Protein- What to Choose for your Goals

Depending on what you’re trying to do in health and fitness, it does make a difference what type of protein powder you use. Protein is an essential nutrient for building, maintaining, and repairing muscle among other functions like keeping the immune system up and running. The different types of milk based protein powders you commonly see are commonly know as whey protein. Whey comes from milk, which has two proteins: casein and whey. Whey's high concentration of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), especially leucine, makes it ideal for muscle repair and growth compared to other proteins, like eggs and chicken.

Whey protein concentrate contains at least 30% and no more than 89% protein by weight. For every 100 grams of a product, at least 30% (or 30 grams) of it has to be protein to be called a concentrate. A typical whey protein concentrate will often contain 80% protein and the rest lactose (carbs) and fat.

Whey protein isolate, by definition, is at least 90% protein by weight. As a result, it is largely void of fat and carbohydrates. People who have trouble with lactose may tolerate isolate better than a concentrate. The process to make isolate protein is more costly.

Whey protein hydrolysate is also known as "pre-digested" which reduces digestion time compared to the other two forms of protein. One significant problem with hydrolysates is their bitter or acidic taste. The is from the high amount of peptides and amino acids present.

When it comes to producing whey protein from milk, there are a couple of methods. Ion exchange is a chemical method that uses chemicals such as hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide.

Micro-filtration, also called cross-flow micro-filtration, is a processing method that uses ceramic filters to filter protein out instead of chemicals. It produces a high-protein, very low lactose product. This is the best method for the best quality of whey protein. Low-temperature processed is also ideal because using excessive heat can denature your protein to a point that the body has a harder time breaking it down (imagine a really overcooked, tough, chewy chicken breast).

If you’re looking for the best quality for your money, and don’t have a milk allergy, a micro-filtered, low temperature processed whey protein is your best bet. Both whey isolate and concentrates could have a place in your diet.

In general, use concentrates as a meal replacement. We use Level-1 which is a whey concentrate blend or SUSTAINED ASSIMILATING protein meaning it will absorb slower, aka keep you full longer. Think Level-1 “level you out”.

For a post-workout and pre-workout for those who are going heavy in the gym, losing weight and/or want to put on lean muscle, use the whey isolate proteins.

So when you go to your supplement store and you see all of the options, keep in mind your goals. If you want something to use a meal replacement, get a whey blend that is low temperature processed, preferably micro-filtered. If you want a post workout to lose weight and improve lean muscle mass, get isolate. Many people use both. In keeping budget in mind, if your goal is weight loss and lean muscle and you have to pick one or the other, get the whey isolate to use after every strength training workout.

Just like other products, you get what you pay for. Cheaper proteins are much more likely to cause stomach upset and not taste great. If you get a protein powder you don’t like, try blending it in a smoothie or use it for protein treats like poppers or protein pancakes.

Ideally aim for 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal. Your body can “handle” this much at a time.

Listen to this full episode here.

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