Different Types of Proteins

Protein has managed to become one of the most well-known supplements in the industry. Whether you are deep in the health and fitness circles, or could care less, just about everybody at this point knows that protein is crucial to the muscle building process, whether they wanted to know or not. The problem is it’s never really explained much further than the cursory level of protein=muscles. Then, on top of that, you have SO many different options for protein being thrust in your face, each claiming to be the best.

To say the least, this can be a bit overwhelming at first trying to figure out what’s going to be the most bang for your buck, and what’s going to benefit your fitness progress. Thankfully it’s not too overly complicated once you start to look into things, and the good news is it just comes down to your own personal preference in the end.

“Natural” Foods:

The first and most obvious place to go looking for protein is simply in the food’s we eat every day. And this would be where I recommend you try and grab the bulk of your protein requirements for the day before looking for that protein supplement. The reason being is simple, it’s not really that proteins from natural food sources are going to be any more effective than a good protein supplement, it’s more about all the other nutrient’s you are going to pick up along the way.

Protein supplements are exactly that. Protein. With rare exception they don’t focus in too much on getting you anything other than amino acids, whereas that chicken salad you had for lunch, or that Greek yogurt you snacked on with some fruit, is going to pack on that protein you need, but also all those extra micronutrients that will inevitably come from whatever you decide to pair with your protein source for your meal. Plus, protein supplements are boring.

Great in a pinch yes, but not the most exciting food to eat overall, especially when you are comparing it to some home cooked deliciousness. So, in the wise words of millennials everywhere “treat yo-self”, and then if you find your protein total still lacking THAT’S when you reach for the supplement.

Whey Protein:

This is probably the protein supplement you will hear about first. Kind of the golden child of the protein supplement world since it tends to fair the best in research studies when compared against the other types of proteins out there. The thing is it never really out paces it’s competitor’s by THAT much, and there’s always a bunch of if, and’s, and but’s attached to it being better than everything else. When it comes straight down to it a good whey protein, vs a good casein protein, vs a good pea sourced protein (yes that exists) aren’t really going to make the biggest difference in the world so just choose what sit’s well with you.

The big pull to whey protein is it’s faster digesting than most protein’s so you can keep that in mind. It is also a dairy sourced protein so if that is a dietary restriction for you also keep that noted. Other than that, what you are looking for in a quality protein is that it is providing you the essential amino acids (those we don’t naturally create in our body and need to consume) and most importantly leucine content.

Leucine is the key amino acid in protein supplements with iso-leucine and valine following close behind. The reason leucine is so important is because it’s what really helps augment protein synthesis which is our muscle repair process. The recommended amount of leucine ranges from 3-5g daily, depending on bodyweight, to truly help with the protein synthesis process. So just check your label to make sure your protein supplement isn’t skimping on you (2-3g per serving is standard issue for whey). That cheap tub of protein may seem tempting but it’s usually because they’ve cut out these more important amino acids.


Forever number two to its whey protein counterpart, this is another dairy based protein supplement. Now there’s always been a debate between whey and casein, about which is better, or even that whey is better to take at a certain time, but casein is better to take at another time due to the fact that whey digest a bit faster, and casein takes longer to digest. I’m here to tell you, don’t worry about it. Getting clear and conclusive research that one is superior to the other in all cases is really hard to come by, which makes it impossibly difficult to 100% conclusively say that one is better than the other all the time (This will not stop people from vehemently arguing about the issue, however).

My solution: don’t give yourself the headache and pick whichever one sit’s better with you. You like the fast digesting whey? Awesome. You like the slow digesting casein? You do you.

Additional Options:

The supplement industry has gotten really good at catering to just about every dietary need out there. Maybe you can’t find it at your local GNC, but I promise if you go searching online you will find something that fit’s what you are looking for whether it’s dairy free, gluten free, or vegan friendly.

It’s hard to comment on these options as there are just so many out there at this point, but the same rule applies that we talked about with the whey protein. Just keep an eye out for the kind of amino acids that are being provided to you with the protein supplement you choose to go with. Be wary when you run across a protein supplement that claims to be “superior to all other protein supplements”.

If the proper amino acids are already being provided it’s really hard to make anything that is of higher quality.

So, all the protein supplements that are doing what they are supposed to be doing just even out in the end, and you are free to choose which one you like best at that point. Once the amino acid content is confirmed, it really just comes down to what tastes best to you, what sits best with you, and what sit’s best with your wallet.

Matt Molloy

Matt Molloy

I'm a graduate the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Exercise Science. I’m a local guy (North Penn) and athletics has dominated my life. I've led teams in basketball, baseball, soccer, golf and my passion, long distance running. I've been strength training for 6 years with a focus in power-lifting but have recently stretched to strongman since joining the pride here at the Den. When I’m not in the gym I enjoy, spending time with my friends, music, and relaxing and playing some video games.