Flip through any exercise magazine and, judging by all the attention protein supplements get, it appears protein and fitness somehow go hand-in-hand. And it is true: Protein can help promote a healthy weight and can help muscles recover after a good workout. But what exactly is protein, and when it comes to supplements, which type of protein is best? Read on to learn about the different sources of protein powder and which ones stand apart from the rest.
Protein 101 - The Need-to-Know
Protein is a macronutrient found in many foods such as meats, dairy products, nuts, and beans, to name a few. It’s comprised of amino acids, the building blocks of lean body tissue that promote healthy skin, hair, bones, fingernails, as well as (drum roll, please) muscles.
While many experts suggest getting the bulk of our protein from whole food sources, protein supplements can make it easier to get those aminos on-the-go. But not all protein supplements are created equal. Before dissecting the pros and cons of different protein sources it’s important to understand two ways protein supplements are often classified:
Protein Concentrate vs. Isolate: Protein is derived from various food sources and is “concentrated” by removing the non-protein parts. The result: a powder that’s 70-85 percent pure protein (with the remain 15-30 percent consisting mostly of carbohydrates and fat). Taking the concentration process a step further, “isolation” removes a much higher percentage of non-protein content. The additional processing yields a premium protein that is up to 95 percent pure.
Complete vs. Incomplete Protein: Amino acids that cannot be produced by the body are known as essential amino acids. “Complete proteins” contain all 10 essential amino acids, whereas “incomplete proteins” contain some, but not all, of the essential amino acids.
OK, now we are ready to dive into the fun stuff. Here is a detailed look at the most common protein powder supplements on the market, and what their pros and cons mean for you.
For a complete comparison of whey protein, casein protein, egg protein, soy protein, rice protein, hemp protein, pea protein and weight gainer, go to Greatist.com.
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