Which Type of Protein Supplements Should You Choose?

I wrote this blog at the request of several of my patients, who were interested in learning more about protein supplements. In short, there are many choices for protein supplementation available; however, in my opinion, whey concentrate is the best option.

One of the reasons I prefer whey protein is that it is one of the most biologically available of the proteins, meaning that it is readily usable by the body. This is in contrast to other forms of supplements; including vegetable-based proteins like pea protein and hemp protein powder, that are less biologically available.

Whey, the clear-ish liquid that remains after milk has curdled and strained, is a byproduct of cheese production and hosts many beneficial proteins. For instance, lactoferrin functions as an antibacterial and helps strengthen the immune strengthening and the proteins alpha lactalbumin and beta lactoglobulin can lower blood pressure.

Whey protein contains branched chain amino acids, i.e., leucine, isoleucine and valine. These amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and regular consumption may have anti-aging properties. Eating whey protein has been shown to improve longevity in certain species, as these proteins fool the body into believing it is restricted in calories, which as I've said many times before, can mean improved longevity. Whey also helps prevent muscle wasting in the elderly, and if taken 30 minutes after a workout, can help build muscle. Studies have suggested that whey protein consumption may help lower the risk of diabetes, cancer and dementia, as well as release hormones from the gut that helps control appetite. Whey protein also helps control cholesterol levels by slowing the production of very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) in the liver. VLDLs particles convert to LDLs, commonly known as bad cholesterol.

Whey contains only trace amounts of lactose; so, it’s usually not problematic for people who are lactose intolerant. And since casein (the other major constituent in dairy that causes sensitivities in many people) separates during the cheese making process, whey protein contains even less casein than lactose.

What is the difference between whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate? Concentrate has a little more fat and lactose, but is much less processed. This means that less heat is used to produce it. Less heat means less denatured (damaged) proteins which means better for us. Isolate is pure protein, but more processing is required and therefore more damage to the proteins occurs during that high heat processing.

What about other proteins? My second choice is egg white protein powder. It’s highly bioavailable and complete in terms of all of the right amino acids. Another option would to simply eat eggs. One potential drawback to this form of protein is that some people are allergic to eggs and egg white protein.

I would avoid soy altogether. Soy is processed at high temperatures which oxidizes and damages the proteins and oils and makes them potentially dangerous. In addition, soy contains tryptase inhibitors which block our ability to digest protein and contain high levels of phytic acid, which limit the absorption of certain minerals like zinc, calcium, magnesium, and iron. Protein from grains functions in the same manner.

As for brown rice protein concentrate, it is poorly absorbed and has less biologic availability. Hemp protein is high in fiber, vegetarian friendly and tastes better than many other protein supplements. However, when compared to whey, it is lower in protein and not as complete of a protein source. Lastly, pea is protein tends to not be absorbed efficiently; further, it is lower in protein, expensive, and probably not a great option.

Although supplements are a convenient way to get high quality protein into your diet, you should also consider your food sources of protein. Continue reading to learn more about animal-based and vegetable-based protein »

Oct 8th, 2015
I have been using raw meal powder as my protein drink adding kale and sprouts and 2 T. almond butter and almond milk finding it keeps me feeling satisfied until lunch. The whey product left me hungry 3 hours later.What is your opinion of the raw meal powder?
Sep 30th, 2015
I'm kind of surprised to find whey protein so highly regarded but not based on anything I can see. Where are the studies showing that whey protein vs whey protein isolate, vs rice protein isolate ( in that case it must be an isolate), and all the various forms of it... the kinds with protease included in the mixture, the flavored vs unflavored... etc. I also take whey protein, but I compared with pea and rice, and the BCAA content was numerically very similar. I was hoping this article would lead me to research showing absorption differences, secrets about the flavorings,etc. At least you should mention the difference between whey protein with lactoferrin (being great for immune stimulation, not so much for exercise recovery though), and isolated whey protein, or the kinds that claim to have broken it into "peptides" (what is that exactly?).

Am I expecting too much? The amount of info in this article is easily found on any bodybuilder website, sometimes even more. I was hoping for more here. At least articles I can look up, which are backing up the claims with studies. When I saw the title I wasn't thinking, "Should I choose pea, rice, soy or whey?" I was thinking, which whey should I choose? If I should choose whey over the others, then why (with references)? What about flavorings, is it worth it? Etc..
1 Reply
Oct 19th, 2015
Greetings Angie,

Thank you for your interest in our blog. Dr. Lou Malinow, one of our affiliated physicians, wrote this blog in response to questions his patients had about which type of protein supplements they should use.

Since many of our other affiliated doctors were being asked the same questions, we thought it would be helpful to share this information with all of our members.

Although there is not a lot of information available on supplements, the information that is available supports using whey protein.

To help answer your questions regarding peptides and lactoferrin, below are links to several articles:

- http://www.livestrong.com/article/443290-whey-protein-vs-whey-isolate/

- http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/protein-powder?page=1

- http://www.nutritionsecrets.com/health-benefits-whey-protein/

- https://www.divinenutritionproducts.com/blog/what-are-whey-peptides/

- https://www.inspire.com/groups/national-osteoporosis-foundation/discussion/lactoferrin-in-whey-protein

We hope this information helps you.

In Good Health,

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