Best Type Of Protein Powder

By Ryan Goo | Sep 23, 2019 | Blog | 6 minute read

Best Type Of Protein Powder

It's important to understand the different types of protein supplements available on the market. People choose different options based on digestion speeds, allergies, and lactose tolerance and cost. To make things even more confusing, protein powders vary in taste, here is our favorite tasting protein type.

The only difference between each protein type is where they come from. Casein, whey concentrate, and whey isolate are derived from milk, although isolate is generally regarded as lactose friendly. Soy protein comes from soybeans and pea protein comes from peas.

All protein types have the common goal of providing an easy way to add protein into your diet. Different types of protein come from different sources.

Different types of protein powder explained

Differences between protein powder types
Protein Type Vegan Friendly Lactose Friendly Summary
Casein No No Milk derived protein, slow digesting
Pea protein Yes Yes Vegan friendly, hypeallergenic
Soy Yes Yes Vegan friendly, somewhat controversial
Whey Concentrate No No Most popular type of whey, contains milk
Whey Isolate No Partially Whey protein that is stripped of most fats and carbs
Whey Hydrolysate No Yes Whey protein that is completely stripped of fats and carbs

Casein protein powder

Slow digesting milk protein that's good for overnight recovery

Casein is the primary protein source in milk and has different benefits than its whey counterpart. To start, casein contains several peptides that benefit your digestive and immune system. These peptides can also help lower your blood pressure (study, Agnes).

For building muscle, whey protein more beneficial because it's rich in the muscle building amino acid leucine. Alternatively, casein contains plentiful amounts of the amino acids histidine, methionine and phenylalanine.

What we like:

  • Good before bed because of slow digesting proteins

What we don't like:

  • Generally more expensive than whey
  • Doesn't mix as well
  • Generally doesn't taste as well as whey
Casein is a niche protein source that is often taken before bed time. This is because the protein digests very slowly compared to vegan and whey options. In regards to muscle building, all types of whey protein powders outclass casein.

Pea protein powder

Vegan friendly, high quality protein source that is great for all diets

Pea protein is a supplement derived from yellow peas. It's minimally processed and is hypoallergenic, naturally vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free. Pea protein avoids all common allergies such as peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish, milk and soy allergies. It's the sure fit in any diet.

Pea protein and soy protein are the two main vegan protein types. If you are looking for a vegan protein that is soy free and non-gmo, consider pea protein powder.

In regards to muscle building, pea protein contains the muscle building amino acids known as BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, valine). Pea protein is known to have a less bioavailability than animal proteins. However, in a recent study, participants took 50g of pea protein per day and gained the same amount of muscle as those taking whey (study, Babault).

Pea protein is also rich in iron which is especially great for women since about 10% of all women are iron deficient (study, Miller).

What we like:

  • Hypoallergenic and fits into all diets
  • Great whey alternative for muscle building
  • Rich in iron and is technically a complete protein source
  • Can help reduce cholesterol

What we don't like:

  • Low in essential amino acid methionine
  • Higher in sodium than other sources
  • Generally pricier than whey
Pea protein is a nutrient dense protein source that has a sandy texture due to minimal processing. It serves as a great whey alternative and is beneficial for both vegan and non-vegan diets.

Soy protein powder

Nutrient dense, vegan friendly, can be controversial

Soy protein powder is created from defatted soybean flakes in which the sugar and fiber is removed. It's used in infant formulas, dairy alternatives and meat alternatives.

Soy protein powder is a complete protein source meaning it contains all of the nine essential amino acids that must be obtained from food. This plant based protein powder includes the muscle building BCAAs leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

One study shows a reduction of cholesterol when soy is used in place of animal protein (study, Montgomery).

Soy protein powder aids in muscle gain but not as much as animal proteins. For example, Whey has been shown to stimulate muscle protein synthesis more effectively than soy in these two studies (Phillips, Tang).

The Non-gmo project reports that 94% of Soy is genetically modified in the United States. If you are looking for a non-gmo protein source, make sure the company you choose marks their products as non-gmo. Mostly all soy protein companies advertise non-gmo soy so be sure that you trust the company you're buying from.

More research is needed but those who worry about the possible downsides are better off opting for whey or pea protein.

What we like:

  • Complete protein source
  • Contains lots of vitamins and minerals
  • Vegan, lactose friendly

What we don't like:

  • Most soy protein is genetically modified (GMO)
  • Contains isoflavones / phytoestrogen. May interfere with thyroid / hormone levels
  • Not the best protein source for muscle gain
  • Soy allergies
Soy protein contains a ton of healthy vitamins, nutrients and amino acids. It is regarded as a controversial protein powder because of its "potential" downsides.

Whey concentrate protein powder

Well rounded complete protein source, 60-80% protein mixed with low fats and carbs

Whey is the liquid part of milk that is removed during cheese production. Whey consists of proteins that we refer to as whey protein. Additionally, whey protein powder contains tons of nutrients and is one of the best studied supplements.

Grass-fed whey protein concentrate is the least processed of the whey powders and generally contains a 60-80% protein blend with the rest being fat and carbs from milk. Since whey concentrate contains lactose, it tastes amazing when blended in a milkshake.

One of the biggest benefits of whey is it's muscle building benefits. Whey protein concentrate helps increase strength, gain muscle, and lose body fat (study, Hulmi). Whey's effects on muscle gain has led to it becoming an important dietary supplement for all fitness enthusiasts.

Don't fall for any marketic tactics that say isolate/hydrolysate builds muscle better than concentrate, it's not true.

What we like:

  • Cheapest priced protein per serving
  • Rich in muscle building BCAAs like leucine
  • Good post workout due to fast digestion

What we don't like:

  • Contains a little bit of milk, may be hard to drink if lactose intolerant
Whey concentrate builds muscle just as well as isolate and hydrolysate. It's the cheapest of the three powders and we recommend whey concentrate for most people.

Whey isolate protein powder

Close to pure protein, usually 90%, stripped of most fats and carbs

Whey isolate is more processed than concentrate, but less than hydrolysate. Whey isolate has a slightly higher protein content, less fat and less carbs than concentrate due to the additional processing.

Aside from the macronutrient differences, both isolate and concentrate are nearly identical. Both proteins contain nearly identical amino acid profiles which are key building blocks for muscle growth.

Whey concentrate will contain about 4g carbs / 1g fat per serving. Whey isolate will contains 1g carbs / 0g fat per serving. This is pretty much the only difference as both types build muscle equally.

What we like:

  • Like whey, digests fast and is a good post workout supplement
  • Good if you are limiting carb/fat intake
  • Contains less milk than concentrate, can be taken if lactose intolerant.
  • Low carb

What we don't like:

  • More expensive than whey concentrate, benefits are subjective
We suggest whey isolate if you are lactose intolerant. If not, we are fine with whey concentrate because it's cheaper than isolate and does just as good of a job at building muscle.

Whey hydrolysate protein powder

Known as pre-digested or hydrolyzed whey, hypoallergenic and lactose friendly

This pure whey protein is partially processed and has already gone through partial hydrolysis - the protein absorption process that happens in the body.

Hydrolysate digests faster than both whey concentrate and whey isolate, both of which are already fast digesting already. Hydrolysate however is not any healthier and does not build muscle any better than whey isolate (study, Tang).

Whey hydrolysate is commonly used in medical supplements and baby formulas because it is completely lactose free. Protein from lactose can be allergenic and is harder to break down especially during infancy. Hydrolysate is a close mimic to breast milk.

If you are 100% allergic to lactose, we suggest a vegan protein powder which is nutrient dense and minimally processed.

What we like:

  • Can be taken if lactose intolerant
  • Low carb

What we don't like:

  • Generally most expensive type of whey
  • No additional benefits for most people
For most people, the benefits of whey hydrolysate will not justify the higher price. We think whey isolate is a better run for your money.


Personalized protein supplements

Personal Stacks Protein Supplements


If you're serious about fitness and are looking to build muscle mass, consider our protein stack supplement. These supplements are designed for bodybuilders looking to satisfy all of their nutrition goals in one single serving daily packet.

Each protein stack is:

  • High in protein
  • Contains muscle building vitamins and minerals
  • Prepared in less than 5 minutes
  • Completely adjustable

Our supplements are tailored to each individual and only contain the ingredients you need. Contact us if you need any assistance in setting up your stack. For more information on nutrition and diets for building muscle check out our 4 step guide for building muscle.

Ryan Goo

Ryan Goo

Author

Co-Founder of PersonalStacks.

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