Protein powder – there is a bewildering range to choose from. But what, exactly, is in protein powder?
How are different protein powders made? And what can they offer you?
If you’d like a beginner’s guide to why you might take a protein powder, read here.
Whether you are looking to build muscle, having trouble finding time to eat sensibly and are looking for a short-cut, or are recovering from surgery and are in need of a nutritional boost, a protein supplement could be just what you need.
But with so many types and brands out there, knowing what to choose can be overwhelming.
Here’s a quick rundown of the some of the most popular types of protein powder in Australia, and what they actually are. We’re starting with the animal-based protein supplement giants, but will cover plant-based protein powders in the following article.
Animal-Based Protein Powder
- Whey Protein
- Whey Protein Isolate
- Whey Protein Concentrate
- Casein Protein
- Egg Protein
- Collagen (bovine & marine)
If you’d like to try our easy to make and utterly irresistible bliss recipes recipe, see here.
To understand whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate, you first have to know about whey protein. So here goes.
If you make cheese or yoghurt, you add enzymes to warmed milk which cause the milk to curdle and separate into lumps called curd and a thin, watery liquid known as whey. This whey can be concentrated and dried to create the whey protein powder we buy as nutritional and sports supplements.
Whey protein is absorbed swiftly into the body and has the big drawcard of being a complete protein. This means that is includes all 9 of the essential amino acids that we can’t make ourselves. Pretty useful, hey?
Another plus point is that whey protein is low-carb, which makes it perfect for those following a keto diet.
Whey Protein Isolate & Whey Protein Concentrate
These 2 incredibly popular protein supplements are very similar and both come from whey – the liquid left over when milk is turned into cheese or yoghurt. And as I mentioned above, whey protein contains all of the 9 essential amino acids that our bodies can’t make naturally, so it is a complete protein.
To create the 2 different protein supplements, the liquid whey is treated and dried. The result is whey concentrate powder which is usually 80% protein – the 20% left being carbohydrates and fats. Alternatively, the dried whey is processed to cut that last 20% down to only 10%. This leaves you with 90% protein whey isolate powder.
And if you’d like to up your protein by popping it in a delicious breakfast, see here.
Apart from how they are made and the protein contents that you end up with, the main 2 differences between these powders is that whey isolate is more expensive as it takes more effort to make it and it also has a lower lactose content – so even the lactose intolerant may be able to use it.
One downside is that some users find it difficult to digest and may suffer from bloating or gas. Nice! But on the upside, it’s the most rapidly absorbed of all the protein supplements currently on the market and is proven to build muscle, if that’s what you are looking for.
Many sports people and gym bunnies like to use whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate after a workout.
For price and information on one of the best reviewed whey protein powders in Australia, see here.
To explain casein (pronounced kay-seen) protein, we need to go back to milk.
The protein balance in cow’s milk is about 20% whey protein and 80% casein. Both contain all the essential amino acids needed to repair damaged tissue and build muscles etc and both are a by-product of cheese making.
At its most basic, when you make cheese, enzymes stirred into heated milk. This results in the casein in the milk becoming lumps of curd and separating from the liquid whey protein. These casein curds are then dried to make casein protein powder.
The most popular protein supplement is whey protein powder, either as an isolate or a concentrate, closely followed by casein protein.
Casein protein (pronounced kay-seen) is the predominant protein found in milk. It makes up about 80% of the protein in cows milk. Casein protein is extracted from the milk through ultra filtration, without the use of chemicals.
The major difference between whey protein powders and casein protein powders is the speed at which your body breaks them down and absorbs them. With whey, the process is quick and can take only 90 minutes whilst casein protein is much slower and you may still have high levels of amino acids in your blood 4-5 hours after you take it.
In addition to being a complete protein, casein is also keto friendly.
For price and information on well-reviewed casein protein powder, see here.
If you want to get your protein from a whole food diet, eating eggs is a great way to achieve your goal. However, along with all that coveted protein, good vitamins and great minerals, eggs also contain a lot of cholesterol and calories – mainly in the yolk.
One option is to take an egg white protein powder. This is made by separating the egg whites (the albumin) from the whole eggs and dehydrating and powdering them.
Egg protein is another complete protein, so you don’t need to supplement it with anything else. It’s also a great choice for fans of keto and paleo eating plans.
It is also diary-free and so ideal for people who are lactose intolerance. It is also easy to digest and doesn’t result in the bloating etc that sometimes comes from diary-based protein supplements.
However, some people have allergic reactions to albumin and so have to avoid it. It is also, clearly animal-based, which will not suit everyone’s dietary and moral preferences.
For prices and information on a very popular egg protein powder, see here.
This is the new kid on the block and if you dabble in social media you’ll know that every Instagram influencer worth their followers is pushing it for everything from wrinkles to easing joint pain. Sign me up, right?!
Well, maybe a lot of that may be wishful thinking and research into the benefits of collagen protein is still in its early days, but here’s what we do know.
Collagen is the most plentiful protein in the human body. It’s in bones, muscles, tendons and cartilage and amongst other things, it keeps our skin plump and elastic. Sadly, as we get older, our bodies make less of it. Hence the creaky joints and drooping jowls.
If you’d like to read more about what is currently known about the effects of collagen protein supplements, see here.
Most collagen protein powder is derived from animal butchery byproducts – think bone, connective tissue and skin. The big sources are cows (delicately termed ‘bovine collagen’) and fish (euphemistically called ‘marine collagen’).
There are plant-based collagen protein supplements on the market, but I will talk more fully about them in our piece on plant-based protein powder.
In the meantime, if you’d like to know more about the problems surrounding vegan collagen, see here.
To get collagen protein powder out of a pile of cow skin and fish scales, they are processed to turn them first into gelatin, and then into a powder.
Collagen protein is often described as collagen peptides or hydrolysed collagen peptides powder. This last one is often abbreviated to HCP. All this means is that the collagen protein has been broken down (hydrolysed) to makes it easier to absorb into the bloodstream.
One negative of this protein powder is that collagen is not a complete protein as it doesn’t have the tryptophan amino acid. Another is that the bovine and marine forms of collagen peptides are definitely not vegan or vegetarian, if that’s what you prefer.
Collagen protein powder is both keto and paleo-friendly.
For price and information on a market leading collagen powder, see here.
And if you’d like to read our guide to plant-based protein powder, see here.
Protein Powder Blends & More
As we’ve said before, different people want different things from a protein powder. So it makes sense that you might not achieve all of your nutritional goals from just one type of protein.
This is why there are a number of highly-rated protein powder blends available in the Australian sports supplement market.
Many of these powders are whey protein plus casein protein and a few additional nutrition boosters. This is because, of all the major protein powders whey protein releases fastest into the human body, so it’s great for post-exercise recovery.
Adding another protein like casein to the mixture gives a more sustained release, which can be more beneficial for some users, depending on what they are aiming to achieve from their sports nutrition.
If you’d like to read further about blended protein powders, see here.
One of the biggest brands is MuscleTech, which currently holds a big chunk of the American dietary supplement pie and is aiming to get even bigger with the signing of Superman and The Witcher star, Henry Cavill, as its brand ambassador.
MuscleTech, like most sports nutrition manufacturers, produces a wide range of protein supplements tailored to variety of needs, including types of Pre Workout Powder, Post Workout Muscle Recovery Powder, Whey Protein Powder with Creatine and Whey & Casein Protein Powder Blend.
For price and information on a leading MuscleTech blended protein powder, see here.
And, of course, protein doesn’t just come in the form of a square meal or a mammoth tub of powder.
There are protein bars, protein tablets, protein balls, protein cookies and the ultimate exercise accessory – the protein shaker – to make it easier to mix your protein shake and to take it with you wherever you go.
In fact, this protein shaker will actually mix your shake for you!
And if you’d like to know which protein shakers rate as the best in Australia, please see here.
And if you’d like to get the benefits of taking a protein powder, but are getting tired of drinking the same old powder and water combination day after day, take a look at our Best Protein Shake Recipe for some inspiration on breaking the monotony.