The “Unfortunate Truth” About Protein Powder

by Jackie Wicks

Stick With the Usual Suspects

Only a few major players in the protein concentrate/isolate game: Whey, casein, egg, and soy. These proteins are easy to find, and have proven biological value. What do we mean by “biological value”? This is the measure where we can judge whether a protein is easily digested/absorbed, but have potential problems such as allergenicity.

The best of all the protein concentrates are whole grain brown rice protein concentrates, pea/rice protein blends and pea/potato blends.

Pea and rice proteins are complementary and they make the protein “complete” because they provide the missing pieces that each other lack. Pea provides a high content of lysine while the rice proteins provide a high amount of the sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cysteine. Rice is also higher in the branched chain amino acids, or BCAAs, which are arguably the most critical amino acids for weight loss and lean muscle maintenance.

[quote align=”right” color=”#999999″]With the exception of the proteins listed above, very little research has been done to understand the effectiveness of different proteins. It’s best to avoid uncommon proteins, at least until there is solid research on them.[/quote]

Pea, by itself, is not recommended because it has lower amounts of the valuable BCAAs and because lysine, while essential, is easily obtained through diet. Adding rice to the mixture increases the BCAAs and improves the mixtures overall biological value.

It might be tempting to go for a protein powder with obscure protein concentrates, or long lists of diverse proteins, but it’s best to avoid this temptation. With the exceptions listed above, very little research has been done exploring the biological value of certain proteins.

Hemp protein, for example, has only a handful of studies, most of them not promising (low BCAA levels, low digestibility and absorbability). Cranberry protein is a huge mystery—perhaps it is effective, but we simply don’t know! It’s better to let the companies pay for the research themselves rather than volunteer your own body and money to help them.

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