Years ago there was no such thing as protein powder, and bodybuilders got all of their protein from their diet. This is why a lot of them drank egg whites, ate a lot of meat and fish, and drank a huge amount of milk.
These days we have so many choices of protein powder available to us that it can be a little overwhelming. The purpose of this article is to look at a list of the most common protein powders and give you a little info on each. We'll start with the most common.
1. Whey Protein Powder
Whey protein powder is the most well known protein powder available, it is fast digesting and is derived from milk. You can split whey protein into 3 types:
- Whey concentrate
- Whey isolate
- Whey hydrolysate
Whey concentrate is the cheapest and most common form of protein out there, whilst the protein content is as good as any other whey protein the concentrate tends to be harder to digest.
This can lead to bloating and may not make you the most popular person after taking it.
Whey concentrates also contain Lactose, so should be avoided by anyone who is Lactose-Intolerant.
Whey isolate is a step up in terms of protein, the protein content will be the higher and it will be easier to digest. Whey isolates are potentially better post-workout as they are digested much faster, but there isn't that much difference between the two.
Whey Hydrolysate is an even more expensive version of whey protein powder, amino acid chains have been broken into smaller chains which makes it even easier to digest. The enzymes in whey hydrolysate have been partially pre-digested which makes it even easier to absorb.
2. Casein Protein Powder
With the different forms of whey protein the goal is to get the protein absorbed into the system as fast as possible, this makes whey protein an excellent post-workout shake as it means that you can immediately start muscle protein synthesis.
Casein which is also derived from milk is a slow-releasing protein that can take hours to breakdown in the body. It is for this reason that many people take Casein before they go to bed, as it can improve overnight recovery from exercise .
Casein is also high in Glutamine which can also help aid recovery from exercise.
Another benefit of Casein is that because it is slow digesting it can help keep you feeling fuller for longer. This means that Casein is a great protein choice for people who are trying to lose body fat by staying in a calorie deficit.
3. Milk Protein Isolate
Milk Protein isolate is a combination of both whey protein and casein protein.
Milk protein isolate is more commonly found in food than in powder form although it does exist. A 2013 study found that milk protein can improve metabolic health and lower the risk of diabetes .
4. Soy Protein Powder
Soy protein powder is a plant-based alternative to whey protein for those who do not consume milk or its derivatives.
Whilst it is similar to whey in its effect on muscle, Soy protein powder is looked at as a poor choice of powder due to its effect on Testosterone.
5. Pea Protein Powder
Pea protein is another plant-based alternative to whey protein. But whereas Soy protein could lower your Testosterone levels and as such is not popular with male lifters, Pea protein has no such problem.
Pea protein is Lactose, Gluten, and Cholesterol free, and also contains a comparable amount of protein per serving. It is perfect for vegans as there are no animal by products in pea protein at all.
Protein intake has been proven to be most effective when taken throughout the day, rather than skewed towards dinner (which is the case for most people) .
So finding a protein powder that you can take before bed, or with breakfast is the most important thing
Other than that, choose whatever protein powder you want it really comes down to personal preference.
A cheap whey protein concentrate could leave some people bloated and gassy, but this doesn't mean that everyone would be affected by this. Also, in terms of protein content it is identical to the other powders.
You don't take protein powders because they are perfect, you take them because they are more convenient than cooking a meal.
 Res, P., Groen, B., Pennings, B., Beelen, M., Wallis, G., Gijsen, A., Senden, J., Van loon, L. 2012. Protein ingestion before sleep improves post-exercise overnight recovery. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 44(8): 1560-9
 McGregor, R., Poppitt, S. 2013. Milk protein for improved metabolic health: a review of the evidence. Nutrition & Metabolism 10(46):
 Mamerow, M., Mettler, J., English, K., Casperson, S., Arentson-Lantz, E., Sheffield-Moore, M., Layman, D., Paddon-Jones, D. 2014. Dietary Protein Distribution Positively Influences 24-h Muscle Protein Synthesis in Healthy Adults. The Journal of Nutrition 144(6): 876-880