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Picking the Right Protein Powder for Your Goals

Picking the Right Protein Powder for Your Goals

Protein powder supplementation is an excellent way of ensuring you get sufficient protein in a day in order to reach your goals, or they can simply be a quick healthy snack for those on the go.

But what most do not understand is that in terms of overall nutrition, there is something left to be desired from protein powders when compared to whole food alternatives. For most, it shouldn’t be much of a problem meeting a protein intake requirement and thus it would be advisable to source one’s protein from whole foods. However, for others such as high performing athletes who have a higher protein requirement, eating excessive amounts of meat can cause gastrointestinal stress and inflammation, thus a protein powder supplement would be fitting.

There is not simply one form of protein powder, there are many forms out there and choosing what is best for you is subjective to your needs and requirements.

Whey protein:

The most commonly used form of protein that is exceptionally affordable, accessible and suitable for all demographics. This source of protein supplementation is exceptionally versatile and comes in a range of different flavours as well as being divided into subdivisions such as:

  • Protein concentrates: Produced by extracting protein from whole food using heat and acid or enzymes. These typically supply 60–80% protein, with the remaining 20–40% composed of fat and carbs.
  • Protein isolates: An additional filtering process removes more fat and carbs, further concentrating the protein. Protein isolate powders contain about 90–95% protein. They also contain less lactose than other forms of whey, making them suitable for those with sensitivities or allergies to the milk sugar.
  • Protein hydrolysates: Produced by further heating with acid or enzymes — which breaks the bonds between amino acids — hydrolysates are absorbed more quickly by your body and muscles.

The above subdivisions are applicable for all protein powders not just whey and can be exceptionally beneficial to those who have certain issues with the digestion of protein, they can also be useful for those in a strict dieting phase who do not need the added carbohydrates or fats.


Plant based protein:

These sources of protein are useful for those who have issues digesting lactose (the primary ingredient in whey protein) or who have sensitivities to specific ingredients. Although they are considered a protein powder, they have been fortified with amino acids in which they lack, in order to give the consumer a complete amino acid profile from a singular source. These proteins also have various enzymes added in order to allow for more efficient digestion. These plant-based protein sources can be derived from various plants such as:

  • Soya beans
  • Pea
  • Hemp



Another milk derived protein however, the difference being the time in which it takes for absorption and assimilation. Casein forms a gel when it interacts with acid in the stomach, delaying gastric emptying and delaying your bloodstream’s absorption of amino acids. This results in a gradual, steadier exposure of your muscles to amino acids, reducing the rate of muscle protein breakdown. Typically referred to as the night-time protein for the above reasons, this protein has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis more than the likes of plant-based proteins such as soy, although not to the same degree as a whey protein.


Mass gainers

An effective meal replacement shake and quick source of calories, meal replacement shakes are rarely needed by the common athlete unless under time constraint, averaging at around 35-50g protein per serving and upwards of 60g of carbohydrates with varying fat content (brand dependent), these shakes can easily reach a total calorie content of upwards of 500kcals, depending on what they are mixed with. These can be useful for those who are ill or are having trouble digesting solid foods.



In conclusion, unless subject to varying factors such as digestion/sensitivity/ allergies I do not see the need to deviate from standard whey proteins e.g. isolates or standard whey. These sources are cost efficient, cater to a vast array of tastes and are exceptionally versatile in terms of cooking etc.


By Tireoghain O’Neill


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