Ah, the perennial question: "Protein, protein everywhere, what kind should I drink?"
With the variety of protein supplements on the market today (whey, casein, and soy, oh my!) it's downright hard deciding which type of protein you should supplement with - or whether you should supplement with protein at all. So here's a little protein primer to help you make sense of what's out there.
1) Milk Protein Isolates are formed when everything non-protein is removed from milk. What's left is a powder that contains 20% whey protein and 80% casein protein. In essence, milk protein isolates give you all the protein that you'd get from milk but none of the lactose and other stuff. Milk protein isolates are great for snacks during the day or before bed - added to things like cottage cheese or whipped into a shake.
2) Casein protein makes up 80% of total milk protein. Casein is recognized for its excellent amino acid profile, slow digestion, and interesting peptides (casomorphins, casokinins, casoxins, etc). Since casein protein is slowly digested, don't use it during workouts or during the post-workout period - you need a faster protein during these times. Instead, use casein protein at the same times you would use milk isolates.
3) Whey protein makes up 20% of total milk protein. Whey is recognized for its excellent amino acid profile, high cysteine content, rapid digestion, and interesting peptides (lacto globulins, immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, etc). Since whey is very quickly digested, you want to save it for use during your workout and post-workout periods - casein or milk isolates are better during the rest of the day.
4) Soy protein is the most controversial of all protein types. While the soy lobby has gone to great ends to suggest soy is a "super-food" with medicinal-type effects, there is also a good amount of research suggesting that soy protein might be contraindicated in many situations. Because of all of this confusion, we tend to avoid soy protein and stick with the other types listed here.
5) Rice protein extracts are a great hypoallergenic alternative to milk and soy proteins. Therefore for those who have food allergies or insensitivities to other protein sources, rice protein is very well tolerated. Also, rice protein is one of the only viable supplement options for vegetarians. While the protein in rice isn't considered complete, some rice protein powders on the market have been fortified with the limiting amino acid, and such powders can be good choices both for vegetarians and those with intolerances to the other powders mentioned above.
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