There is a wide range of protein powders currently. The protein content, quality and value of ingredients used can vary enormously, as can the digestibility and absorption qualities of the supplement. Different types of protein also serve different needs. The array of products found on shop shelves can be bewildering, so here is a quick review with some guidance on what you should be taking.
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1.) Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC)
WPC is the most common source of protein you can find in shops. The protein content of such products usually varies between 70-80%. Some experts believe that WPC is a good option for non-professional fitness practitioners, and for those who are simply looking to increase their protein intake. As a qualified nutritionist and an expert in fitness and bodybuilding I would consider WPC as a suitable option even for advanced users. It can be mixed with carbohydrates in a post-workout shake to boost recovery, and 80% protein content is usually sufficient for most needs.
Recommendation: take it after weight training or mix it in your morning oats after fasted cardio for quick recovery and a metabolic boost. Ask your nutritional adviser to calculate the optimal intake for your needs.
2.) Whey Protein Isolates (WPI)
At between 90-100%, WPI protein content is higher than WPC. This means that the product itself is cleaner, and is of a higher quality. WPI has great absorption and digestibility due to its chemical form; it enters the bloodstream almost immediately following consumption, which is why it’s perfect for a post-workout shake. You can also use WPI if you are on a ketogenic diet (i.e. a no carbs diet), as it’s an absolutely pure source of protein that won’t impact the production of keton bodies (the primary source of energy when you’re on a zero carbs diet).
Recommendation: Do not follow a ketogenic diet on your own without qualified and experienced nutritionist supervision. It could cause hypoglycemia and other health problems.
3.) Hydrolysate Protein (HP)
Experts consider HP as the highest quality protein because of its chemical properties and absorption qualities. However, pure HP is not often found on shop shelves, but is usually found mixed in with other kinds of protein such as WPC and WPI. Manufacturers mix sources for two principal reasons:
- To decrease the production price without any significant compromise in terms of quality;
- To provide your body with proteins with various speeds of digestibility, in order for the body to retain its protein supply for a longer duration.
4.) Casein Protein
Casein is a slow-digesting protein. There is a completely different mode of thinking behind casein supplements than with other types of rapid-absorption protein powders. Depending on one’s metabolism, the body needs up to 5-7 hours to fully digest casein; this is why it is perfect as either a meal replacement or a bedtime snack.
Recommendation: Do not take casein after fitness activities as it will only enter the blood stream a few hours later, leaving your body starved of vital nutrients. You can take casein as a bedtime snack by mixing it with a small amount of water. Due to casein chemical properties such a mix will create a mousse-like texture, and could be taken as a desert.
5.) Soy/Pea/Rise/Hump Protein
All plant-based proteins can be taken to increase protein dietary content. They are suitable for vegans, and can potentially be a great way of fortifying their constitution with essential amino acids. However, keep in mind that all vegetable proteins have an incomplete profile of amino acids. According to Gastellu and his colleagues at the International Sport and Science Association, plant-based proteins should ideally be mixed with other sources such as WPC, WPI or HP (which are also suitable for vegans in the majority of cases) in order to provide the body with all the necessary building-blocks for its recovery and maintenance.
(OpenMindPortal, OMCommunications, Fit&Treat founder, ISSA Qualified nutritionist, double European vice bikini-fitness champion)
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