Protein is a nutrient which is essential to the human body, particularly for the muscle tissues. Nutritionists recommend a daily intake of about .3 grams of protein for every pound of body weight. Bodybuilders and other athletes, however require more protein in their diets to encourage muscle growth and to nourish their bodies to handle the demands of their workouts. These people should get about 1.25 grams/day of protein for each pound of body weight.
Not only is the amount of protein important, but the source of the protein also matters. For the average person, diet alone is sufficient to get the needed amount of protein, but for those who need more than the average amount of protein, there are protein supplements that are necessary. There are 4 different types of protein that can be used. Each reacts differently and so the type of protein used should be chosen carefully.
The 4 common types of protein supplements are whey, soy, egg and casein. Protein supplements can be strictly one type of protein or it can be a mix of, usually, two different types of protein.
Whey protein comes from milk. It is the most common choice in protein supplements. Whey protein is made up of nonessential and essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are not made by the body naturally and must come through diet. The body takes well to whey protein and will use it easily and safely. The only concern about whey protein is that it is not safe for those with a milk allergy or who are lactose intolerant. Concentrated whey protein is most often preferred as it more available and less expensive. Concentrated forms contain anywhere from 30 to 85% protein. The isolate forms will have about 90%, but are more expensive and harder to find. Whey protein helps to boost the immune system, provides amino acids and helps for quick muscle recovery and prevents muscle breakdown.
Soy protein comes from soy flour. It is the most complete vegetable protein. It comes in concentrate and isolate and like whey, the isolate form is higher in protein content and more expensive. Soy protein is easy to digest and the perfect option for people who have milk allergies or are lactose intolerant. However, people with soy allergies can not tolerate soy protein. Soy protein can be added easily to food to increase the nutritional value and can help to lower cholesterol.
Egg protein is often mentioned as being the best protein supplements. This protein comes from egg whites and is quickly and completely digestible. Containing all of the essential amino acids, it's also a popular ingredient in protein supplements. However, there are those who are allergic to eggs and should not use protein supplements containing egg protein.
Casein protein comes from milk, but unlike whey it is slow to digest. It is slow acting and therefore often used in combination with faster acting proteins. It works well meals prior to workouts. It also is a great choice to take just before bed.
Choosing the right protein is about choosing what your body will tolerate the best and what protein will work for your exercise habits the best. You should consider all pros and cons of each type before you make your final decision about protein supplements.