By Destini Moody, DTR, BS, contributing blogger
What’s vital to remember when trying to lose weight is that you are consuming less food than your body is burning, which is the simple science to weight loss. However, when you do this, your body loses fat, but you are at risk for losing muscle as well. This, in turn, leads to a lower metabolism which stalls your long-term weight loss and muscle weakness which hinders your exercise. Therefore, you must consume more protein than usual when in a calorie deficit to preserve your lean body mass. Research shows that a person looking to lose about a pound of fat a week should consume at least 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight to preserve lean mass. This is almost double what the recommended amount of protein is for the average American, so how in the world can one eat all of that meat? And vegetarians? Vegans? This is where protein supplements can be the answer to your weight loss needs.
Here is a list of the most common protein powders on the market:
Whey Protein Powder
Whey is the liquid that is strained off in the process of making cheese and used to be discarded, but was discovered to be a potent protein source when isolated. Whey is the most popular of the protein supplements and with good reason as it has been proven to stimulate muscle growth due to it being the most rapidly absorbed compared to other protein supplements. Additionally, it is high in the branched chain amino acid, leucine, which has also been proven to support muscle growth in the body.
Whey is not appropriate for vegans. Also, the most widely available whey protein is “whey protein concentrate” which contains a significant amount of lactose that would not be good news for those with lactose intolerance. If you have this problem, but are sold on the benefits of whey, look for a whey isolate or hydrolysate product, which has the lactose removed, but they will still cause problems if you have a milk allergy.
Casein Protein Powder
Casein is the protein that is found in milk. The debate is still ongoing as to whether casein is just as effective as whey at building muscle, but it is definitely a great choice as a general protein supplement when you need to get your protein in throughout the day and don’t have time for a meal.
Casein is not appropriate for vegans as it is derived from milk protein. Furthermore, it is not appropriate for those with lactose intolerance or those with a milk allergy.
Egg Protein Powder
(Yes! You can buy egg protein in powder form!)
Egg protein powders have a great macronutrient profile as the proteins are very low in fat and carbohydrate because they are made from the egg whites. Eggs also have a very high biological value. Biological value refers to how effectively a protein source is absorbed by the body and how many of the nine essential amino acids it contains. In fact, the biological value of eggs is so high that they are the standard to which other protein sources such as milk and soybeans are measured. Finally, egg protein is an ideal choice for those with lactose intolerance.
Be sure to shop around, as egg protein powders can be very expensive as they average about $50 a pound. They also are not appropriate for vegans or those with egg allergy.
Soy Protein Powder
Soy protein powder is efficient at stimulating muscle growth despite it coming from plant source. Although soybean protein has all the essential amino acids, it has a lower biological value. For example, while egg protein has a biological value of 94, soybean protein has a biological value of 74. The biological value of protein is the percentage of that protein is actually used by your body when you eat or drink it. Plant protein sources has lower biological values than animal protein sources.
Rice Protein Powder
Rice protein is another good option for those who do not consume animal products or have soy allergies, however, rice’s amino acid profile is less than impressive alone. So, when buying a rice protein powder, be sure to check the label to ensure all of the needed amino acids have been added or it is made with a blend of plant proteins to make it a complete protein source similar to whey.
Pea Protein Powder
When the amino acids of rice and pea are combined, they produce an amino acid profile very similar to whey. Additionally, pea protein is particularly high in leucine. Therefore, both options are good choices for those who do not consume animal products, are gluten-free, or are dairy and soy sensitive. So if you are planning to use pea or rice protein powders is probably best to combine the two.
So, there you have it. The benefit to having such a large fitness supplement industry is there are a lot to choose from that cater to each person’s dietary preferences and weight loss goals. It is important to remember that protein supplements are a great accessory for fitness nutrition, but contain only limited nutrients. So, try to get your protein from lean sources of protein whenever possible and use protein supplements as needed. As a final word, be sure to read the ingredients and watch out for those that are padded with too much artificial junk because the goal at the end of the day is health!