The first step in selecting a protein powder is to choose between dairy and plant based. If you follow a vegan diet, you will be limited to the plant-based proteins such as hemp, soy, rice or pea. What you may not know however, is that dairy-based whey protein is actually appropriate for vegetarians, and those with gluten and lactose intolerances. Whey protein is completely gluten-free, and with less than 1% lactose content, it qualifies as lactose-free according to registered dieticians.
This table outlines some of the key criteria you may want to consider when choosing a protein supplement.
As the highest quality source of natural protein available, whey protein offers all the typical benefits of protein (e.g., muscle growth and repair, bone strength, satiety, etc.), while also offering the best source for amino acids, with a protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) higher than any other natural protein source. Just look how it compares to the other leading protein sources: (Source: The Grande Whey Blog)
The definition of "complete protein" is that it contains all 9 essential amino acids which are critical to the building of lean muscle, and for the recovery phase of any fitness regimen. The essential amino acids are not synthesized in the body, so they are a necessary part of our diet.
Many protein powders contain flavoring and artificial sweeteners. Whey protein isolate has a clean, neutral taste, which enables it to be enjoyed by consumers in a pure form without any additives.
Casein protein powder is notorious for being very thick and hard to dissolve in liquids. Solubility is an important factor to consider if you have an active lifestyle and plan to consume your protein powder on the go without any high-powered kitchen appliances.
Protein consumption is recommended immediately following exercise as it helps repair muscle damage and stimulate growth. Proteins that are slow to digest, such as casein, do not provide these benefits.
Dairy-based proteins are very low in fat content, making them an ideal choice if weight loss is one of your fitness goals. Hemp protein powder surprisingly contains as much as 12g of fat per serving.
This number indicates the protein quality and how efficiently it is used by the body. A higher value corresponds to a higher-quality protein.
During the cheese-making process, milk is seperated into curd (solid) and whey (liquid). The filtered whey is then used to make whey protein concentrate, which still contains varying amounts of lactose, fat and other impurities. Isolate is the result of further purification, leaving only the highest possible percentage of protein. Most people that select whey protein isolate are looking for maximum protein content with minimum impurities, hence why isolate is the gold standard for protein powder.
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