Protein powders have exploded in popularity. So it’s easy to get confused about which is the best protein powder. Add to that the fact that brands are offering tons of options. That changes the question from, “What is the best protein powder?” to “What is the best protein powder for me?”
The answer: It all depends.
You have to factor in your goals, lifestyle, allergies, diet, and preferences. For example, the best protein powder for weight lifting may not be the best protein powder for vegan yogis.
But don’t get overwhelmed or stressed. You can find the best type of protein powder for you. And it doesn’t have to be hard. This comprehensive guide will help you understand your options and make a smart choice.
Before deciding which is the best protein supplement, you we need to understand two important factors:
Biological value (BV) is the measure of absorbed protein from food that gets incorporated into your body’s protein. Basically, it tells you how effectively protein will be digest and synthesized by your body from whatever you’re eating.
The higher the BV value, the better for your fitness gains. For measure, eggs are the standard by which other proteins are measured. They have a BV of 100. Milk has a BV of 91, while beef is 80.
Ideally, your protein powder should have a BV of at least 100. That’s because the entire reason you’re using it is to get a high value of protein into your body as fast as possible.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are two types of amino acids – essential and non essential. Both are important and each plays a different role in the body.
There are 20 amino acids in all. Protein powder is considered “incomplete” if it is lacking several essential amino acids of the total 20.
Your body can produce non-essential amino acids on its own. But it cannot produce essential amino acids naturally. So you should use protein powder that is high in essential amino acids. They are critical to protein synthesis and increasing muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth).
There are a few other ways to compare protein powders and find the best one. But these two - BV and the amino acid profiles - are the two easiest to remember. Plus, they’re easy to determine just by looking at product labels.
Once you understand these details, you’re ready to compare protein powders. Here are a few popular options and how they stack up.
Whey protein is a byproduct of cheese production. It’s is one of the best, most complete protein powders available. It has been tested extensively and is well known to increase protein synthesis and increase muscle hypertrophy.
Whey comes in three different forms. The biggest difference between the three is how purely protein-rich they are.
Extra filters are used to make whey protein purer. This filtering removes fat and lactose. So hydrolysate, with over 90% of it’s fat and lactose removed, is almost entirely composed of protein.
Does that make it the best? Not necessarily.
For most people, whey concentrate or whey protein isolate is just fine. If you have issues with lactose or want to get every ounce of protein your body can absorb, go with hydrolysate.
Whey protein is optimal for weight lifters and athletes. Your body digests it fast, which helps maximize protein synthesis and muscle hypertrophy after a workout session.
There are two parts to milk – casein and whey. Whey protein is the thin liquid part, while the curds are called casein. Casein is the oft-forgotten brother of whey. Despite it’s secondary status, it still offers a complete amino acid profile with some other benefits.
While not having as great a BV value, research shows that casein is digested more slowly. So it can help stave off hunger and carry you over until your next meal.
One issue with casein: It’s not a great protein source for people with problems with lactose or dairy.
Try mixing casein with whey. That way you get the best of both worlds.
Egg white protein is the standard against all protein powders are measured. It’s easily digestible, has a high BV, and boasts a complete amino acid profile.
Egg white protein is also recommended great for people who have dairy or lactose intolerances. It can be a good substitute for whey protein powder as it too is quickly digested by the body.
However, eggs themselves can also cause allergic reactions. So make sure you don’t have an egg allergy before you start using this protein option.
Pea protein has become quite popular, especially with people who don’t consume animal products. It can be a good alternative if you can’t have egg or dairy. But the reality is that its BV and amino acid profile pale in comparison to other options.
You’ll need to consume a large quantity of this protein powder in order to come close to the protein a dairy or egg based supplement would provide your body.
Similar to pea protein, rice protein can be a good alternative to those who have issues with eggs or dairy based protein powders. Rice protein is made by isolating the protein in brown rice grains.
Brown rice has a higher level of protein than most plant foods. But, like pea protein, rice protein has a low BV value and has an incomplete amino acid profile.
Rice protein is an excellent alternative if you cannot use dairy or egg based protein powders.
It can be hard to decide which muscle building supplements to use. You want to make safe, healthy choices that will enhance your workouts and get you the best results.
If your goal is to get the most nutrients out your protein shakes, you should be using whey protein powder or a similar, animal protein option. Need a plant protein? Rice is your best option.
Never stop educating yourself on your health and the muscle growth supplements you use. With hard work, determination, and a smart nutrition plan, you can achieve all your fitness goals.