Nutrition

A Guide to the Different Protein Sources

Bob Feaster, R&D Technologist @ Reflex Nutrition - Dec.30.20

Ok so you might have decided you want to take on a protein supplement to help you get more protein in your diet. Now is the big choice, which one! Whey or plant-based? Concentrate or isolate? Pure or a blend? There are so many on the market it makes it hard to choose. Read on and we will help you figure out which protein is right for you. 

Is plant protein as good as whey protein?

Whey has been around since the beginning of protein supplements and is considered the gold standard of protein. But over the years lots of plant proteins have appeared to rival whey, and some are worthy competitors. 

Pea protein has been shown to have similar effects on muscle size and strength when compared to whey (1). Both powders are also shown to have similar effects on appetite suppression and energy expenditure (2). One protein we would steer clear of is soy protein. Soy protein has been shown to obstruct the amount and rate of protein absorption in the body, making it less efficient for muscle growth, when compared to whey or pea (3).

Pea protein is obviously more suitable for someone following a plant-based diet, or for individuals who may be lactose intolerant, however due to the nature of the protein itself it may not provide a shake with the same creamy texture that whey does.

(1)Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6358922/

(2)Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7016484/

(3)Source: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4757-0022-0_20

What’s the difference between whey concentrate and whey isolate?

Both whey isolate and whey concentrate are beneficial for the muscle building process. Whey concentrate typically hasn’t experienced as much processing as whey isolate. This means that whey concentrate will contain more biologically active components. Whey isolate, however, is the purest form of protein, with the majority of the fat and lactose being removed. Athletes looking to minimise their calorie consumption and maximise their protein intake would pick isolate over concentrate (4).

(4)Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3905294/

What does hydrolysed protein mean?

Hydrolysed protein is protein that has been broken down into smaller chains of amino acids, meaning the protein content is more easily digested by the body. An athlete may favour a hydrolysed protein, as it means their body can rapidly begin absorbing amino acids after consumption, and not have to wait so long for them to be broken down to begin with (5). This could help with muscle recovery and avoiding soreness.

(5)Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2761917/

Should I take a blend of protein?

Whey protein is already a complete protein that contains all the essential amino acids that are needed for muscle growth, so it is a great option and a staple for anyone looking to get bigger. However, there are still benefits of taking a protein blend, the main one being the different digestion rates of different proteins. A hydrolysed protein will be digested the quickest, with a regular un-hydrolysed protein holding a middling digestion rate, and milk protein such as micellar casein delivering a slow digestion rate. This means that amino acids can be supplied to the body in a consistent, prolonged, manner (6).

(6)Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3738242/

Ready to pick your protein of choice? 

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