Let us help you make sense of it all with this report.
In it you’ll learn the best protein supplements unique and personal — for you.
Protein is a macro-nutrient 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.
Why would I want to use protein supplements?
Regardless of your individual goals, it’s important to get enough protein. Protein can help you manage your weight and body composition as well as enhance muscle growth, immune function and exercise recovery.
While many experts suggest getting the bulk of our protein from whole food sources, Protein supplements are a popular, convenient way to get a healthy dose of protein from a variety of sources, including animal- to plant-based ingredients.
After all, it’s a lot easier to stick a protein powder package in your bag than a chicken breast, and protein powder makes a better fruit smoothie than, say, a steak.
Despite the wide variety of protein powders available, the differences boil down to a few characteristics:
- The type(s) of protein.
- Quality of protein.
- Additional ingredients used to enhance the product’s benefits.
- Cost per serving or per gram.
Type(s) of Protein
The types of protein used in protein powders can be divided into two categories: animal source proteins and vegetable source proteins.
Animal source proteins include milk protein derivatives like whey and casein, beef and egg white protein. Of the animal protein types, the most popular is whey protein. Nutritionally and taste-wise, animal proteins are superior to vegetable proteins and far more popular
Plant source proteins include soy, rice, pea, hemp, spirulina and sprouted grain proteins. Of the vegetable protein types, soy, rice and pea protein are the most popular. Soy and hemp are unique among vegetable protein sources in that they supply all 8 essential amino acids. Plant proteins are rich in vitamins and minerals, and often provide antioxidants, amino acids, fiber and more. Most people using vegetable protein powders do so as part of a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, although many people use soy protein primarily for its heart-healthy and/or hormone-balancing benefits. They also have a lower risk of stroke, cancer and death from heart disease than non-vegetarians. Soy is still the most commonly used plant protein by supplement makers, but other plant sources—from rice and pea to hemp and spirulina—are quickly growing in consumer appeal. Plant proteins could become the protein of the future, especially with climate, health and sustainability issues related to raising livestock. Even so, most tasters still prefer the silky, frothy taste of whey compared with the more gritty texture of some plant proteins.
Researchers and nutrition experts talk about protein quality using:
Biological Value (BV) – how well the protein can be used for synthesizing new proteins.
Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS)
Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) – scale compares the amino acid profile of a protein source with the essential amino acid requirements that people need.
Protein Efficiency Ratio (PER)
Protein Digestibility (PD)
Branched-Chain Amino Acid (BCAA) – A protein powder that does not contain BCAAs can be extremely less effective. These are normally an added ingredients.
The chart below shows different rating methods scientists use to evaluate the quality of several proteins. The higher the number shown in the columns, the better your protein.
The protein portion of whole milk consists of 20% whey protein and 80% casein protein.
- About 90 – 95 percent protein by weight making it the purest form of protein in existence.
- Is virtually fat-free for those wishing to eliminate as much fat from their diet as possible.
- Typically negligible lactose level.
- For most people, it’s the best all-around choice in terms of taste (it’s one of the best-tasting), quality (it’s the highest) and cost (it’s the most economical).
- Absorbs in the digestive system quickly.
- Another unique benefit of whey protein, and one that is often overlooked, is that it enhances the immune system in several ways.
Whey hydrolysate (hydrolyzed)
- It is essentially hydrolyzed protein isolate therefore has same qualities.
- Hydrolysis is essentially pre-digestion and thus has enhance absorption.
Our Pick Of The Purest Protein Powder
Rule One Protein Powder (R1 Protein) is made by the same people who created Optimum Nutrition and the legendary Whey Gold Standard.
WHAT MAKES RULE ONE PROTEIN SUCH A GOOD CHOICE?
- It contains all of the beneficial ingredients and none of the detrimental ingredients.
- One of the only few protein powders you will be able to find that contains zero fat, zero sugar, zero lactose, zero gluten, zero added creamers, only one gram of carbohydrates, only five milligrams of cholesterol, only 50 milligrams of sodium, and only 105 calories per serving.
- One of the only protein powders on the market that uses strictly whey protein isolate and whey protein hydrolysate.
- Contains over 6 grams of 18 BCAAs in every serving (including glutamine, valine, leucine, isoleucine, and many more), which is among the highest we have seen.
- Contains 25 grams of protein per serving.
- Added Glutamine, which is a great ingredient for the improvement of protein metabolism.
ISO HD is an extremely pure, low calorie protein powder created by one of the most widely known names in sports nutrition, BPI Sports. The protein blend consists purely of whey isolates and hydrolysates, which makes it extraordinarily fast digesting and effective.
ISO HD Ingredients – What Makes It Work?
1. Has only 1 gram of fat and 1 gram of sugar, which is basically as low as it gets.
2. Only 120 calories per serving, which is one of the lowest we have ever seen.
3. Uses strictly isolates and hydrolysates
4. High BCAA count means faster growth and recovery
5. Low fat, low sugar, low calories
6. Uses 0 fillers
ISO HD hits all of the marks: extremely pure protein blend, high BCAA count, low calories, low sugar, and less than 1 gram of fat. It can be used effectively by both men AND women because it doesn’t contain any added BS, it’s just pure protein.
- About 60 – 70 percent protein by weight.
- Concentration is a high heat drying process and acid extraction to lessen the whole food source into a concentrated protein powder.
- During the processing other impurities can be concentrated with the protein (e.g., lactose, fat, cholesterol). However, it has trivial amounts of lactose, fat and carbs relative to your overall nutrient intake.
- More economical per gram of protein.
- Typically the best-selling category of whey.
- Absorbs in the digestive system quickly.
We do not recommend the concentrate as a standalone. It is more beneficial as a blend with whey isolate, whey hydrolysate or a blend of any of them. Other types of protein are sometimes combined with whey proteins in products and are known as protein blends.
- 80% of milk is casein, the terms “milk protein” and “casein protein” are used interchangeably. It usually appears as calcium caseinate on labels.
- Digests over a long period of time, research has found it’s an optimal protein choice bedtime protein shake.
- More expensive than whey, and often contains many artificial ingredients to help make it more palatable.
- Has highest lactose content of all milk protein
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- Naturally Fat-free, concentrated amounts of essential amino acids and an excellent choice for those who wish to avoid dairy products.
- Made by separating out the yolks and dehydrating the egg whites.
- Rich in vitamins and minerals…
- common in allergies.
- Most expensive protein supplements available.
- May upset stomach.
Our pick is NowSports Egg white protein
Has become extremely popular for those looking for a non-dairy, non-plant protein.
Best natural sources of creatine.
Now, you can find beef protein which is packed with natural creatine and BCAAs, and they are defatted so it contains no fat or cholesterol.
- Pasture-Raised, Grass-Fed, Non-GMO, Kosher; Our collagen powder is soluble in cold liquids
- Collagen peptides promote youthful skin, healthier hair, and stronger nails
- Helps keeps bones healthy and strong, supports joint health
- Collagen contributes to a balanced diet and helps maintain weight
- Whole 30 ® Approved, Gluten Free, Dairy Free
- One of the few plant protein that offer all of the essential amino acids.
- The protein is concentrated or isolated after the soy beans have been hulled and dried into soy flour.
- May help improve the body’s immune function, promote bone health, prevent cardiovascular disease and reduce the risk of certain cancers. Soy has additional benefits, too. The isoflavones in soy provide antioxidant benefits, heart health benefits and is often used by women transitioning through menopause.
- However, it has unpleasant taste, that cannot be completely mask with flavors and sweeteners, especially when soy is the sole protein source in a product.
In recent years, soy has come under heavy scrutiny because it is often genetically modified to produce greater crop yields. Some research has also singled out soy due to its effects on hormone levels.
5. Rice Protein
- Although often thought of as a carbohydrate only, brown rice is becoming a standard source for vegetarian protein powder.
- Also considered a good source of complex carbohydrates, vitamin B, and fiber.
- Hypo-allergenic, gluten-free, neutral taste, economical. 100% plant-based.
- May be derived from genetically modified rice.
- Deficient in some amino acids and therefore should not comprise the main source of dietary protein.
6. Hemp Protein
- Hemp protein is derived from the seeds of the cannabis plant.
- Often referred to as a “superfood” due to its mix of essential fat acids and is extremely hypoallergenic.
- Provides omega-3 fats, most forms provide fibre, free of trypsin inhibitors, can get in raw form, high in arginine and histidine.
7. Pea Protein
Thought you’ve seen them all? Pea protein comes from the yellow split pea, making it a popular choice for vegetarians and vegans alike.
- Hypoallergenic, highly digestible and economical.
- Rich in lysine, arginine and glutamine.
- Few additives or artificial ingredients, this one appeals to those looking for protein sources closest to the whole-food source
- Contain the spectrum of essential amino acids.
- Deficient in certain amino acids and should not be used as a primary source of dietary protein.
Cranberry protein – Can maintain antioxidants through processing. Derived from recovered cranberry seeds. Contains omega-3 fats. 100% plant-based.
Artichoke protein – Source of inulin (a prebiotic). Rich in BCAAs. 100% plant based.
With plant proteins, if you don’t mix certain sources together, you can miss out on some of the amino acids you need to have a full recovery and get the most out of your workout.
Orgain Organic Protein Powder takes a natural and organic approach and uses a blend of organic pea, organic brown rice, organic chia seed, and organic hemp protein. Vegans who are looking for more efficient ways to get their protein can turn to this product so they can hold on to their diet while still achieving the gains they are looking for in the gym.
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- Calories: 150
- Total Fat: 4g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
- Potassium: 60mg
- Sodium: 125mg
- Total Carbs: 13g
- Protein: 21g
However, it has no added BCAAs and does not taste as good as non-vegan powders and has lower number of amino acids.
Another Contender In This Category:
Garden of Life Raw Protein is a plant based protein powder that tries to be the best vegan protein powder on the market.
Garden of Life Raw Protein works by utilizing natural sources ‘of plant based protein that are more easily digested by the body. These sources of plant based protein do not have as many amino acids as non-vegan based proteins, and make up for this by trying to get protein out of different vegan sources with different amino acids to contribute and comprises of 22 raw and organic sprouts. The blend provides a complete protein and include all the essential amino acids.
- Calories: 110
- Total Fat: 2.5g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
- Sodium: 180mg
- Potassium: 50mg
- Carbohydrates: 2g
- Protein: 22g
These nutritional facts are incredible and provide you with the right amount of protein with the least amount of carbs, sodium, calories, and fat that we have seen from vegan competitors. In addition to that, it also contains vitamins and minerals that can help keep your body refreshed and energized. In addition, contains probiotics and enzymes but lacks additional BCAAs.
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How Much Protein To Take
The WHO (World Health Organization) set the minimum protein intake at about 1/3 of a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. The first column in the chart below reflects this minimum amount, which is set low enough to include third world countries. However, you need optimal amounts – not minimum amounts – for survival. Begin by looking in the left column below and select your ideal bodyweight. Protein requirements for most people should fall between the Medium and Typical columns. Studies show weight lifters might need .72g/lb. of bodyweight, highly trained cyclists might need .8g/lb., rigorous exercise training might require 1.3g/lb., and world-class weight lifters may use upwards of 1.6g/lb. A good rule of thumb is to eat protein (grams) to match your ideal bodyweight, lifestyle and what you intend to achieve.