7 protein powder types and their benefits
There are many flavors of protein powder available at local grocery shops, in specialty stores, and online. Choosing the right type of protein often comes down to your dietary preferences, the taste of the powder, and how easily it mixes into a liquid.
Animal proteins are “complete” proteins, which means that they have all of the amino acids that your body needs. Plant-based proteins, like hemp, soy, rice, and pea, are often combined to create a complete set of amino acids.
These mixed proteins have the benefit of being plant-based without sacrificing any of these building blocks that your body needs to create muscle, promote immunity, and maintain heart health.
Some types of protein powder are studied for their nutritional and medicinal value. For example, whey protein, which is found in dairy products, boasts the following benefits:
- It may not cause allergies like milk can, and it can help prevent eczema when given to babies as a hydrolyzed (broken down) formula.
- It’s often OK for people with lactose intolerance.
- It can help people with medical conditions gain weight.
- It may help athletes build muscle faster than regular protein.
- It helps injured people’s wounds heal faster.
While this type of powder isn’t suitable for those with egg allergies, it is a complete protein. It’s ideal for those who are allergic to cow’s milk and can’t tolerate whey protein, or it can be used as a potential supplement by those who don’t like eating meat. Eggs themselves are a good source of several vitamins, and many protein powders are fortified with even more nutrients.
One cup of soy milk contains 7 grams of protein, and concentrated soy protein powders often contain much more. Many people claim that soy protein reduces hot flashes, and research from Japan seems to back this up — but it’s important to understand that this research doesn’t include soy protein powder. Overall, soy protein seems to be a good source of protein for those who aren’t allergic to it.
Rice protein alone doesn’t contain all nine of the amino acids, but drinking rice protein shakes may benefit those who want to gain muscle and lose fat. In one study that compared rice protein isolate with whey protein, researchers found that the participants who drank rice protein shakes after resistance workouts for eight weeks experienced health gains similar to those who drank whey protein — including decreased fat and increased strength. This information could benefit those who don’t, or can’t, drink animal-based protein to boost their exercise routines.
Despite what you may have heard, hemp protein isn’t illegal, and it certainly won’t get you high. It’s just the protein from hemp seeds, which come from the Cannabis sativa L. plant. While they aren’t a complete source of protein, these little seeds are often combined with other proteins to make one.
Pea protein doesn’t taste like split peas, though it does come from them. Pea protein isolate, which is a pea protein-only powder, is often used in weight loss shakes and supplements because it contains so much protein: Many pea protein powders contain up to 20 grams of protein per 100 calories of shake.