Many people use protein supplements to increase their intake of this vital macronutrient, especially if they have a high-protein diet, exercise regularly, or have specific health goals. One of the most common forms of supplements is this powder, which is a dry and powdered form that can be mixed with water, milk, or other liquids to make a shake.
It can come from various sources, such as animal products (milk, eggs, meat) or plant products (soy, pea, rice, hemp). The process of making involves extracting, isolating, and drying it from the source material, using different methods depending on the type and quality. I will provide more details about the whole process, along with other characteristics in the following blog post.
How Protein Powder Is Made?
The general process of extracting the substance from animal or plant sources can be divided into three main steps: cell disruption, solubilization, and precipitation. Cell disruption is the first step, which aims to break the cell membranes and walls that surround the protein molecules. This can be done by using mechanical methods, such as grinding, blending, or homogenizing, or by using non-mechanical methods, such as heat, acid, enzymes, or detergents.
The choice of the method depends on the source, the type, and the desired yield and purity. For example, plant cells have a rigid cell wall that requires more force to disrupt than animal cells, which only have a plasma membrane.
The solubilization is the second step, which aims to dissolve the protein molecules in a suitable buffer or solvent. This can be done by adjusting the pH, ionic strength, or polarity of the solution, or by adding agents that can enhance the solubility of the protein, such as salts, alcohols, or chaotropic agents.
The choice of the buffer or solvent depends on the solubility and stability of the protein, as well as the compatibility with the downstream purification steps. For example, some proteins are more soluble at acidic or alkaline pH than at neutral pH, and some proteins may be more stable in organic solvents than in aqueous solvents.
The third step is called precipitation, which aims to separate the molecules from the solution by reducing their solubility. This can be done by changing the conditions of the solution, such as by lowering the temperature, increasing the ionic strength, or adding agents that can induce precipitation, such as acids, bases, or organic solvents.
The choice of the precipitation method depends on the selectivity and efficiency of the method, as well as the quality and quantity of the protein. For example, some methods may precipitate more protein than others, but may also co-precipitate more impurities, such as lipids, carbohydrates, or nucleic acids.
After the protein is precipitated, it can be collected by centrifugation, filtration, or decantation, and then dried by lyophilization, spray drying, or freeze drying. The dried one can then be further processed into different forms, such as concentrate, isolate, or hydrolysate. Concentrate is the simplest form, which contains about 70% to 80% of protein by weight, along with some carbohydrates, fats, and minerals.
Isolate is a more refined form, which contains about 90% to 95% of protein by weight, with minimal amounts of other components. The process of making the powder is not without challenges and issues, such as quality, safety, purity, and additives. Quality refers to the consistency and reliability of the product, which can be affected by the source, the method, and the storage.
- Safety is related to the potential health risks or benefits of the product, which can be influenced by the presence of contaminants, allergens, or bioactive compounds.
- Purity refers to the degree of separation and removal of unwanted components from the protein, which can be determined by the efficiency and selectivity of the extraction and purification methods.
- Additives are substances that are added to the protein to enhance its properties, such as flavor, color, texture, or shelf life, which can be natural or artificial, and may have positive or negative effects on the product.
Types of Protein Powder
Before learning more details about the process, it is essential to find out how many different types of protein there are. The main reason why this is important is due to the fact that the making process isn’t the same for each type. Here are the most common types of protein.
This is the most popular and widely used type, derived from the liquid part of milk that separates during cheese production. Whey is rich in protein, containing about 80% to 90% of it by weight. It also has a high biological value, meaning it is easily absorbed and utilized by the body. Whey contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete source.
It is especially high in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are important for muscle growth and recovery. It is also fast-digesting, meaning it reaches the muscles quickly after consumption.
The main benefits include increasing muscle mass and strength, enhancing exercise performance and recovery, supporting immune system and bone health, and reducing appetite and body fat. Some of the drawbacks of whey protein include potential allergic reactions, digestive issues, kidney problems, and liver damage, especially if consumed in excess or by people with pre-existing conditions.
This is another type derived from milk, but from the solid part that forms curds during cheese production. Casein is also rich in protein, containing about 70% to 80% of protein by weight. It also has a high biological value and contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete source.
However, it is different from whey in that it is slow-digesting, meaning it forms a gel in the stomach and releases amino acids gradually over several hours. This makes casein protein ideal for preventing muscle breakdown and promoting muscle repair during sleep or long periods of fasting.
Some of the benefits of casein include increasing muscle mass and strength, enhancing exercise performance and recovery, supporting immune system and bone health, and reducing appetite and body fat. When it comes to downsides, we have to mention potential allergic reactions, digestive issues, kidney problems, and liver damage, especially if consumed in excess or by people with pre-existing conditions.
Egg protein is also rich in this essential nutrient, containing about 80% to 85% of it by weight. It also has a high biological value and contains all nine essential amino acids. It is similar to whey in that it is fast-digesting, meaning it reaches the muscles quickly after consumption.
The main benefits of include increasing muscle mass and strength, enhancing exercise performance and recovery, supporting immune system and bone health, and reducing appetite and body fat. On the other hand, there is a chance for allergic reactions, digestive issues, high cholesterol levels, and salmonella infection, especially if consumed in raw or undercooked form.
The amount ranges from 60% to 90% of protein by weight, depending on the degree of processing. It also has a high biological value and contains all nine essential amino acids. It is also the only plant-based option that is comparable to animal-based ones in terms of quality and digestibility.
It can be a great solution for increasing muscle mass and strength, enhancing exercise performance for those on a vegan diet. On the other hand, you should be aware about hormonal misbalance, allergic reactions, and digestive issues, which are some of the most common disadvantages.
The amount of pure protein is 80% to 85%. It also has a high biological value and contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source. Pea protein is especially high in arginine, which is important for nitric oxide production and blood flow. Pea is also hypoallergenic, meaning it is unlikely to cause allergic reactions or digestive issues.
Therefore, you can expect a lot of health benefits from it. While the chance of facing any issues are quite low, I still should mention that large consumption cold lead to low levels of methionine, which is an essential amino acid for metabolism and detoxification. Another negative side is the bland or earthy taste, which may require additional flavoring or sweetening.
This is a plant-based solution that comes from the seeds of the hemp plant, a variety of cannabis. Hemp has a mild nutty flavor and a greenish color. It is suitable for vegans, vegetarians, and people with lactose intolerance or gluten sensitivity. It is also environmentally friendly, as hemp plants require less water and pesticides than other crops.
Here is a detailed comparison:
|Type of Protein Powder||Source||Protein Content (per 30 g)||Amino Acid Profile||Bioavailability Score*||Benefits||Drawbacks|
|Whey||Milk||24-27 g||Complete, rich in BCAAs||DIAAS: 1.09-1.37 PDCAAS: 1.00||Fast digestion, muscle growth, recovery, immune function||Lactose intolerance, allergies, digestive issues|
|Casein||Milk||24-27 g||Complete, rich in glutamine||DIAAS: 1.23 PDCAAS: 1.00||Slow digestion, satiety, muscle retention, calcium intake||Lactose intolerance, allergies, digestive issues, lower bioavailability than whey|
|Egg||Egg white||24-25 g||Complete, rich in sulfur-containing amino acids||DIAAS: 1.13 PDCAAS: 1.00||High bioavailability, muscle growth, recovery, low in fat and carbs||Allergies, digestive issues, odor, taste|
|Soy||Soybean||22-25 g||Complete, rich in arginine and glutamine||DIAAS: 0.90-0.94 PDCAAS: 0.91-0.99||Plant-based, muscle growth, recovery, antioxidant, cholesterol-lowering, hormone-balancing||Allergies, digestive issues, anti-nutrients, phytoestrogens, GMOs|
|Pea||Yellow pea||21-24 g||Incomplete, low in methionine, rich in lysine and arginine||DIAAS: 0.82-0.89 PDCAAS: 0.67-0.69||Plant-based, hypoallergenic, easy to digest, environmentally friendly, high in fiber||Incomplete, bland taste, may need to combine with other plant proteins|
|Rice||Brown rice||22-24 g||Incomplete, low in lysine, rich in cysteine and methionine||DIAAS: 0.50-0.75 PDCAAS: 0.47||Plant-based, hypoallergenic, easy to digest, gluten-free, high in fiber||Incomplete, low bioavailability, may contain arsenic, may need to combine with other plant proteins|
|Hemp||Hemp seed||12-15 g||Complete, rich in arginine and tyrosine||DIAAS: 0.66 PDCAAS: 0.46||Plant-based, vegan, high in fiber, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, minerals, and antioxidants||Low protein content, low bioavailability, expensive, may contain THC|
*Bioavailability score is a measure of how much of a drug or a nutrient reaches the systemic circulation and the site of action after being administered through a certain route.
What is the difference between protein concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate?
Protein concentrate is the simplest form of protein powder, which contains about 70% to 80% of protein by weight, along with some carbohydrates, fats, and minerals. Protein isolate is a more refined form of protein powder, which contains about 90% to 95% of protein by weight, with minimal amounts of other components. Protein hydrolysate is a more processed form of protein powder, which contains protein that has been partially broken down into smaller peptides or amino acids, making it easier to digest and absorb.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of using protein powder as a supplement?
Protein powder can provide a convenient and versatile way of getting protein in the diet, especially for people who have a high-protein diet, exercise regularly, or have specific health goals. Protein powder can also help with muscle growth, recovery, satiety, and immune function.
What are the best sources of protein powder for vegans or vegetarians?
There are many plant-based protein powders available in the market, such as soy, pea, rice, and hemp. These protein powders can provide a complete or complementary amino acid profile, as well as fiber, minerals, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
How can I make my own protein powder at home?
Making protein powder at home can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it also requires some equipment, ingredients, and skills. The basic steps are to choose a protein source, such as milk, eggs, soy, or hemp, and then extract, isolate, and dry the protein using methods such as heat, acid, enzymes, filtration, precipitation, centrifugation, and lyophilization. However, these methods can be complex, time-consuming, or expensive, and may not produce the same quality or quantity of protein as commercial products.
How can I store and use protein powder properly?
Protein powder can last for a long time if stored and used properly. The best way to store protein powder is to keep it in a cool, dry, and dark place, such as a cupboard or a pantry, and to seal it tightly in an airtight container or a resealable bag. The best way to use protein powder is to measure the appropriate amount according to the serving size and the nutritional needs, and then mix it with water, milk, or other liquids to make a protein shake.
How can I choose the best protein powder for me?
Choosing the best protein powder for oneself depends on various factors, such as the type, the form, the source, the method, and the product of the protein, as well as the personal and professional goals and needs, the budget, and the preference.
Protein powder can come from various sources, such as animal products (milk, eggs, meat) or plant products (soy, pea, rice, hemp). The process of making protein powder involves extracting, isolating, and drying the protein from the source material, using different methods depending on the type and quality of the protein. It can also be further processed into different forms, such as concentrate, isolate, or hydrolysate, which have different characteristics and benefits.
My name is Sarah Thompson, and I am a nutritional supplement expert with over 10 years of experience in the health and wellness industry. My focus has been on researching and evaluating a wide range of supplements, from vitamins and minerals to protein powders and herbal extracts. With a background in nutrition and a passion for holistic wellness, I provide insights into the effectiveness, safety, and benefits of various supplements. My goal is to help individuals make informed decisions about supplementation to support their health and fitness goals.