Below you will find common questions asked by those who are new to the scene of supplementation, in particular protein powder supplements.
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Generally speaking, the supplements we are referring to are bodybuilding supplements which are primarily used by those involved in sporting activities as well as recreational bodybuilding and the like.
The most widely used supplements are those of protein powders, branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), creatine, testosterone boosters, vitamins, essential fatty acids and glutamine.
These are sold and used as either ‘pure’ or blended / stacked products.
The protein powders referred to when this question is asked are those of products sold by various manufacturers as dry protein powders, in the form of Whey (derived from milk), Casein (derived from milk), Egg, Beef, Soy, Hemp, Rice and Pea protein or a blend of any of the above.
Most widely used are Whey, Casein and Beef protein powders.
They are generally supplied in the form of Concentrates, Isolates, Hydrolysates and Blends. (1)
A large proportion of our cells, muscles and tissue is made up of amino acids, part of which give cells their structure. They also play a key roll in the transport and storage of nutrients. They are essential for repairing tissue in bones, skin, hair and muscles. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein.
Within the stomach and intestines, ingested protein is broken up into amino acids.
There are 20 amino acids that are made up of human proteins, designated as proteinogenic amino acids. These are usually listed as a typical amino acid profile in the nutritional information section of a protein product label.
Amino acids can be divided into three groups: essential, semi-essential and non-essential.
Essential amino acids are those that the body cannot produce by itself and therefore have to be supplied from external sources, primarily through ingestion. For humans, there are eight essential amino acids. These are:
** Branched-chain Amino Acids
Semi-essential amino acids are those acids that both can and cannot be produced by the human body, depending on developmental stage and health status of the individual. For humans, there are two semi-essential amino acids. These are:
Non-essential amino acids are acids that can be produced in the body / synthesized by the organism itself. For humans, there are ten non-essential amino acids. These are:
Branched-chain amino acids are essential amino acids having a number of benefits on biological processes. They are metabolized in the muscle and have an anabolic effect (i.e. causing the muscle to grow). (2)
Whey protein powders are the most common and widely available protein supplements on the market today. Whey protein powders are derived from milk and are sold in the form of Concentrates, Isolates, Hydrolysates and Blends.
Whey protein powder is a mixture of globular proteins isolated from Whey, usually cold-filtered and dehydrated to form a powder. Whey is the liquid material created as a by-product of cheese production (Separating curds from whey) and contains proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.
Concentrates contains anywhere from 30 – 80% protein by weight (percentages may vary), the remaining percentage being made up of fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Concentrates contain significant amounts of lactose.
Isolates contain at least 90% protein by weight (percentages may vary). Whey Isolate is made from Whey Concentrate that undergoes further processing, usually cold-filtration.
Hydrolysates are Isolates which have been further processed, enzymatically predigested, thus making it the fastest form of absorbing protein.
Blends are powdered products that usually contain a mixture of Whey Concentrate and Whey Isolate in varying amounts but may also include other additives in certain instances.
Mass builders also fall into the Whey protein bracket, most being a mixture of Whey Concentrate with added carbohydrates and fat. This blend of protein is generally used as a weight/mass gainer (bulking). (3)
Casein protein, derived from milk, is a slower digesting protein used in a similar manner to Whey Protein powders. It is widely accepted that this type of protein supplement be taken before bed because of its slower digesting properties.
Casein makes up around 80% of the protein in cows milk. It is found as a suspension of particles called micelles, which are separated from milk and dehydrated to form powder. (4)
Beef protein is a less common powdered protein supplement usually with added creatine and branched-chain amino acids to balance its amino acid profile. It is derived from hydrolyzer collagen or gelatin created from various animal by-products. It was not a very popular source of protein however is slowly becoming more popular in the supplement market as a fast absorbing protein. (5)
Other types of protrein available as a supplement are Egg, Soy, Hemp, Rice and Pea protein. These also take the form of powders. Egg and Soy protein powder may take the form of 'pure' protein powders, i.e. Not blended with other types, but are also commonly added to Whey protein to create a blend. Hemp, Rice and Pea protein arent usually found as a 'pure' stand alone powder but rather blended with other protein powders. Soy, Hemp, Rice and Pea proteins are usually blended for use by those who follow a Vegan diet.
Egg white is the common name for the clear liquid, also referred to as albumen, contained within an egg. The egg white consists approximately 10% protein and 90% water and contains almost zero fat and carbohydrates.The egg white makes up approximately 50% of the protein withn an egg. To produce egg protein powder, the egg white is usually filtered, heated to kill microbiological organisims, then dried. (6)
Soy protein is a protein that is isolated from soybeans. Usually made from soybean meal that is dehulled and defatted, which are then processed into concentrates (about 70% purity) and isolates (about 90% purity). This type of protein is a complete protein since it provides all of the essential amino acids for human nutrition. (7)
Hemp protein is protein derived from hemp seeds. After the oil has been extracted from the seeds, the remaining seadmeal, which is high in protein relative to the seeds, is processed into hemp protein supplements. (8)
Rice protein is protein derived from rice, which can be treated with enzymes that will cause the carbohydrates to seperate from the proteins. Rice protein powder is commonly mixed with Pea protein powder, the combination providing an amino acid profile comparible with dairy and egg proteins. (9)
Pea protein is protein extracted from the yellow pea, Pisum Sativum, and is commonly blended with rice protein as stated above. (10)
When choosing a protein supplement, there are a number of factors to consider.
If there are still terms or ingredients you unfamiliar with, see our GENERAL INFORMATION page for further explanation.