Your at the store, looking to buy protein powder, only to discover rows and rows of 50 different kinds. Which one is the best for you? From whey, to casein, hemp to soy, the choices can be very confusing.
It doesn’t have to be hair pulling though. Finding the right one for you depends on your health goals and dietary restrictions, and should also be based on how easily it’s absorbed by your body.
What to look for? Check for the Protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score, or PDCAAS. A protein scoring a 1.0 indicates that it meets all the essential amino acid requirements of humans according to the FDA and FAO/WHO.
Here are 3 choices all with a PDCAA Score of 1.0.
Whey, derived from cow’s milk, leads the herd as the best protein source. It’s called a “complete” protein, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids—the ones your body can’t make on its own. Whey enters your blood stream faster than any other protein and boasts the highest level of the amino acid leucine, good for providing muscles with the necessary fuel to power through a workout and build muscle. In fact, whey is the most effective powder at building muscle; so if that’s a goal, aim to consume it within an hour after exercise.
Choose this if: You simply want the best powder to increase your protein intake or are looking to build or maintain muscle.
What to look for: You have a couple choices: If maximum protein is what you’re after, choose a whey protein isolate or whey hydrolysate—these are higher protein (90%) and contain a bit less fat, carbs, and lactose. If a super clean product with slightly less protein is more your taste, opt for a concentrate (80%)—these are readily available in organic, grass-fed varieties which contain no trace hormones, pesticides, or grain feed byproducts.
PDCAA Score: 1.0
• Because it digests fast, it won’t keep you satisfied for very long.
2. Casein Protein
Casein, the main protein in milk, is absorbed more slowly than whey, so it’s not quite as efficient at building muscle. But it can leave you feeling fuller longer, which makes it a great addition to meal-replacement smoothies or your morning oatmeal. Casein has also been found to enhance muscle building when blended with whey in a post-workout shake.
Choose this if: You generally use protein powder as a meal replacement or before bed, or if you want to combine it with whey for optimal muscle-building effects.
What to look for: Opt for micellar casein, the slowest-digesting casein. Like with whey, choose casein made with organic, grass-fed dairy if possible; or free of growth hormones.
PDCAA Score: 1.0
• Some people have allergies to casein protein. If you have milk allergies from lactose only,
then casein should not pose any problems since it is very low lactose.
3. Egg White Protein
Egg white protein is just what it sounds like: Dried whites that have been turned into a powder. This protein digests slower than whey but faster than casein. Although not quite as good as whey or casein in terms of muscle protein synthesis, it’s still a good option in a post-workout or meal-replacement smoothie.
Choose this if: You’re allergic to or don’t eat dairy (e.g. Paleo dieters), but still want a high-quality complete protein.
What type: Your only option is “egg white powder,” sometimes called “egg white albumen.” If you eat organic or cage-free eggs as part of your diet, you should look for the same in a powder. This may be hard to find, however, so consider opting for organic pasteurized liquid egg whites as an alternative.
PDCAA Score: 1.0
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