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Protein Boost: Picking the Right Powder

smoothie surrounded by protein powder and other ingredients

Health Notes by Dr. Liz

Eating protein at every meal may be the key to weight control and even boost your workout efforts. Protein powders make for a convenient option for adding this key nutrient into smoothies, hot cereals, coffee, soups and more. Most varieties supply about 10-20 grams per scoop (about 20-40% of your Daily Value), perfect for counting as a “meal’s” worth. But protein powders, made from real foods like eggs, milk, hydrolyzed animal parts and beans, are not created equally. Label reading is a must to check on protein sources and added sugars you may want to avoid.

Protein Powder Types

Whey: This protein comes from a byproduct of making cheese from milk and is a very good source of the Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) that researchers know play an important role in recovery from exercise, especially strength training. New research shows seniors maintain their muscle better with whey protein compared to collagen.

Casein: Another protein type from milk, casein also provides a good supply of EAA and BCAA. Both whey and casein protein powders may also contain lactose (check labels if looking for lactose-free versions).

Soy: A vegetarian source of protein, soy supplies just as much EAA as milk proteins. Soy also contains health-boosting isoflavones shown to lower risk of certain cancers and heart disease.

Hydrolyzed Animal Protein: Typically extracted from connective tissue, hooves, skin and hides of animals, this type of protein is processed into small units of proteins and amino acids. But since the major protein source is collagen, the quality (EAA quantity) is poor.

Pea: A vegan protein source that digests well but does not have an EAA profile equal to milk or egg, but combined with brown rice and hemp proteins, pea protein makes for a great addition. 

Brown Rice: A common ingredient in vegan protein powders, brown rice protein is incomplete but in combination with pea or soy protein helps round out the essential amino acid profile. 

Egg: Considered the best protein source since egg white supplies all of the essential building blocks called amino acids (EAA) in amounts that meet your needs.

Learn how to incorporate any of these protein powders into your diet with our blog: Take It, Shake It, Make It, Bake It!

  • smoothie surrounded by protein powder and other ingredients