I’m sure you’ve seen your favourite influencer’s slurping down a protein smoothie after their morning Bondi to Bronte beach walk. Or the bodybuilder at your local gym loudly rattling his protein shaker around before his workout. Today, protein powders have well and truly found their way into our workout regimes. But dipping your toes into the world of pre-workouts and protein powders can sometimes seem more daunting than doable. You might be asking yourself: what protein base is better? Is whey the way to go? Or are plant-based proteins a more sustainable option?
What is Protein Powder?
Let’s start from the beginning and break down what a protein powder is and how it can be used in your workout regime.
Protein powder is a macronutrient used to build and repair your muscle and on occasion, for weight loss. The nutrients in this powder can help to reach your daily protein intake by providing your body with the necessary amount of amino acids for each day. It’s most easily consumed in a powder form which you can use in smoothies, baking, meals and more. There are three main categories of protein powder: whey, casein, or plan-based vegan protein.
What is Whey Protein?
Whey protein is derived from cow’s milk. In particular, the liquid part of milk that separates in the production of cheese. It is considered a complete protein as it contains all the essential amino acids your body needs for better muscle growth and tissue recovery.
Whey is also often used as it is high in branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. BCAA’s promote the building of protein in muscle tissue and aid in quickening muscle metabolism.
It is a great option for those looking for optimal muscle growth as it is also fast-absorbing to optimise results post-workout. However, the natural taste of whey protein does not taste great on its own. So, it’s often mixed with artificial flavours and sweeteners to improve its flavour. It’s important to remember to check your whey protein ingredient list for unwanted additives.
As this type of protein is also derived from milk, it does contain lactose. So for those who are intolerant, this may lead to unwanted gastric irritation or digestive issues. If you are still considering whey, the protein isolate version due to how it’s processed contains less lactose than whey concentrate.
What is Casein Protein?
Casein is a complete protein that also comes from milk. While whey has a lot of BCAA’s, casein contains more amino acids such as histidine, methionine, and phenylalanine. It is often consumed as a daily health supplement or used on a mixed protein with whey powder.
This type of protein is more slowly digested by your body, resulting in a delayed release of amino acids. Casein protein is a great option to take before bed to aid in muscle recovery and promote muscle growth while you sleep. Due to its composition casein also contains bioactive peptides to aid in immune and digestive health.
What is Vegan Protein-Powder?
Plant-based proteins come in a range of forms. Typically, this is pea, soy, hemp, or brown rice. Each type of vegan protein source contains its own health benefits. However, due to the make-up, vegan or plant-based proteins are not considered complete proteins as they don’t contain the amino acids necessary to support protein synthesis. The only exception to this is soy which contains all 9 amino acids.
However, vegan protein sources contain other forms of nutritional value. For example, pea-based proteins have a higher protein content with isoleucine, valine, and leucine. Hemp proteins contain high sources of omega-3, omega-6, zinc, magnesium, iron, and fibre. Finally, brown rice proteins contain high levels of protein and other amino acids making them easy to digest. However, its low levels of lysin make it not a complete protein.
A major drawcard with vegan proteins is they are dairy-free and less inflammatory. This makes them great for those who may be lactose-intolerant or have other dietary requirements. It is also more sustainable and environmentally friendly to produce.
Like casein proteins, vegan and plant-based proteins also take longer to process in your body. However, this can help you stay fuller for longer and reduce the need for snacking. The protein powder also tastes good naturally, eliminating the need for artificial flavours or sugars.
What is the difference between whey proteins and vegan protein powders?
Mixing into smoothies and baking
Supports weight loss
Lactose & Dairy
Complete protein with all amino acids
Serving Size: 20-30g
Suitable for vegetarians and vegans
Supports weight loss
No Lactose & Dairy-Free
Not a complete protein
(except for soy and protein mixes)
Serving Size: 20-30g
As with anything, the type of protein you should consume is dependent on your fitness goals, needs, and personal requirements. Take the time to consider why you want to use a protein powder in the first place. Also, ask yourself what fitness goals your hoping to achieve by using protein sources? This should help to provide some clarity going into making your first protein powder purchase.
Does protein powder help to lose weight?
The macronutrients in protein powders can contain help to reduce your appetite, minimising cravings and reducing snacking throughout the day. However, as with everything, this should be done in moderation alongside a healthy and balanced diet.
How does protein powder help muscle growth?
The use of complete proteins in your diet through amino acids can help to promote muscle synthesis. This can help to grow your muscles and repair tissue.
How much protein powder should I have?
Typically, protein powder sits at 20-30g per serve. However, how much protein powder you should have will depend on the type of protein, along with the brand. Always follow the directions for your specific protein product.
When should I have my protein powder?
What type of protein powder you have will help to determine when is the best time for consumption. Typically, if you have a whey protein, consuming it within 15 minutes up to an hour after exercise can help improve muscle growth and recovery. However, Casein protein is great to take before bed.
Once you’ve chosen what protein is best for your needs and fitness goals, a quick Google search can help to find the best time to consume your protein.