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Choosing a Protein Supplement

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Choosing a Protein Supplement

With so many choices of protein supplements on the market, how do you choose the right one? Keep reading to find out.

Protein is one of our most essential nutrients for optimal health. It forms the structural basis of our muscle tissue and is the major component of enzymes. It can also serve as an energy source during prolonged periods of exercise.

It’s not always convenient, though, for busy athletes to down a protein-packed meal after a workout. Supplements such as protein powder offer a ready solution.

Casein

Casein protein is made from cows’ milk and is considered a slow-release protein because the casein gels in the stomach acid environment, taking longer to break down. Casein is rich in glutamine, an amino acid that helps stimulate protein synthesis, but it is also high in lactose and sodium so it is not a good choice for people with lactose intolerance or high blood pressure. Its protein digestibility corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) is 95 percent.

Egg

Many consider egg protein second only to mother’s milk for human nutrition. It scores 98 percent using the PDCAAS, but as eggs are one of the top eight food allergens, it is best to avoid if allergies are an issue.

Whey

Whey protein is probably the most prevalent in protein powders; however, read product labels carefully. There are important differences between whey protein concentrates, whey protein isolates, or hydrolyzed whey proteins.

  • Whey protein concentrates cost less but are higher in lactose than whey protein isolates. Also, they can vary in protein availability.
  • Whey protein isolates have higher protein availability by weight as they are filtered, but this extra process also removes some of the beta-lactoglobulins and lactoferrins that are important immune boosters.
  • Hydrolyzed whey protein is processed even more, driving up the cost, but affording the highest levels of protein. This form is easy on the digestive system and has a high absorption rate.

Plant proteins

Protein exists in plant foods, but in smaller concentrations. They may have most of the 20 amino acids required in the human diet but are usually deficient in one or more of the nine essential amino acids.

There are exceptions. Hempseed produces a high-quality protein, complete with all essential amino acids. It is also high in fibre. Soybeans offer complete protein, and when processed properly, soy protein isolate scores 95 to 97 percent in protein digestibility. It is cholesterol free and low in saturated fat.

Other plant proteins found in vegan protein powders include rice, pea, spirulina, and chlorella. One big advantage of plant proteins is their alkalinity.

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