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Protein Powder 101

When most people think of protein powder, whey protein likely comes to mind. This is the most common type used by athletes, bodybuilders or just anyone looking to supplement their workouts. While whey is a great powder to add to shakes, there are several other types of protein that exist and can be beneficial for other reasons.

Vegans, vegetarians and people who are lactose-intolerant but are interested in adding protein shakes to their diet will want to explore other protein options as well because the two major types—whey and casein—are both extracted from milk and contain lactose. Read our Protein Powder 101 guide to help you choose the protein that’s right for your diet and exercise routine and then grab your Ice Shaker and start mixing up these nutritious shakes.

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Whey Protein

Whey Protein

To create whey protein powder, the supplement must be removed from milk or during the cheese-making process. One of the reasons it’s considered to be so beneficial is because of the fact that whey is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. Amino acids are often called the building blocks of our muscles and help to strengthen and repair our bodies.

Ingesting whey, and the amino acids it contains, is an excellent way to help your body prepare for a workout or recover from one. Because our bodies are able to quickly digest whey, it’s recommended that people drink a shake with whey prior to working out as a way of helping the body build muscle and fuel your workout before burning off a lot of energy. It’s also great in a post-workout shake as whey can supply your muscles with more energy to help rebuild quicker.

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Casein

The other protein extracted from milk, casein has some of the same benefits as whey but should not always be consumed at the same time. While whey is great for building muscle, casein can be a good supplement for those looking to lose weight. Casein is composed of the same essential amino acids found in whey, but our bodies digest and break down casein in a very different way.

Whey is broken down very quickly and great at kickstarting muscle growth, but casein is digested much slower. This prolonged process means that your muscles are not growing as quickly as they are with whey, but it results in an extended period of amino acid increase in your bloodstream. Because of its slow rate of digestion, casein is usually recommended as a nighttime supplement to drink before bed. During the night, this type of protein can help rebuild muscle as you sleep and minimize muscle degeneration.

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Pea Powder

Pea Powder

For those who follow a plant-based diet or are just looking to add a different kind of protein to their daily diet, pea powder is an excellent source. With the increasing number of people eating vegetarian or vegan, pea powder has taken the spotlight as the perfect alternative to whey and casein. Though it isn’t as fast-acting as whey, this supplement provides plenty of nutrients for a pre- or post-workout shake, and it’s one of the top recommendations for those who suffer from allergies that prevent them from consuming other lactose-heavy protein powders.

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Hemp Powder

Like whey and casein, hemp powder is a complete protein providing your body with all the essential amino acids after an intense workout. It’s also a common ingredient found in vegan/vegetarian protein powders, so it’s another great alternative for plant-based and lactose-intolerant shake drinkers. However, research shows that hemp protein alone has a much lower amount of protein than whey, casein, soy and pea powders, making it most beneficial when mixed with other supplements. Most people who use plant-based proteins purchase powders with a mix of pea, hemp and additional veggies, fruits and other antioxidants.

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Soy Protein Powder

Soy Beans

Another plant-based protein used to help rebuild muscle, soy protein supplies all the essential amino acids and added health benefits. Though considered an excellent source of protein to supplement your regular diet, soy powder does not dissolve well in water, a drawback to this type of protein. Try mixing soy protein with a bit of milk—soy, almond or regular—or look for a blended plant-based powder that includes soy.

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Make Your Shake

Though whey is a staple powder for protein shakes, many fitness experts and nutritionists recommend switching up the types of protein you use as supplements in your diet. Once you’ve determined which protein powders are best for you, try some of these protein shake recipes for your pre-workout, post-workout or before bed shake.