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12th March, 20213 min read

10 types of protein powder

Medical reviewer: Dr Ann Nainan
Author: Jennifer Co
Last reviewed: 09/03/2021
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

So you’ve done your protein powder research and have decided you want to start adding it to your diet. Next step: choosing which type of protein powder to use.

Whey protein powder

One of the most popular types of protein powder available, whey protein comes from milk and is easily digested and readily absorbed. Potential benefits of whey protein include:

  • lowering blood pressure
  • lowering cholesterol
  • antioxidant properties
  • weight loss (by decreasing your appetite and making you feel full)
  • improved muscle mass

Casein protein powder

Like whey, casein protein comes from milk. Studies suggest that casein could have an edge over other protein powders because the amino acids – the building blocks of protein – made from casein are released more slowly in the gut. This may positively effect on how the body’s cells make protein (called protein synthesis).

Milk protein powder

Whole milk protein is essentially a combination of whey and casein, both sources of high-quality protein. Used together, they complement each other. Whey provides a fast-digesting protein source and casein a slower-digesting protein that will stave off hunger.

Egg protein

Egg protein powder is usually made from egg whites, rather than whole eggs. The protein quality is good, but you might not feel as full after having it, as the high-fat yolks have been removed. Egg white protein has been found to be less likely to reduce appetite when consumed before a meal, compared with casein or pea protein.

Fish protein

Fish protein powder is a relatively new product derived from dried fish. The protein in this product is more concentrated than its fish flesh counterpart. The amount of protein in fish protein powder depends on the raw materials and additives used, but most contain at least 65% protein.

Vegan protein powders

Not all protein powders come from animal products. Plant protein sources are often lower in the essential amino acids needed for them to be classified as a complete protein, however they may have some advantages over animal-based sources, like helping to lower cholesterol levels.

If you’re vegan, you have a range of protein powders to choose from:

  • soy protein powder – finishes top of the plant protein powders in terms of absorption (how easily the protein is made available in the body) and protein content (a 30g serving contains around 27g of protein)
  • pea protein powder – legumes, such as peas, are good plant-based sources of protein and essential amino acids
  • hemp protein powder – test-tube studies have shown that hemp seed protein may help to lower blood pressure, but this is yet to be tested in humans
  • brown rice protein powder – according to studies, rice protein powder may increase lean body mass, muscle thickness and muscle strength in people who do resistance-training exercise
  • mixed-plant protein powders – these are made up of a blend of different plant sources, so they can provide good levels of many essential amino acids in one product

Key points

  • protein powder is a dietary supplement used to increase protein intake
  • protein powders are either animal-based or plant-based
  • whey protein powder is one of the most popular animal-based protein powders
  • soy protein powder has the highest protein content among plant-based protein powders
  • plant-based protein powders may have other benefits, like helping to lower cholesterol

Is protein powder really good for you? [Internet]. Emedicinehealth.com. [cited 2021 Jan 13]. Available here

Summary report of the dietary reference intakes [Internet]. Nationalacademies.org. [cited 2021 Jan 13]. Available here

Wirunsawanya K, Upala S, Jaruvongvanich V, Sanguankeo A. Whey protein supplementation improves body composition and cardiovascular risk factors in overweight and obese patients: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2018;37(1):60–70.

Antonio J, Ellerbroek A, Peacock C, Silver T. Casein protein supplementation in trained men and women: Morning versus evening. International Journal of Exercise Science. 2017;10(3):479–86.

Luiking YC, Deutz NEP, Jäkel M, Soeters PB. Casein and soy protein meals differentially affect whole-body and splanchnic protein metabolism in healthy humans. The Journal of Nutrition. 2005;135(5):1080–7.

Burd NA, Yang Y, Moore DR, Tang JE, Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM. Greater stimulation of myofibrillar protein synthesis with ingestion of whey protein isolate v. micellar casein at rest and after resistance exercise in elderly men. The British Journal of Nutrition. 2012;108(6):958–62.

Kanda A, Nakayama K, Sanbongi C, Nagata M, Ikegami S, Itoh H. Effects of whey, caseinate, or milk protein ingestion on muscle protein synthesis after exercise. Nutrients. 2016;8(6):339.

Liao W, Jahandideh F, Fan H, Son M, Wu J. Egg protein-derived bioactive peptides: Preparation, efficacy, and absorption. Advances in Food and Nutrition Research. 2018;85:1–58.

Layman D, Rodriguez N. Egg Protein as a Source of Power, Strength, and Energy. [Internet]. Researchgate.net. [cited 2021 Jan 14]. Available here

10 types of protein powder: Nutrition, amino acids, and bioavailability [Internet]. Nutritionadvance.com. 2019 [cited 2021 Jan 14]. Available here

Babault N, Païzis C, Deley G, Guérin-Deremaux L, Saniez M-H, Lefranc-Millot C, et al. Pea proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: a double-blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled clinical trial vs. Whey protein. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2015;12(1):3.

House JD, Neufeld J, Leson G. Evaluating the quality of protein from hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) products through the use of the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score method. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2010;58(22):11801–7.

Joy JM, Lowery RP, Wilson JM, Purpura M, De Souza EO, Wilson SM, et al. The effects of 8 weeks of whey or rice protein supplementation on body composition and exercise performance. Nutrition Journal. 2013;12(1):86.

Minevich J, Olson MA, Mannion JP, Boublik JH, McPherson JO, Lowery RP, et al. Digestive enzymes reduce quality differences between plant and animal proteins: a double-blind crossover study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2015;12(S1):P26.

Gorissen SHM, Crombag JJR, Senden JMG, Waterval WAH, Bierau J, Verdijk LB, et al. Protein content and amino acid composition of commercially available plant-based protein isolates. Amino Acids. 2018;50(12):1685–95.

Messina M, Lynch H, Dickinson JM, Reed KE. No difference between the effects of supplementing with soy protein versus animal protein on gains in muscle mass and strength in response to resistance exercise. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 2018;28(6):1–36.

Shaviklo AR. Development of fish protein powder as an ingredient for food applications: a review. Journal of Food Science and Technology. 2015;52(2):648–61.

Yang KP, Wong CP, Khanna SK, Bray TM. Supplementation of ocean-based advance protein powder (APP) for restoration of body growth, bone development and immune functions in protein malnourished mice: Implications for preventing child malnutrition. Ecology of Food and Nutrition. 2020;59(5):552–74.

Essential Amino Acids: Definition, Benefits and Food Sources [Internet]. Healthline. 2021 [cited 7 February 2021]. Available here

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Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.

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