What makes the best protein powders? Are whey proteins better than casein and soy proteins?
Protein is an important part of muscle building, but when it comes to searching for the best protein powders, the choices often are quite confusing. But even then, you need to know what ingredients make the best protein powders, and whether one protein would be a better option for you or not.
If you take your workouts and muscle building seriously, you will need proteins in your diet. Protein from diet ensures that you attain your fitness goals, but for enhancement of your performance, you might need to find alternative sources of proteins, which is why you might have to choose between whey, soy, and casein protein powders.
For years, these three remain the most popular of protein powders, but before you choose one over the other, you need to understand what each type of protein works and how it might help you attain your goals.
Below, we look at these three types of protein powders and their benefits.
Whey, Soy and Casein Proteins
Difference between Whey and Casein Protein?
We begin by differentiating these two proteins because they have similarities, but they also have significant differences,
For starters, in as much as whey and casein proteins are both derivatives of milk, but they have major differences.
Whey and casein are both found in milk, but they only make up 20% and 80% of milk proteins, respectively. They are both high-quality proteins containing essential amino acids that you need from diet.
Whey and casein proteins are quite easily digested and absorbed, and they are byproducts of the cheese production process.
Production of whey and casein
In the cheesemaking process, special enzymes and acids are added into the heated milk, and they cause the coagulation of casein on the milk and the change in milk from liquid to the solid-state milk. In this reaction, the solid bit separates from a liquid solution, which makes up whey proteins.
Whey protein, the liquid component in coagulated milk, is then washed, dried, and converted into a powder, where it is used in food products, but most commonly in dietary supplements.
The remainder of the curd, casein, is then washed and dried, forming a protein powder and cottage cheese.
Which is Better? Whey or Casein?
While whey and casein proteins are both effective in building muscle, whey protein is more effective in workouts and muscle building because it’s absorbed by the body faster. Whey also contains a wide amino acid profile.
Whey has more branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs, including valine, leucine, and isoleucine. While all essential amino acids are important for muscle building and growth, leucine is the most important of the essential amino acids because it is the amino acids that kick-start the muscle-building process.
Owing to the high leucine content in whey proteins, whey protein is more effective in the stimulation of protein synthesis in the muscles. Leucine encourages the healthy growth of muscle, which means that the consumption of whey protein might be more effective in enhancing your workouts’ performance than protein powders made of casein.
Studies on athletes show that their consumption of an insufficient amount of proteins would result in a negative nitrogen balance, which results in protein catabolism, as well as a slowed-down recovery of the muscles. Over time, the negative nitrogen balance causes muscle wasting, illnesses, and muscle injuries.
The consumption of whey proteins reverses and prevents the effects of low protein consumption by stimulating protein synthesis during and after workouts. The whey proteins are also effective in improving your fat-free muscle mass, especially if you engage in interval resistance training.
Whey contains a significant amount of active protein components like immunoglobulins, which will boost the function of the immune system. Immunoglobulins also contain antimicrobial properties that kill bacteria and viruses.
Immunoglobulins are also effective in the transportation of vitamin Am which further enhances the absorption of iron and other nutrients.
There are two types of whey proteins: whey concentrates and whey isolates.
Whey concentrate is a lot more economical, and it’s ideal for lactose intolerant individuals because it contains low lactose levels, and it’s also well-tolerated.
On the other hand, the whey isolate is completely 100% lactose-free and also fat-free thanks to the microfiltration process.
Casein contains more of the amino acids phenylalanine, histidine, and methionine.
While these amino acids are not as the powerful muscle-building stimulant, leucine, it contains a wide range of bioactive peptides that are beneficial to your immune and the digestive systems.
The bioactive peptides in casein are great for your heart’s health, and they will also help lower your blood pressure while reducing clots forming in your blood.
The peptides in casein work in the same way as the angiotensin-converting enzyme/ ACE inhibitors, keeping your blood pressure under control naturally.
Casein’s peptides are also effective in binding to and the transportation of minerals like phosphorus and calcium, hence improved digestibility.
Note that unlike whey proteins, which are fast-releasing, casein protein powders are slow-release protein components, and their slow release often makes casein proteins more effective as post-workout protein components.
Casein protein cause peaking of the blood amino acid levels, or the rate of absorption for muscle building, and these proteins will be released continuously into the blood for up to 4 hours after ingestion.
Casein vs. Whey
Even with the differences above, casein and whey proteins have numerous differences at the molecular level, but before we look at the whey and casein proteins, and whether one is better than the other, you need to know about some of these differences.
For starters, whey proteins are regarded as fast-acting supplements, and they are rapidly digesting. Casein proteins, on the other hand, are slow-releasing, and they will drip-feed your muscles for hours after consumption.
Whey proteins make excellent pre-workout supplements, while casein protein powders are more ideal options for post-workout supplements.
Regarding their catabolism, casein protein is more anticatabolic, and it is much kinder to the muscles by providing the muscles with a steady supply of amino acids, and the protein supply ensures that the muscles are not starved off or broken down. All this time, the whey proteins will be digested rapidly.
As a post-workout supplement, casein proteins will feed the muscle cells with enough amino acids to encourage muscle formation/ building and faster recovery. Casein proteins are recommended to be taken before bed, protecting the breakdown of muscles overnight.
Whey proteins are, as mentioned above, ideal for pre-workouts. As a result, the intake of whey protein powders causes significant muscle and performance gains and increased workout performance.
What about soy proteins?
Characterized by a strong, nutty flavor, soy protein, and protein powders represent a good option for anyone looking for a plant-based protein powder.
Like whey protein, soy protein is also regarded as a complete protein because it also contains all the 9 essential amino acids. It is a good alternative for vegans and vegetarians, as well as lactose-tolerant individuals who cannot stand the whey proteins.
Soy proteins further contain antioxidants for improved heart health, but there’s the fact that there is a lot of debate over the overall performance and effects of the proteins on the body.
One of the reasons why the soy proteins make a good alternative to the dairy proteins has to do with the fact that this protein contains isoflavone properties.
Some of the reasons why some individuals are against the use of soy proteins include the fact that it might cause hormonal issues.
Like whey proteins, soy proteins come in more than one form, soy concentrates, soy isolates, and the textured soy protein.
The soy protein concentrate has a high percentage of carbohydrates and about 65% protein. This concentrate is what is left off the soybean after the de-fattening process.
The soy protein isolate, on the other hand, represents the purest form of soy protein because the protein isolate is mostly made of the de-fatted soybeans, leaving you with the purest form of soy protein powders.
Then you have the textured soy, which is the meat-like version of soybeans.
If you are looking for a plant-based protein powder to help you attain your muscle and fitness goals, then the soy proteins might be a good option. Soy protein contains high levels of arginine and glutamine, as well as vitamins, fibers, and fatty acids.
This plant-based protein will increase your lean muscle, enhancing your overall muscle performance.
Whey and soy proteins are both effective in muscle building, but they have some differences. But soy proteins affect serum testosterone levels negatively, while also reducing the muscle’s response to cortisol in the recovery process, which means more muscle breakdown process.
Regarding their biological values, whey proteins score between 104 and 110, while soy proteins have a BV range in the 70s.
The other difference between soy and whey proteins is in the glutamine levels with both proteins boosting the high level of glutamine and arginine for healing and muscle repair.
Finally, whey is creamy and more smooth than soy, and most people don’t like the soy protein powders because of the strong nutty flavor and the difference in texture.
Conclusion – Whey, Soy, or Casein
These three are some of the best protein powder options on the market, but your choice of one over the other will depend on what your needs are.
Whey and Soy proteins are effective pre-workout protein options, but casein proteins are more effective as post-workout supplements because of their slow-release properties.