There are a number of different protein supplements on the market, and there is a variety of proteins from food.
Protein is one of the three major, or macro, nutrients. The other two being carbohydrates (carbs) and fats.
Proteins are comprised of nitrogen-containing groups called amino acids.
There are about 20 different types of amino acids commonly found in foods. All of them are important for building and maintaining muscle, but 8 are vital. These are what’s known as the Essential Amino Acids (EAAs).
The EAAs cannot be synthesized in any of your tissues, so they must be obtained through high protein foods.
- Lean meats,
Powdered whey, casein, egg, and soy proteins offer the same amino acids as whole food sources in more concentrated doses – with lower levels of calories, fat, carbs, cholesterol, and other non-protein ingredients.
Whey Proteins – fast acting
Whey proteins are quickly and easily digested ( “fast-acting” ), they are loaded with essential amino acids (EAAs) – including the three branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), and they contain subcomponents (microfractions) that appear to provide benefits above and beyond amino acids and elemental nitrogen. Whey is one of two major dairy proteins and accounts for about 20% of the protein in milk.
Casein Proteins – slow release
Comprising 80% of the protein in milk, casein is the dominant dairy protein. Often referred to as a “slower-acting” or “time-released” protein, because they are digested and absorbed much more slowly than whey or soy proteins. Casein proteins are especially useful when taken at bedtime and during other prolonged periods without eating.
Milk Proteins – 20% whey / 80% casein
Milk protein is dried milk with most of the fat and carbohydrate removed. Like the original milk, powdered milk proteins are about 20% whey protein and 80% casein protein, so utilization is somewhere in between the two.
Eggs are the “gold standard” for protein quality, with loads of essential amino acids (EAAs) and some of the highest scores in all measures of protein quality. Eggs are a great alternative to whey, casein, and whole milk proteins for those with milk allergies or lactose intolerance.
If you are a vegetarian, don’t consume eggs are diary, then soy proteins contain all of the required amino acids in sufficient amounts to support muscle growth and development.
If you can only afford one type of protein, this is probably the type that you should go with. Combining faster-, intermediate-, and slower-protein sources in one convenient place, blended proteins give you more sustained protein digestion than single-source proteins like whey, casein, egg, or soy.