Lets face it, the world of protein powders can be confusing. Do you need a Whey or a Vegan? Concentrate or Isolate? Fermented? Organic? Sprouted? Sweetened? It is a lot to take in and for many people it can become a huge hurdle that stops them from getting the many benefits available from supplementing with a protein powder. Not to mention the prices can vary greatly and for many reasons. The big tub of protein powder you saw for $15 at the discount store is likely not the same as the $75 tub at the health food store. Does it matter? Is there a difference? Yes.
Lets start with the basics, most stores will have 2 basic categories of protein powder Whey and Vegan Sources. Each of these will contain varying amounts of protein dependant on ingredients, sources and the type of processing. Regardless of how many grams of protein a product claims – you should always calculate the % of protein per serving. To do this, take the amount of protein per serving and divide by the serving size (grams) multiply this amount by 100 to calculate the percentage of protein per serving. The more fillers, sweeteners and other ingredients, the lower the protein %.
Whey Protein Powders
Most whey proteins are derived from cows milk. Whey is simply the liquid bi-product your get from making cheese – Curds and Whey! Whey contains proteins, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. After the water and casein are removed the whey concentrate remains. An easily absorbed protein source, whey proteins tend to have a smooth texture. Within the Whey category, protein powers are further divided into whey concentrate and whey isolate. Both of which have full amino acid profiles and many benefits and many people still debate which is better. When looking for a whey – the source in important. Ideally it should be free from hormones, antibiotics and more. Canadian and New Zealand milk products both have very high standards in this regard, as do certified organic milk products.
Whey concentrates contain varying amounts of fat and carbohydrates in the form of lactose. The percentage of protein varies from about 30% to about 80% (% of calories from protein), and includes a variety of protein subfractions including lactoferrin, immunolgobulins and beta-lactoglobulin (among others), many of which have significant biologic activity and health benefits. Lactoferrin is essential for iron absorption and immunolgobulins are antioxidants that provide excellent immune support.
Whey Isolates are made by further processing and purifying a whey concentrate. This expensive process produces a protein concentration in excess of 85%. It eliminates the lactose and the carbohydrates found in concentrate, making it a more pure protein source that is rapidly absorbed by the body. This rapid absorption produces a more profound insulin response, making isolates a popular post work-out choice but not recommend for diabetics. This process also degrades the subfactions of the protein, reducing or even removing many of the health benefits available in a concentrate.
Unless you have very specific requirements or are an elite bodybuilding athlete – I suggest getting the best of both worlds with a blended protein. Blended proteins contain both Whey Concentrates and Whey Isolates making them a high protein source with all the health advantages. Many blended products such as Progressive Harmonized Protein are specifically designed for optimal absorption and digestion that provide health benefits above any individual protein source.
Vegan Protein Powders
Vegan proteins are a vast and growing category. Historically hard to find, they are now available alongside their whey counterparts in most stores. They consist of protein derived from plants. There are many sources for vegan protein including pea, hemp, soy, pumpkin seed, chia, corn, brown rice, quinoa, coconut and more. Each of these sources have their own qualities and benefits and many of them can be purchased as a single source protein supplement; However, the key to a good protein lies in its building blocks – which are amino acids. There are many different amino acids but 9 of them must be consumed and cannot be produced in the body, these are considered “essential”. The Amnio Acid profile varies in all the above noted vegan protein sources. Grains are generally limited in some amino acids, while most legumes are limited in other ones, and corn in even different ones. Some beans are considered a complete protein while others are not.
Therefore blended vegan proteins are best in order to provide a complete amino acid profile containing both essential and non-essential amino acids. When it comes to blends there seems to be an unlimited number of combinations to be had. I suggest looking for a blend that contains a full amino acid profile and does not contain processed soy unless it is organic and fermented. Rice, hemp, pea are three popular sources found in most quality vegan powders. Also look for co-factors such as vitamins, minerals, fibre and healthy fats… all of which will help aid digestion and minimize bloating. They also maximize the amount of potential protein that the body absorbs from that precious scoop of plant protein.
Organic? Fermented? Sprouted? Naturally Sweetened?
These are common words found on protein labels, but what do they really mean?
Like all other certified organic products, this means that almost all of the ingredients (95%) are grown or produced in compliance with the organic certification guidelines. These products do not contain GMOs and are not grown using synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. They also tend to have slightly higher nutritional content. Purchasing certified organic products is a good step towards sustainability, reduced carbon emissions and generally a better world – but they do come with an additional price tag and tend to be slightly more expensive then their chemically grown counterparts.
This is a popular word these days but the technique is ancient. Fermentation breaks down the “anti-nutrient” found in grains, nuts, seeds and legumes called Phytic Acid. It’s a form of stored phosphorus in plants that protects them against–you guessed it–digestion! For some, this anti-nutrient (and others) can spell digestive troubles like gas, bloating and indigestion. Fermentation helps by breaking down the barriers so your gut can work in peace. Fermented proteins are a good choice for people with digestive problems.
When a seed or grain begins to germinate (sprout) a desirable nutritional change occurs. Complex compounds are broken down during the processes increasing the bioavailable amounts of vitamins, minerals and proteins available. Sprouted grains and seeds have been shown to be higher in nutrients like the B-vitamins, Vitamin C and essential amino acids. Plus there is greater enzyme activity for improved digestibility and absorption. The net result is undeniably better nutrition.
Lets face it, most of us have a sweet tooth and would prefer a smoothie that tastes like chocolate or vanilla over one that tastes like peas! But Beware, often cheap, chemical sweeteners and flavours such as aspartame are used in protein powders and should be avoided. Sugar, while a natural sweetener, can quickly add extra calories to your day. Look for products sweetened with Stevia – a plant based sweetener that does not spice calories or blood sugars.
At The Granary we sell high quality protein powders from a variety of sources. Stop in and talk to the us about picking the right one for you!