your fit lifestyle.
Why Use Protein Shakes?
A common argument among skeptics is that you get enough protein from normal food, so why resort to protein shakes? The truth is, planning every meal so it’s high in protein and low in calories and carbs is more challenging than you might expect.
This high protein, low sugar, low calories format is highly desired by those who are trying to lose weight, as well as those who are building muscle, and protein shakes are a powerful tool that makes getting those nutrients easier.
What Do You Need to Make Protein Shakes a Part of Your Diet?
If you plan on consuming protein regularly as part of your diet, there are really only two purchases you need to make to get started: protein powder and a protein shaker bottle. Almost all proteins just require a scoop of protein mixed with water shaken up in a bottle to make a smooth, drinkable protein shake.
6 Popular Types of Protein
By “type,” we’re referring to the source of the actual protein, such as beef, whey, or peas. Each of the types has unique qualities— some may lack important amino acids while others absorb quicker, meaning they’re great for curbing your appetite. Discover these six popular types:
- Whey Protein
As the most common and widely used type of protein, whey is extremely effective and absorbs quickly. Plus, it contains all essential amino acids, meaning it will have the maximum effect on your muscles. Derived from dairy, those who are lactose intolerant may experience digestive problems, but ultimately whey is a top choice among fitness experts.
- Pea Protein
Since plant-based diets are increasingly popular for their many health benefits, vegetable-based proteins are rising in popularity as well. Peas have more protein than any other vegetable — 8g per cup– and pea protein is among the most effective plant proteins available.
- Rice Protein
While those who follow diets like Keto or Adkins avoid rice, it makes for an excellent protein powder, especially for vegetarians. While plant-based, rice protein is low in the non-essential amino acid, lysine, which helps absorb calcium and contributes to the production of collagen.
- Egg Protein
Of all the protein types, egg protein has the highest protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS). That means it’s very high quality and digests easily compared to other proteins. Like other animal proteins, eggs contain all nine essential amino acids.
- Hemp Protein
Although derived from marijuana, don’t expect to catch a buzz from hemp protein. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, hemp protein also contains most of the essential amino acids. However, since it lacks lysine and leucine, hemp is not a complete protein source, so it’s important to use it while eating animal proteins as well to get all your essential aminos.
- Casein Protein
Like whey, casein is derived from milk and is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. Since casein forms a gel when it enters your stomach, it absorbs much slower than whey protein. This means it exposes your muscles to aminos at a gradual rate, making it more effective at building strength than soy and wheat, but less effective than soy.
Finding the Protein That’s Best for You
Whether you’re a casual gym rat who’s using protein as a meal supplement, or you’re trying to grow muscle by fueling your body with high amounts of lean protein, there are types out there that will please every type of person. These are some of the main considerations when trying the different proteins that are out there.
While some proteins turn into a smooth, drinkable, shake with minimal effort, others seem to clump up even after being thoroughly rattled in your shaker bottle. As you try different proteins, take note of the types that mix easily.
- Taste (Not Just Flavor!)
This distinction was made because one brand’s vanilla may taste like the best ice cream you’ve had in years, whereas another brand’s vanilla may taste like stale coffee creamer. Only by reading reviews and experimenting yourself can you find the shakes that truly have the best flavors.
The cost of protein powders is a factor that deters many people from trying them in the first place. In some cases, the extra cost reflects a higher standard of quality, like with the highly reviewed proteins by Jim Stoppani, but you can often find proteins with similar ingredients at a fraction of the cost of the big brands.
- Added Sugar
If you’re drinking protein shakes, it’s because you want to be fit and healthy, so it’s worthwhile to check the sugar content. There are a lot of creative flavors out there, and some brands will try to compensate by adding additional sugar. In all fairness, this is a dying trend, since many top brands are reducing sugar to eliminate the extra calories.
- Weight Gainer or Lean Protein?
Another crucial thing to know about protein powders is that they come in distinctly different forms. Specifically, some are considered weight gainers, which are designed to help skinny people gain weight and put on muscle, whereas others contain little to no sugar and minimal calories. For most people, the proteins with very low sugar and minimal calories will be best for reaching their fitness goals.
Highly Respected Brands of Protein Powder
As with most products, certain brands are trusted through and through, and often make the lists of the absolute best proteins on the market. Here are three brands that are either extremely popular or highly recommended by fitness experts.
Pro Jym Protein by Jim Stoppani
If you’re looking for a quality protein that is personally designed by a highly respected fitness expert, look no further than the Jym series of supplements by Jim Stoppani. While you won’t find the cheapest prices, you will find the dosage of every ingredient listed, so there are no mysterious proprietary blends. Plus, his proteins are available in tempting flavors like Rocky Road and Smores, so it’s a high-quality product that tastes excellent as well.
Syntha-6 Cold Stone Creamery Protein
Combining different types of protein into one product, Syntha-6 is easily one of the most popular brands of protein on the market. Constantly inventing innovative new flavors, their Cold Stone Creamery series includes favorites like Cookie Doughn’t You Want Some and Germanchokolatekake. For innovative flavors and a brand that’s widely available, give Syntha-6 Protein a try.
Vega Plant-Based Protein Powder
Vegans and those who follow a plant-based diet for whatever reason will prefer a protein that comes from veggies, and Vega is one of the most highly reviewed and popular brands. Featuring variations like clean protein, premium protein, protein plus energy, and protein and greens, Vega has all the supplements you’ll need to get fit on a plant-based diet.
Experiment to Find the Protein that Supports Your Fitness Goals
Some people might like a protein that tastes like their morning coffee, while others may want one that they can mix into their smoothie with other fruits. While the combination of protein shakes you can make is nearly infinite, they do have something in common: they’re all designed to help you gain muscle and meet your fitness goals. Once you’re clear what those are, protein shakes can be a powerful tool in helping you attain them.