The ultimate guide to protein supplements

Works Cited

  1. The effects of six weeks of supplementation with multi-ingredient performance supplements and resistance training on anabolic hormones, body composition, strength, and power in resistance-trained men. Ormsbee MJ, Mandler WK, Thomas DD, et al. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2012 Nov 15;9(1):49. []
  2. Effects of a high protein diet on body weight and comorbidities associated with obesity. Baker, Clifton P. IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia. The British Journal of Nutrition, 2012 Aug;108 Suppl 2:S122-9. []
  3. Dietary protein – its role in satiety, energetics, weight loss and health. Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Lemmens SG, Westerterp KR. Human Biology, Nutrim, MUMC, Maastricht University, Maastricht, Netherlands. British Journal of Nutrition. 2012 Aug;108 Suppl 2:S105-12. []
  4. Effect of intake of different dietary protein sources on plasma amino Acid profiles at rest and after exercise. Burke LM, Winter JA, Cameron-Smith D, et al. Australian Institute of Sport, Belconnen, Australia Capital Territory, Australia. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 2012 Dec;22(6):452-62. []
  5. Impact of milk consumption and resistance training on body composition of female athletes. Josse AR, Phillips SM. Department of Kinesiology, Faculty of Science, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Medicine and Sport Science, 2012;59:94-103. Epub 2012 Oct 15. []
  6. The effects of whey protein on cardiometabolic risk factors. Pal S, Radavelli-Bagatini S. School of Public Health, Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia, Australia. Obesity reviews : An Official Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 2012 Nov 20. []
  7. Food allergy in childhood. Szépfalusi Z. Univ.-Prof. für Kinder- und Jugendheilkunde, Medizinische Universität Wien, Wien, Österreich, zsolt. Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift, 2012 Nov 22. []
  8. Soy foods: are they useful for optimal bone health? Lanou AJ. Therapeutic Advances in Musculoskeletal Disease, 2011 Dec;3(6):293-300. []
  9. Effect of soybean protein on novel cardiovascular disease risk factors: a randomized controlled trial. Rebholz CM, Reynolds K, Wofford MR, et al. Department of Epidemiology, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, LA. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2012 Nov 28. []
  10. The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. Halton TL, Hu FB. Dept. of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2004 Oct;23(5):373-85. []
  11. Nutrition and sports performance. Brotherhood JR. Auckland, NZ. Sports Medicine. 1984 Sep-Oct;1(5):350-89. []

Flip through any exercise magazine and, judging by all the attention protein supplements get, it appears protein and fitness somehow go hand-in-hand[1][2]. And it is true: Protein can help promote a healthy weight and can help muscles recover after a good workout. But what exactly is protein, and when it comes to supplements, which type of protein is best? Read on to learn about the different sources of protein powder and which ones stand apart from the rest.

Protein 101 - The Need-to-Know

Protein is a macronutrient found in many foods such as meats, dairy products, nuts, and beans, to name a few. It's comprised of amino acids, the building blocks of lean body tissue that promote healthy skin, hair, bones, fingernails, as well as (drum roll, please) muscles[3].

While many experts suggest getting the bulk of our protein from whole food sources, protein supplements can make it easier to get those aminos on-the-go. But not all protein supplements are created equal[4]. Before dissecting the pros and cons of different protein sources it's important to understand two ways protein supplements are often classified:

  • Protein Concentrate vs. Isolate: Protein is derived from various food sources and is "concentrated" by removing the non-protein parts. The result: a powder that's 70-85 percent pure protein (with the remain 15-30 percent consisting mostly of carbohydrates and fat). Taking the concentration process a step further, "isolation" removes a much higher percentage of non-protein content. The additional processing yields a premium protein that is up to 95 percent pure.
  • Complete vs. Incomplete Protein: Amino acids that cannot be produced by the body are known as essential amino acids. "Complete proteins" contain all 10 essential amino acids, whereas "incomplete proteins" contain some, but not all, of the essential amino acids.

OK, now we are ready to dive into the fun stuff. Here is a detailed look at the most common protein powder supplements on the market, and what their pros and cons mean for you.

For a complete comparison of whey protein, casein protein, egg protein, soy protein, rice protein, hemp protein, pea protein and weight gainer, go to