Protein: Which One is Best for me?

protein sports performance Mar 20, 2023

Katie Breazeale, MS, RD, LD


There are so many different types of protein on the market these days. Do you understand what the differences are between them?


The most common protein we see on the market is Whey Protein Powder.


Whey protein will have the highest amount of branch chain amino acids. Whey protein has been shown to be a safe product for consumers. It is effective for meeting higher protein needs. Whey may help with increasing muscle size as a post workout supplement. Studies show that muscle protein synthesis is optimized in response to exercise by the consumption of high-quality protein. Ideally 20 g 0-2 hours post exercise.


Casein Protein Powder

Casein has the ability to provide your bloodstream with a slow and steady flow of amino acids that could last for hours. Casein turns to gel in the stomach causing a slow absorption rate. Casein can take 5-7 hours to digest. Intake of casein can have a higher metabolic rate while sleeping and a better overall fat balance. Also, of note satiety levels are higher.


Combining casein and whey creates for better weight loss and greatest increase in fat free lean mass. Another positive to this source of protein is its high glutamine content. Glutamine helps support the immune system and speed up recovery.


People also use casein during the day to help stay full and to keep a constant supply of protein in your body to supply the muscles with proper nutrition for hours after drinking the shake.


Branched Chain Amino Acids

BCAA’s are used for energy during prolonged exercise when glycogen levels are low. You will see them as their own supplement or mixed in with pre-workouts. They compete with tryptophan, an amino acid associated with mental fatigue. 


Have you ever noticed on the label that BCAA’s only have 4 out of the 9 essential amino acids needed for muscle building. Leucine has been shown to resynthesize muscle the fastest after a workout and this is found in BCAA’s. Just keep in mind it will take all 9 to repair and build muscles. BCAA’s are considered safe. Research has shown they are not effective for improving performance. Research has also shown that there are positive effects on immune response and reduction of post exercise induced muscle fatigue.


Overall, your best choice is a whey protein option. It has the highest amount of BCAA’s, it is safe, and it has research showing its effectiveness for increasing muscle mass and meeting higher protein needs. For safe guidelines when choosing a supplement check out the article Supplements and Third-Party Testing.  

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