Like all nutrition, protein sources come with much variety. There are many different kinds of protein.
Some are superior to others in various categories and some are downright inferior. Others just won’t fit the dietary needs of certain individuals by choice or goal restrictions. Different types of protein in the body will have different benefits and side effects. Below is an in-depth look at available options.
One thing’s for sure, if you can eat real food and still meet your protein, calorie, and macronutrient goals, DO IT. Unfortunately for us in the 200-pound club, or those that have hectic work schedules, or even for those of us that hit the snooze button five times, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. That’s where protein supplements are your friend. There are unlimited sources for protein in different foods, I am going to try and break down the different types of protein into specific categories of proteins.
Different types of whey protein
My personal favorite! This includes anything that comes from animals or by animals. There is an enormous variety in meat and some of these might surprise you.
Powdered protein (whey)
Some of you may be surprised to find this under animal products. Whey protein, including casein, is the bulk of the powdered protein market. It comes from the liquid part of milk that separates during cheese production.
Keep in mind when using protein powders that each one has a different absorption rate. The below chart will list the rate for each of the types. This will help you decide when to use what. Faster absorbing types will be best utilized first thing in the morning or after a workout, whereas slower sources are good mid-day or before bed. Soy is included here for ease and is discussed further down in vegetarian options.
Whey isolate – 8-10g/hr
Casein - 6.1g/hr
Soy isolate - 3.9g/hr
Egg protein - 1-3g/hr
Powdered proteins are convenient, easily stored and transported, quick, cheap and often come with perfect macronutrient ratios and low calories. This helps you build muscle or maintain muscle while shedding fat.
People that are lactose intolerant could be sensitive to whey protein, though it isn’t common. The best type of protein for these people are whey isolates as those are more heavily refined.
Type of protein in egg
Eggs, egg whites, and even some powdered protein are included. The type of protein in eggs are ovalbumin-being the most common in egg white, ovotransferrin, ovomucoid, ovomucin, and lysozyme, among others. Egg whites are a good option if you’re restricting your fat intake or want to consume your fat in other places. Plain old eggs are a miracle food. For 70 calories you get 6 grams of protein, 0 carbs, and 5 grams of fat. The real beauty is how filling an egg actually is. Try eating four of them and telling me you aren’t full for a long time on a calorie budget. There are countless ways to prepare eggs or add them to your diet and most of them are quick and easy.
Egg Nutrition Data
Here is a break down of protein in eggs, protein in the egg yolk and protein in egg whites.
Protein In one Egg
In one large egg, you get 70 calories, grams of protein in an egg you get 6 grams of protein, 0 carbs, and 5 grams of fat.
Egg white nutrition
in 100 grams of egg whites you will get 10.9 grams of protein. how much protein in one egg whites ends up being about 3.6 grams per large egg and .01 grams fat, .02 grams carbohydrates and just 17 calories.
Egg Yok Nutrition
The protein in one large egg from just the egg yolk is 2.7 grams. Carbohydrates come in at .6 an fat comes in at 4.5 grams. This estimate is for 17 grams of egg yolk and will supply 55 calories.
Remember that fat is your best energy source and essential for your body before discarding the yolk, bear in mind that your body processes the protein better with the added fat of the yolk, which is packed with most the nutrients. Cholesterol isn’t as scary as it was once believed to be and the previous dietary restriction has been removed. When you eat more cholesterol, your liver will stop making as much.
Egg protein powder
If you're looking to get quality egg protein without buying eggs than egg protein powder is for you. A few companies make quality products like Naked Egg, they use high quality egg whites from non-gmo eggs sourced exclusively from US farms.
Different Food Sources for Quality Protein
It really does do a body good. In fact, milk and whey are two sides of the same coin. The biggest downfall of milk would be its cost, transportation/storage requirements, relatively short expiration, and the large quantity of fat/carbs/calories per gram of protein. There is no reason not to drink milk of any variety diet permitting. I personally prefer whole milk because I enjoy the thickness and flavor. Whole milk is also more filling and tends to have fewer carbohydrates, while studies imply that consuming more dairy fat actually leads to lower obesity rates. But, hey, drink whatever kind of milk you prefer.
There isn’t much better for hydrating your body after intense exercise than chocolate milk. It tastes freaking amazing and has everything your body needs post-exercise for rapid absorption. For those wondering, lactose is a sugar/energy source unique to milk
High in protein and filling. Often times packed with magnesium, potassium, iron, and other body-building essentials that are hard to get enough of in other places. Meat doesn’t have to be high calorie or fattening and should be your first choice.
If you’re eating loads of grilled chicken cooked clean without too much seasoning, oil, or sauce, you’re doing it right. Just remember to include anything you add when cooking for tracking purposes (oil and barbecue sauce don’t miraculously cook away on the grill). Without the skin, chicken clocks in at 30 grams of protein per 0 carbs and 1.667 grams of fat. Truly impressive macronutrient ratios. It’s hard to get fat eating nothing but chicken and broccoli. I challenge you to try. You’ll be bigger in the best way for it. You may also be shocked to learn that fried chicken if you can resist eating the skin and breading, is still a solid choice.
Red meat used to come with a taboo that eating much of it was bad. All sorts of nasty rumors like cancer and cholesterol and a host of other problems circulated around my beloved beef products. It didn’t stop me and it shouldn’t stop you. Recent studies show the link between red meat and disease is so miniscule it should be discounted. Like all things, moderation is key. It still tends to be higher in fat and cholesterol depending on the cut or quality and can have a lot of calories per serving. Plus, it tends to cost more. Remember folks, if you don’t eat enough cholesterol your body will make its own. And cholesterol is vital for hormone production. Steak is the only source of natural creatine and more remains the less it’s cooked.
Eat more of this. Omega-3 fatty acids are amazing and reduce the chance of heart attack and stroke. Fish is lean and good for you in every way. The only downside is the cost. Because of this people tend to buy farm-raised tilapia which is a dirty mistake. Pay attention to where your food comes from, especially when bargain hunting for cheap white fish. And fish doesn’t have to taste fishy, including delicious salmon. A good cut of fish is tender and tastes clean.
Some fish can be high in mercury content and consuming too much tuna can be harmful especially for pregnant women and young children. Limit your intake.
Vegetarian and plant proteins
You may be here asking, “Which protein is for vegetarians or vegans?” If that’s the case, look no further. It doesn’t matter if it’s because you choose not to eat animal products or if you’re just looking to add some healthy variety. Below I’ll list protein sources of the plant variety and their pros, cons, and some additional considerations.
Before we dig into the plant-based topic, consider GMO’s. This applies to almost everything that follows. Many media outlets would have you believe that GMO’s are harmful for your health. This is something you have to decide for yourself.
Brown rice and black beans (a complete protein)
Brown rice and black beans may be responsible for helping early humans survive before the invention of refrigeration when meat was scarce. It’s important to note that neither black beans nor brown rice is a complete protein. This means each by itself contains an imbalance of the 9 essential amino acids. But combined, the two work together like Voltron to form a perfect protein. See our post on non-essential amino's.
Mix and match balanced quantities of grains, nuts, and legumes.
Complete protein when combined. Dirt cheap in large quantities. Beans have tons of fiber and magnesium. Both serve as a complex carb that helps regulate blood sugar levels and promotes fullness. Great all-around source of energy.
May have too many carbohydrates for some diets. Preparation and storage can be a pain. Black beans are hard to cook right, so just buy them canned.
A great addition to any diet, carbohydrates permitting.
Soy bean Protein
Before we take a swing at soy based protein, lets answer the question on everyone’s mind. Is soybean protein good for you? The first thing to address that should scare many of you away from soy are phytoestrogens. These act like estrogen and bind to estrogen receptors in your body and could cause an imbalance in hormones in large quantities. Soy contains phytates (antinutrients) that reduce available iron and zinc levels. Finally, soy contains isoflavones that can interfere with hormone production and thyroid function. In large quantities soy should be avoided as there are far better and readily available options.
Tofu, tempeh, soy milk, and dairy/meat alternatives.
Complete protein (less common in plant varieties), vegetarian friendly dairy alternative. May be most effective when combined with other proteins.
Inferior to whey protein and can cause hormone imbalances.
steer clear of soy in large quantities
A complete protein rich in vitamins from yellow split peas in the legumes family. Pea protein isn’t as bio-available as other forms so is less readily absorbed, and as a result requires you to eat more. It’s also a little low on some amino acids. There’s no reason for all the current hype around pea protein. If you’re going to use this, make sure you have other varied sources.
Complete protein and environmentally friendly, vegan friendly, and hypoallergenic.
Inferior to whey protein
Feel free to eat this if you want, but only if you feel the need. This shouldn’t be your primary source. A solid alternate if you’re allergic to whey. I’d pick it over soy any day.
Made by pressing hemp seeds into fine powder, this complete protein is typically used as an additive to other foods to boost intake. Hemp is less processed and easily digested, so it has a good bio-availability unlike some plant based sources. Also, its high in omega-3/6 acids and fiber so it’s good for the heart.
Here’s the rub. It’s made from the same plant that contains THC, and in large enough doses it can interfere with drug testing. For me personally that’s a complete no-go.
High in fiber and Omega fatty acids. Lightly processed and a complete protein.
Can interfere with drug testing and should only be used as an additive.
Personally, I’ll stay away as my job depends on it and there are better, more convenient sources. Stick to chia seeds if that matters to you.
Another member of the legume family that is high in potassium, and studies promise potential when lowering cholesterol. This protein source also contains phytoestrogens, like soy, that can cause hormone imbalances.
Great for lowering cholesterol
Hormone imbalances and a pain to deal with.
Stay away from relying much on any protein source that causes hormone imbalances.
Chia seeds Protein
Very high fiber, low calorie, and omega-3 fatty acid rich. Packed full of nutrients, chia is the ancient Mayan word for Strength. Most of the carbs are fiber, but there is a high quantity of fat per gram of protein.
High fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, incredibly nutrient dense, and can even help fight inflammation.
Flavorless and difficult to eat enough of it.
Conclusion: There is NO reason not to supplement your protein with chia seeds. Put them in your oats, yogurt, or protein shake to get more fiber, omega-3’s, and nutrients. An ounce a day is very beneficial.
Flax seed Protein
Another source high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids which makes it good for the heart and the stomach. Ground flax seed is better than whole. This option is best used as an addition to other foods like yogurt or in your protein shake as a boost than a main staple.
Unfortunately, flax seed is also high in lignans which mimic estrogen and bind to estrogen receptors. This can cause a hormone imbalance.
High in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber
Hormone imbalances and difficult to consume enough.
Choose other options to boost fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids. No one will be sad about this as flax seed doesn’t taste great.
Nutrient dense, very high in fiber, and low in fat and carbs. These “thistles” (not vegetables) come with 4 grams of protein per 60 calories which isn’t too far off from an egg and are very antioxidant rich. They can be used to help lower cholesterol and are good for your liver. A great addition to any diet if you have lots of time to prepare them, but not a primary source of adequate protein in most cases.
Very high source of fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants with a solid macronutrient blend.
Long preparation times and some adults may be allergic.
If you like ‘em, eat ‘em and reap the benefits of this superfood. These should be incredibly convenient to work into your diet in moderation.
I’m personally tired of seeing avocados added to everything, including toast, but I know lots of people love them and it’s easy to see why. Nutrient rich, fiber rich, good for your eyes, and they even have antimicrobial function, I’m not sure what these things don’t benefit at this point. What I can tell you is that the protein content of 4g comes at a cost of 29g of fat and 322 calories. Yikes. This is not at all a reasonable primary source of protein content for your body or anyone else’s. Feel free to eat them within your calorie and macronutrient goals according to your diet and you’ll probably be better for it.
Very calorie and fat dense per gram of protein.
Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Eat them in moderation or else you will gain weight. This is less of a protein source, though it does contain protein, and more of a healthy diet choice.
A gluten free grain, quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah) is a complete protein that’s high in nutrients. The problem with quinoa is the macronutrient and calorie load. For 220 calories, you get a measly 8 grams of protein, 39g carbs, and 4g of fat. This makes it unsuitable for high consumption in many weight loss diets as a mainstay. It does contain cancer-fighting flavonoids, antioxidants, and solid fiber content.
Very nutritious complete protein with tons of fringe benefits.
High-calorie content per gram of protein.
A great addition to any diet. Just be sure to track your calories and macronutrients if you’re trying to lose weight. You’ll need to eat a lot of other sources to get enough protein for any diet, so I’m hesitant to even include this under proteins.
Vegetable protein conclusion
Many of the vegetarian options fall flat as a primary protein source for a variety of reasons. You should always avoid large quantities of anything that can cause a hormonal imbalance and I personally choose not to roll the dice at all. Many of these have great health benefits when used as an addition to your diet, but it will be difficult to seriously put on muscle with that alone. Should you choose to exclusively use vegetarian options, make your sources wide and varied OR supplement with whey protein so long as you’re allowed dairy products.
What is best kind of protein powder
Casein If your looking for one supplement to buy that will cover all your protein needs than you want to pick a blended protein powder. The benefit. A blended protein powder will give you the best attributes of both and whey and casein. The combination will give you a fast digesting protein (whey) and a slow digesting protein (casein). Protein blends are good for after workouts, morning drinks, and taking a bed time. If your able to buy more than one type than I would buy pure casein for night time, but if your just looking for one great blend to cover all your bases then the best kind of protein powder would be this one I like and here is my full overview on it.
Is too much protein bad for your health?
There is a limit on how much protein you should consume in a single meal lest the excess be converted to energy. This is around 20-30 grams for a regular person, but can be more for trained athletes or larger individuals. If you consume more total protein throughout the day than your body can utilize, that will also be converted to energy. Excess energy gets stored as fat. 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body mass is what you want for total intake, and 30 grams at a time.
Aside from excessive calorie intake, the symptoms of eating too much protein are constipation (eat plenty of fiber), dehydration (always drink at least a gallon of water a day when aiming for fat loss), and a constant feeling of fullness (a godsend when dieting.)
So the answer is no, too much protein isn’t bad for your health for normal functioning adults. Your body will use all the nutrition you eat.
Are protein powders hard on your liver and kidneys?
NO! For normal, healthy adults’ protein isn’t hard on your liver or kidneys. There is no evidence to support this.
Is supplementing protein powder worth it?
Well that depends on you and your needs. If you’re in a calorie deficit and trying to lose weight, it’s important to keep your protein synthesis up to help prevent muscle catabolism (eating your own muscles for energy rather than fat.) If you’re trying to lose fat you should aim to eat 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. The idea is that with enough readily available protein your body would rather break down its fat reserves which is the goal. More muscle and less fat equals better physique.
If you’re trying to build lean muscle without gaining much fat, protein powder also helps. You need to make sure you have plenty of building blocks to build and repair. Aim for 1-1.25 grams per pound of lean body mass while in a bulk phase.
This can all be tricky to balance for heavier people while maintaining macronutrient goals and calorie goals. Time also plays a big part in the difficulty since many of us are lacking enough of it. Protein powder is quick and easy and it regulates blood sugar levels while keeping you full so you don’t hit the McDonalds drive-thru on the way to work after you skipped breakfast. Next time you’re about to ravage the nearby vending machines have a protein shake before you crash, and curb your appetite.
Personally I have a hard time getting to bed if I’m feeling hungry. Bad news folks, when you’re dieting you’ll often feel hungry. The solution? Throw your favorite whey protein in a blender with some ice, milk, and peanut butter (if I’m really craving something sweet I might add some honey.) The result is a giant, thick, filling shake that satiates me enough for bed time without committing diet suicide.
Protein and osteoporosis
There exists a myth that links the western diet’s high protein intake to osteoporosis. The theory cites acid leak and calcium depletion to neutralize it. This is actually opposite from the truth. The consumption of calcium, vitamin d, and dietary protein prevent osteoporosis. Low protein intake is a commonly observed factor in hip fractures, and increased protein intake is a treatment for low bone density.
Are there heavy metals in protein powder?
Simply put, you should never trust any product manufactures to have your best interests in mind. Always vet whatever you’re putting in your body. Fortunately for us, the work has already been done when it comes to protein powder research by the folks over at The Clean Label Project. It’s a user friendly site that evaluates the contents of popular products. They do lab testing to evaluate things like heavy metals, pesticides, and other contaminants. Then they give a star based rating. Use it!
Written and Edited by Clint Ellingsworth, I'm a big-time protein user, and you should be too depending on your goals.