There are lots of protein terms being thrown around out there...but what do they mean? I'm only going to touch on a few of the more common choices.
Whey proteins are the most popular - for good reason...whey protein has been show to help promote muscle growth and weight loss. Whey is versatile and can be used pre- and post-workout due to the rapid absorption. It is also appropriate for breakfast shakes or a snack.
There are 2 types of whey protein - isolate and concentrate. Generally, it says right on the label whether or not the protein in question is a concentrate, an isolate or blended.
Whey concentrate is less expensive than other powders, is easy to find and is a great place to start. But don't be surprised if you start to feel a little gassy and bloated - some people have a hard time digesting concentrate.
Whey isolate is more expensive and quicker absorbing. Isolates are a purer form of protein, easier to digest and low in carbs and sugars. While not as expensive as some other types of powders, isolate is slightly more expensive than concentrate.
If you have a sensitive stomach or are following a low carb/low sugar diet, isolate is probably the best choice for you. A blended may even be ok; don’t be afraid to experiment.
Plant-based proteins come in many forms (rice, hemp, pea) and tend to be easier on the digestive system that animal-based proteins. For vegans and vegetarians, these are an excellent source of protein and, despite what you might hear on the street, you can get all the nutrients and amino acids found in whey or casein proteins. Just don't be surprised if the taste is rather plant-like. You’re drinking a plant.
Soy protein specifically has been shown to speed up metabolism, supports healthy cholesterol and contains an amino acid, arginine, which helps muscles about nutrients quicker by helping to dilate the blood vessels.
Casein protein is slower absorbing, averaging about 6 hours to fully absorb into your system. This allows your body to utilize protein for recovery and regeneration over longer periods of time - like while you are sleeping. It is also a good option if you know you will be going longer periods of time than usual between meals.
Hydrolysate/hydrolyzed protein is the fastest absorbing (and most expensive) of all the proteins. It is primarily recommended for pre- or post-workout. It is easier to digest than the concentrates mentioned above.
Egg protein/egg-white protein/egg albumin is just that - protein made from eggs. Generally it is in a liquid form that is great for cooking. Eggs (just the whites or combined with the yoke) have been used to build lean muscle mass before powders were even a blip on anyone's radar. I include it here because it can sometimes be used in blended protein powders - if you have an allergy or sensitivity to eggs you need to make sure you are aware of the use of these items.
Protein from Food Sources
I recommend limiting yourself to 1 protein shake per day and getting the rest of your protein from foods. Some common foods and their protein levels as provided by The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics are below.
-1 large egg = 6 grams
-1 cup low-fat milk = 8 grams
-1 cup plain low-fat yogurt = 12 grams
-½ cup low-fat cottage cheese = 14 grams
-2 tablespoons peanut butter = 8 grams
-1 cup quinoa = 8 grams
-3 ounces of lean ground beef = 22 grams
-3 ounces skinless, baked chicken = 26 grams
-3 ounces grilled salmon = 21 grams