Protein powders can be a great way to top up your protein intake. We’ve asked nutritionist Cassandra Barns to analyse the various options available…
Whey protein from milk is still the most widely available, and popular. It contains a very high percentage of protein – usually 90% or more – and has an excellent profile of amino. Whey protein is also quickly and easily digested and absorbed compared to most other proteins. However, it’s not suitable for vegans or those with intolerances, and some contain sweeteners and flavourings.
Soya contains a very high percentage of protein (up to 90%) and has a good amino acid profile. Unflavoured soya proteins are also quite versatile and can be used in savoury foods, smoothies or shakes.
However, they can act like a weak oestrogen, which could be beneficial for women, not so much for men.
Pea protein is an increasingly popular alternative. It contains a relatively high percentage of protein – around 80%, and has a neutral flavour. It tends to be better tolerated and doesn’t contain phytoestrogens. Pea protein powders are generally free from sugars and unnatural ingredients.
Rice protein is well tolerated by those with food sensitivities. It can have a similar protein content, although sometimes 65–80%. It has a neutral flavour, mixes well and can be used in sweet and savoury foods.
Hemp seed protein is often less refined, making it a more natural or ‘whole food’ alternative. This also means it contains more of the other nutrients found in hemp seeds, including fibre and essential fatty acids. Hemp protein can also be a great source of magnesium. An acquired taste for some!
Sunflower seed protein closely resembles a ‘whole food’ but this makes it lower in protein, at only around 50%. It has a milder flavour to hemp and mixes easily with many foods.
Casein is another protein from milk often found in combination with whey in protein powders. Casein is digested and absorbed more slowly than whey protein, so the combination is said to provide both immediate protein replenishment to the muscles and a slower ‘drip-feed’.