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The Scoop on Protein Powders

By Sofia Segounis, Nutritionist

When you walk into a health food store are you overwhelmed by the rows of different protein powders? Picking the right protein powder can often feel like a confusing game of science. Allow us to clear up the confusion by explaining the various types of protein powders.

The four types of protein used in protein powders are whey, soy, egg and rice. Protein powders can contain one of these, or a mixture of two, such as soy and whey or whey and egg.

Whey protein is derived from milk and is the most commonly used protein supplement. It contains nonessential and essential amino acids, as well as branch chain amino acids (BCAA). Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. The body does not make essential amino acids, therefore they must be obtained through diet. Nonessential amino acids can be synthesized by the body. Whey is easily abosorbed by your muscles and is extrememly safe to use. Whey protein is not appropriate for those who have a milk allergy or who cannot tolerate lactose.

There are two categories of whey protein powdersóconcentrate and isolate. The concentrate form is more widely used, easier to find and less expensive. It contains approximately 30 to 85% protein. Whey isolate is a higher quality protein and is, therefore, more expensive. It contains more than 90% protein. Whey isolate is more easily abosorbed by the body and contains less fat and lactose.

Benefits of whey protein:

  • Helps boost immunity
  • Optimal source of amino acids
  • Enhances muscle recovery after workouts and helps prevent muscle breakdown

Soy protein is derived from soy flour. Of all the various vegetable proteins, soy is the most complete protein. Similar to whey protein, soy protein has two types, the concentrate and the isolate, with the isolate being the purer, more expensive form. Soy protein is highly digestible and is comparable to milk and meat as a protein source. Soy protein is ideal for those who have dairy allergies, but should not be taken by those who have a soy allergies.

Benefits of soy protein:

  • Helps to improve nutritional value of foods
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease
  • Suitable for vegans


Egg protein is made from the egg white and is therefore fat-free and high in protein. It is considered the most perfect source of protein because it is complete in essential amino acids, branch chain amino acids and glutamic acid. It is completely and easily absorbed by the body. Because of its characteristics, egg protein is used as the standard against which all other proteins are measured. Egg protein should not be used by anyone who has an egg allergy.

Benefits of egg protein:

  • Highest in the amino acids alanine, arginine, glycine and methine
  • Fat-free

Rice protein is derived by carefully isolating the protein from brown rice. It is a complete protein containing all essential amino acids and nonessential amino acids. Rice protein is hypoallergenic, which makes it sutable for everyone.

Benefits of rice protein:

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Suitable for vegans
  • Complete protein

In a nutshell
All four types of powder are good sources of protein and can be used in a variety of ways. Try adding protein to smoothies or use it in baking, cooking and snacks. Depending on your personal preference, taste, tolerance and budget there are a variety of options to select from.


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