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The Different Types of Protein Supplements Decoded

Just as all food has different benefits or draw-backs, so too do protein supplements. The way your powder is processed and sourced impacts how effectively it works and the nutrients it provides. If you've been shopping for protein, you've probably seen a lot of different products, and with them, keywords. With all that information, it may be difficult to learn which protein is best for your body. Here's a look at the available types and how they interact with your physicality:

Before we talk about sources, let's discuss the composition of protein supplements, as it impacts all types. Composition refers to how the protein is extracted from its source. Most often, supplements are either isolates or concentrates, though you can find a mix of both in some brands.

Concentrates: When the protein and its source are separated, the process yields a protein concentrate. In whey, this means separating the milk liquid from the nutrients inside. The protein and trace fats are turned into a powder, which is the concentrate. This form of protein is rich in micronutrients, as it has received limited processing. What's more, your body can absorb it well, meaning what you put in doesn't go to waste. However, concentrates tend to have 5-6 percent less protein per serving than isolates. Despite this fact, many agree that the nutrient content and high absorption rate make concentrates the winning option.

Furthermore, a great whey protein concentrate can be processed in a non-denatured state. Non-denatured proteins are gut-friendly, which means less bloating and gastrointestinal discomfort.

Isolates: Isolates undergo the same process as concentrates, but take it a step further. The protein is processed again, removing lactose (which is good for people who are intolerant). This yields a higher protein concentration of around 90 percent depending on the brand. A whey protein isolate has been stripped of essentially all micronutrients and has been denatured in the processing. This affects absorption rate and may have a negative impact on overall gut health.

protein supplementsWhere your protein comes from matters.

Every protein source comes in a concentrate or isolate, and each has its own benefits. Here's a look at the most common sources used for protein supplements:

Whey: Whey protein comes from milk and is one of the most popular sources. Whey is very easy to digest and absorb, which means your body uses the nutrients it provides. However, whey does contain lactose, so those with an intolerance won't be able to digest the protein as well. Whey is also a complete protein (has all the amino acids) and is known for promoting lean muscle development.

"Whey protein comes from milk."

Casein: Also taken from milk, casein is generally only available as an isolate. Your body absorbs casein much more slowly than whey, so it's not ideal for post workout. Instead, many people use it as a snack they take before bed to up their daily intake of protein. What's more, casein is often filled with sugar to make it tastier, so read the ingredients and avoid sugar-laden options.

Soy: A favorite of vegans, soy protein is plant-based. It is a complete protein and lacks lactose (good for intolerant individuals). The major downside is that soy tends to be highly processed, especially when used as a supplement and is often grown using genetic modifications.

Rice: Another plant-based protein, rice is high in fiber, complex carbohydrates and vitamin B. Rice is also easy to digest, ensuring the supplement doesn't go to waste. However, rice is not a complete protein, meaning it's missing some amino acids.

Pea: Pea protein has gained a lot of attention lately as a plant source that's rich in glutamic acid - this feature converts carbs into energy. What's more, pea protein is highly digestible. That being said, pea protein lacks certain amino acids and must be paired with other proteins (such as rice) to provide a complete nutrient makeup.

Hemp: Hemp has more amino acids than rice or pea, but is still incomplete. It's also high in fiber and omega-6 fatty acid.

When choosing a protein source, you should select the option that gives you the most benefits. Proteins that require you to add other sources to get the same muscle-building effects aren't as effective and efficient as others. Your protein should be complete, easy to absorb and full of micronutrients (whey concentrate is a great example).

Remember, the quality, not the quantity, of your protein is the most important factor.