Choosing the right protein powder

Tommy Gaughan

Choosing the right protein powder to suit your personal training goals is one of the biggest challenges for the newcomer to sports nutrition supplements. Sports nutrition expert Tommy Gaughan explains what you need to know to pick the right one for you.

Why do you stock so many protein powders?

At GoNutrition we currently stock eight individual protein sources, and have several more in development. Although the choice can be overwhelming for some, our range offers customers the ultimate choice, so choosing the right protein powder for their taste, dietary requirements, training goals and budget is as simple as possible.

What's the first step in choosing the right protein powder?

The first thing to consider when choosing a protein supplement is any dietary requirements you may have. Are you vegetarian or vegan? Do you have a food allergy? Or do you follow a Halal or Kosher diet? The table below will help you establish which proteins are suitable for some of the more common dietary types.
Requirement Go Whey Protein 80 Go Whey Isolate 90 Micellar Casein 85 Milk Protein 85 Soy Protein Isolate 90 Brown Rice Protein 80 Egg White Protein 80 Calcium Caseinate 90
Dairy/lactose free?
Gluten free?
Halal suitable?
Kosher suitable?

Are all protein powders the same?

Many people, especially when starting out, may believe that protein is protein, regardless of the source. Unfortunately this isn't the case and the type of protein consumed is critical when it comes to how well the body can use it for muscle growth and repair. One of the key things is the protein's bioavailability?

What is protein bioavailability?

A protein's bioavailability measures how well it can be used by the body. This is known as its 'Bioavailability Index' or BI. Proteins have different bioavailability indices, which means some of the protein in some products isn't as readily utilised as it is in others. In simple terms, the higher the BI the better the protein source. As the table below indicates the highest quality protein source available is whey protein isolate. This 90% protein is the most easily digested and utilised protein source available.
Protein source Bioavailability Index Example product
Whey Protein Isolate (90%) > 105 Go Whey Isolate 90
Whey Protein Concentrate (80%) 104 Go Whey Protein 80
Whole egg 100
Cows' milk 91
Egg white 88 Egg White Protein 80
Fish 83
Beef 80
Chicken 79
Casein 77 Micellar Casein 85 Milk Protein 85 Calcium Caseinate 90
Rice 74 Brown Rice Protein 80
Soy 59 Soy Protein Isolate 90

If whey protein isolate has such a high BI, why use anything else?

Well, as you can expect with it being the highest quality protein available, whey protein isolate is also the most costly, so one major consideration when choosing a protein is cost versus benefit. Furthermore, some protein sources do have advantages over whey in certain circumstances, particularly when you consider the time of day they are to be taken.

Why does the time of day make a difference when using protein powder?

Different protein powders are digested by the body at different rates. After a tough training session we need to get our nutrients on board as soon as possible to kick start the recovery process, so a fast-digesting protein is recommended. However, before bed or before a fasted period (where we will go without food for a number of hours) we would want a slower digesting protein to delivery nutrients over a number of hours. This is where other slower releasing protein sources can have an advantage over whey protein.

How do protein release rates vary?

As you can see from the below image, whey protein is digested much more quickly than other protein sources making it a great choice post workout. Egg white protein, rice protein and soy protein are digested at a slower rate, however milk based proteins such as micellar casein and milk protein form a "gel" in the stomach which takes much longer to digest (up to seven hours), making them ideal before bed or in between meals. Protein powder release rates

Which protein powders offer the best value?

As briefly mentioned above, the higher quality proteins such as whey isolate and micellar casein can often be the most expensive options. However, are they worth the extra cash? As an example let's take whey protein concentrate (WPC) and whey protein isolate (WPI). WPC offers 80% protein (that's about 20g per 25g serving) for around £13 per kg. WPI provides 90% protein (approximately 23g per 25g serving) at around £20 per kg, whilst being lower in fats and carbohydrates. For the average user, the additional benefits of whey protein isolate probably do not outweigh the costs. However, for those who are really monitoring their macronutrient intake and trying to keep carbohydrates and/or fats to a minimum then WPI does have its benefits. This makes protein isolate a great choice if you are looking to lose unwanted fat, bodybuilding or participating in sports where you need to "make weight", such as boxing or MMA. The same principles can be applied to milk protein vs micellar casein or calcium caseinate.

How does flavour affect the cost of protein powder?

Flavours, especially good quality natural flavours, are quite expensive. So you can expect to pay an extra £2-3 per kg for flavoured protein. Whether you go for a flavoured or unflavoured one really comes down to personal preference. Some people don't enjoy the taste of unflavoured whey, so opt for a flavoured protein powder, however unflavoured protein powder can be great if you like to make smoothies or cook with your protein. We have developed some great whey protein flavours here at GoNutrition and they're getting some fantastic reviews, so we'd highly recommend you try them out and see what you think.

Does flavour have any other impacts on protein?

Yes, cost isn't the only factor effecting choice between flavoured and unflavoured protein. Flavouring also includes additives and sweeteners that some will look to avoid, and it also means that the protein levels are slightly higher in unflavoured protein. At GoNutrition we have used all natural flavours and colours in all our protein products. We have also developed 100% Natural Whey protein powder, which uses Stevia, a natural sweetener, in place of the usual calorie-free Sucralose.

Should I consider a protein blend instead?

Protein blends are worth considering if you intend to use your protein at various times of the day. A multi-source protein blend such as ProBlend 5 provides a tapered release of protein by combining five different protein sources. Protein blends offer a cost effective and convenient way of having protein suitable for any time of the day.

Which is the best protein powder?

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong choice. What is important is that you understand the different types of protein available and their advantages and disadvantages, before making the right choice to suit your individual taste, dietary requirements, training goals and budget.

Tagged: Nutrition

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