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An Overview Of Protein Types

By Grant Mayo June 29, 2017

An Overview Of Protein Types

Animal Proteins - Dairy

The protein found in milk can be separated into two distinct types.  The first type are casein proteins, which include the hotly debated α-s1 and α-s2 proteins.  Whey protein is the term given to the group of proteins isolated from whey (funny that).  Casein and whey make up 80% and 20% of milk protein respectively.  The following is a list of how you’ll find them on the supplement shelf. 

Whey Protein Concentrate

Whey protein concentrates typically contain around 80% protein. The rest of their dry weight is made up of fat, minerals, and carbohydrate (lactose).  With that being said, a generic serving of whey protein concentrate is still going to be relatively low in carbohydrate (around 5g per 30g scoop). 

Whey concentrate is generally cheaper than the other types of dairy protein.  It is suitable for anyone looking to boost protein intake both after a workout and during the day.    

Whey Protein Isolate

As the name suggests, whey isolates undergo further processing to isolate the protein from whey.  This renders a protein powder that is over 90% protein (dry weight) with less fat, minerals and carbohydrate (lactose). 

It is perfect for anyone strictly monitoring their carbohydrate intake, or those who may struggle with digesting larger amounts of lactose. 

Whey Protein Hydrolysate

Whey protein hydrolysate is whey protein that has been partially broken down into smaller peptides.  In layman’s terms, it means the manufacturers have done half the digestion job for you.  This results in a protein source that is easy to digest and rapidly absorbed.

It is perfect for use both before and after workouts, as well as during long distance endurance events where protein is needed throughout.  Due to the extra manufacturing, hydrolysates are more expensive than both isolates and concentrates. 

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Casein

Little Miss Muffet, sat on her tuffet, eating her *casein* and whey.  Curds are basically that: coagulated casein proteins.  And that is exactly what happens in your gut upon ingesting casein protein powder.  The acidic nature of your stomach curdles the casein.  This cheese like substance then slowly breaks down, providing a steady supply of amino acids for muscle anabolism. 

For that reason, casein has always been revered as a night time protein option; enabling your body to stay in an anabolic state during sleep, where it otherwise would have been fasted.  Casein may also be used as a snack throughout the day.

It may be worth mentioning that casein protein can often cause digestive issues, as casein and lactose are both common allergens. 

Milk Protein Isolate

Milk protein isolate is as the name suggests, isolated protein from milk powder.  It is typically around 85% protein (dry weight) and consists of 80% casein and 20% whey.  It can be used as a snack, post-workout, or exactly as you would a casein protein.  Milk protein isolate is often used in protein blends due to price. 

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Animal Proteins - Non-Dairy

Collagen protein

Collagen protein is protein derived from the collagen of cows.  Whilst research on collagen is still in its infancy, some research on the elderly has shown increased nitrogen retention when compared with whey [1].  Currently however, there is no research on the efficacy of collagen protein compared with dairy proteins on young trained individuals. 

With that being said, collagen protein powders are lower in carbohydrate, specifically lactose, when compared to dairy protein powders.  So they present an option for those looking to forgo lactose. 

Egg Protein

Egg white protein is another animal protein that is free of lactose, and has a high bioavailability index (index of absorption relating to how much of the ingested protein is actually used by the body).  In fact, whey protein and egg protein have two of the largest known protein bioavailability indexes. 

Egg white protein is rarely sold on its own.  Instead, it is added to protein blends alongside whey and casein to provide both fast (whey), medium (egg white), and extended release (casein) protein sources.  Nevertheless, it can still be purchased and used as a standalone protein powder. 

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Plant Proteins

Hemp Protein

Hemp protein is low in the essential amino acid lysine, meaning some thought needs to be paid to consuming other protein sources high in lysine alongside it.  However, for those following a vegan or vegetarian diet, consuming a wide variety of protein sources should already be getting due attention. 

That aside, hemp protein is high in polyunsaturated fats which are known to have a positive impact on blood lipid profiles [2, 3].  It is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and fibre; two nutrients grossly lacking in the modern diet.  Unfortunately it is illegal for hemp protein to be sold for consumption in Australia, thus any purchases are under agreement that it should be used externally only.

Rice Protein

Like hemp protein, rice protein is also low in the limiting amino acid lysine.  However, most rice protein powders container lower amounts of bioactive components than hemp.  It is perhaps worth noting that this does include nutrients such as polyunsaturated fat and fibre though.

Whatever the case, rice protein provides and alternative plant based protein for those looking to boost protein intake without impacting fat or carbohydrate intake. 

Pea Protein

Pea protein is another great source of plant protein without the fat and carbohydrates that often come with other powders.  However, it is low in the amino acids cysteine and methionine, so needs to be consumed in a diet that contains complimentary proteins.

For that reason, you will often find plant based protein powders that blend pea and rice protein to offer a much improved amino acid profile than consuming these proteins separately.

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1. Hays, N.P., et al., Effects of whey and fortified collagen hydrolysate protein supplements on nitrogen balance and body composition in older women. J Am Diet Assoc, 2009. 109(6): p. 1082-7.

2. Mozaffarian, D., R. Micha, and S. Wallace, Effects on coronary heart disease of increasing polyunsaturated fat in place of saturated fat: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. PLoS Med, 2010. 7(3): p. e1000252.

3. Clarke, R., et al., Dietary lipids and blood cholesterol: quantitative meta-analysis of metabolic ward studies. BMJ, 1997. 314(7074): p. 112-7.


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