by Chelsea Garcia, MEd, Certified Exercise Physiologist
There are many different sources of protein one can use for a multitude of reasons. You might have been told you need more protein in your diet or you need more lean muscle mass. Some other common signs you might not be eating enough protein include brittle nails or slow hair growth, iron deficiency, your prevalence to stress fractures/broken bones, you get sick easily, or you experience mood swings. Either way the whole foods approach is going to be the most natural way to supply your body with those essential amino acids (aka the building blocks of protein). In today's world there are so many options it can be overwhelming. The following is a breakdown of the most common forms of protein supplementation.
*Nutritional information provided in approximations per single serving because each brand of powder will differ from others*
Whey Protein ~90-130 calories, 25 g Protein, 2 g Carbs, 2 g Fats
Animal based and provides all essential amino acids. Sourced from milk and good for building lean muscle and is generally absorbed by the body easily before or after a workout. Not good for people who are lactose intolerant. Beware of powders that have additives like sugar to make it taste better. Beware of "mass gainers" that will have just as many if not more grams of carbs than protein.
Soy Protein ~95 calories, 23 g Protein, 2 g Carbs, 1 g Fats
Soybeans provide all the essential amino acids. Plant-based, higher fiber content to aid in digestion, and generally less expensive. Contains very little fat and no cholesterol. Best results are seen when used with a combination of other types of proteins (i.e. whole foods). Don't consume if you have any allergies or sensitivities to soy or soy based products.
Pea Protein ~80 calories, 15 g Protein, 1 g Carbs, 1-2 g Fats
Plant based and in the legume family and typically made from yellow peas. A good source of fiber, iron, potassium, magnesium and can help aid in muscle growth. Has all essential amino acids, but very low content of one amino acid (methionine). You'll probably want to supplement with another complete protein (fish, eggs, poultry, soy) to make sure you get all of them. Low in fiber, but keeps you fuller longer on the protein side of things. Also has a good source of BCAA's (branch chain amino acids). These can help aid in heart health (lower cholesterol and blood pressure), healthy blood flow, and again muscle growth. One of the most easily digestible plant based proteins. Watch out for pea protein brands that may be high in sodium.
Hemp Protein ~120 calories, 15 g Protein, 1-2g Carbs, 3 g Fats
Provides all essential amino acids, high fiber content, and healthy fats from ground up hemp seeds. Less processed form of protein than others so it is easily digestible. Because of the high fiber and protein content, hemp protein will help you feel fuller for longer. Has a higher healthy fat content than most protein powders, but that also means it will be higher in calories too. Contains good omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. A good source of minerals (calcium, iron, zinc, copper, phosphorus, magnesium) and antioxidants. Must be refrigerated after opening.
Less common forms:
Collagen or Beef Protein ~60 calories, 15 g Protein, 0 g Carbs, 0 g Fats
Animal based, no source of collagen can be vegan. Good news! Vegans can supplement with Vitamin E which will naturally help aid in the production of collagen within the body. There are 4 main types of collagen that help various areas of the body. Collagen comes from the connective tissues of animals. It can help your skin, cartilage, bones, cushion your joints, support structure of muscles and organs, and connective tissue growth and upkeep. Collagen can come in a pill or powder form and is the generally the same (hydrolyzed collagen), just depends on your preference on how you ingest it. Good natural sources of collagen include chicken, pork skin, and there is a very high content in bone broth.
Casein Protein ~120 calories, 24 g Protein, 3 g Carbs, 1 g Fats
Animal based, complete protein, and comes from liquid milk by separating out the carbs and fats from the protein. The absorption rate is slower than most protein powders and sometimes takes several hours to fully absorb. Some people take it before bed to allow the body to absorb it overnight. Not a good option for lactose intolerant people. Also not a great option to take after a workout to help your body recover because of the slow absorption rate. Not usually a great tasting powder and sometimes has a lot of additives to help it taste better.
Egg Protein ~120 calories, 24 g Protein, 4 g Carbs, 0 g Fats
Eggs on their own are a great source of a complete protein. The egg powder comes from dehydrated egg whites. Very easily digested, but you might not feel as full as if you eat a whole egg because the yolk isn't in the powder. Egg proteins naturally contain multiple vitamins and minerals and are low in carbs and fats. Considered to be a healthier option overall than many other forms of protein powder. Don't take if you have an allergy to eggs. Good substitute if you're lactose intolerant. Tends to cost more than other powders.
There are other options out there, but these are most likely the type of supplements you'll come across. If you are having trouble getting enough protein in your diet any of these options would help fill your diet with more protein. Always make sure you are getting all your essential amino acids to help keep your muscles intact and working properly. If you are still unsure about protein or nutrition in general call 310-582-8212 or email email@example.com to set up a FREE Consultation to discuss your nutrition goals.