Are you on a diet and looking for a source of protein? Or do you do a lot of sport and want to support your muscle growth? Then you should find out more about protein powder. Protein supplements are versatile and have many positive properties. But what are the differences and how can you recognise high-quality protein powder?
In our protein powder test 2021 we present the best and tastiest protein powders from various categories. In addition, we inform you about important things around the topic of protein powder. Whether you are interested in animal or vegetable proteins, you will find the best protein powder on the market with us.
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 The most important things
- 3 The Best Protein Powder: Our Picks
- 4 Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying protein powder
- 5 Decision: What types of protein powder are there and which one is right for you?
- 5.1 What distinguishes Whey Protein and what are the advantages and disadvantages?
- 5.2 What distinguishes casein and what are the advantages and disadvantages?
- 5.3 What are the advantages and disadvantages of egg protein?
- 5.4 What distinguishes vegetable proteins and what are the advantages and disadvantages?
- 6 Buying criteria: You can use these factors to compare and evaluate protein powders
- 7 Interesting facts about protein powder
The most important things
- Proteins, or proteins, are vital nutrients. They have numerous physiological functions, which is why they are often called the basic building blocks of life.
- Protein powder is one of the so-called food supplements and is used in particular to support muscle building in sports or during a diet.
- There are different types of protein that you can take as a dietary supplement. Depending on which property is most important to you personally, you can choose between different types of protein powder.
The Best Protein Powder: Our Picks
Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying protein powder
What is protein powder and what types are there?
Protein powder mainly consists of proteins of animal or vegetable origin.
As the name suggests, they have a powdery state. They are mixed in water or milk to make a protein shake.
There are many different types of protein powders. Depending on the type and taste of the protein powder, it contains other additives such as sweeteners, colourings or preservatives in addition to proteins.
The most common protein powder is Whey protein. Whey protein is a whey protein that can be absorbed particularly quickly by the body.
Whey is divided into three subclasses. Concentrate, isolate and hydrolysate, which differ from each other in their nutrient content.
However, there are of course many other types of protein besides Whey, which are either of animal or plant origin. The most important of these are:
- Egg protein
- Soy protein
- Pea protein
- Rice protein
Especially for people who suffer from lactose or other intolerances, these protein alternatives are particularly interesting.
The human body needs a total of 20 different amino acids, nine of which are essential. Essential means that the body cannot produce them itself. You have to get them from outside through your diet or supplements.
Why is protein essential for building muscle?
Proteins, or proteins, are essential nutrients. They have numerous physiological functions, which is why they are often called the basic building blocks of life.
Muscle consists largely of proteins. It can only be built up if the building blocks for it are there and they have to be taken in through the diet.
Since your protein requirements increase with regular and intensive strength training, dietary supplements in the form of protein powder can help to cover your body's protein requirements.
From a scientific point of view, there are three factors that determine how well the body converts protein from food into muscle mass after training: the time of intake, the amount and the type of protein.
But protein shakes also play an important role in losing weight. Increasing the amount of protein in the diet to 1.5-2.0 g per kilogram of body weight per day makes weight loss easier to achieve.
A study has shown that combining protein supplementation with strength training is effective in achieving an increase in fat-free mass in older adults. (2)
Protein supports the development of shaping muscles after training and these muscles increase the basal metabolic rate, or the basic calorie consumption per day.
Opinions are divided on this question, but both opinions are correct, because no one has to reach for protein from a can. It is also possible to take in all essential amino acids through a healthy diet.
However, it also makes sense to take protein powder, as it is the purest form of protein and you do not consume as many calories as you would through food.
Decision: What types of protein powder are there and which one is right for you?
There are different types of protein that you can take as a dietary supplement.
Depending on which characteristic is most important to you personally, you can choose between different types of protein powder.
- Whey Protein
- Egg Protein
- Vegetable Proteins
The different types each have advantages and disadvantages. Depending on what you prefer, a different type is suitable for you. In the following section we would like to make it easier for you to decide.
What distinguishes Whey Protein and what are the advantages and disadvantages?
Whey protein is the most popular type of protein for muscle building and fitness. It is obtained from whey, which is produced during the manufacture of cheese, and has a particularly high biological value.
The whey proteins are already broken down into free amino acids for better bioavailability. (3)
Whey is characterised by fast digestion and a high content of important amino acids. It is also perfect in the morning or as a post-workout shake.
Whey contains the three most important amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine, which are responsible for more effective muscle building and provide optimal muscle protection.
Whey is also available as isolate and hydrolysate, which contains less lactose and is therefore lactose-free. A special manufacturing process changes the charge of the protein in the isolate.
This means that the degree of purity is higher in a Whey isolate, which also increases the quality.
What distinguishes casein and what are the advantages and disadvantages?
Casein is a milk protein just like whey protein, with the only difference that the absorption process in the body takes longer.
The molecules of casein are larger than those of whey and take longer to be processed because they have to be broken down into smaller building blocks. This ensures a long-lasting protein absorption.
Casein is therefore best consumed before bedtime to provide the muscles with sufficient protein during the growth phase.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of egg protein?
Egg protein (egg albumin) is suitable for athletes who do not tolerate dairy products well. Egg protein is also an animal protein and is made from the egg white.
It is characterised by a high biological value. Unlike Whey, it is free of lactose, cholesterol and purine.
Due to its bitter taste, however, it is rarely used alone in bodybuilding products. Therefore, it is often found as an ingredient in multi-component protein shakes.
What distinguishes vegetable proteins and what are the advantages and disadvantages?
These three types of protein belong to the group of vegetable proteins. Soya protein is the most common.
It contains 9 essential amino acids and thus offers good added value for the body.
Since the molecular chain of the individual amino acids is short, the absorption process in the body is very short, similar to Whey.
Rice protein is made from the whole grain of rice. The protein content in the rice grain is significantly increased through germination and fermentation.
Rice protein is characterised by its almost complete amino acid profile, making it ideal for building and maintaining muscle; compared to Whey protein, the isoleucine and valine content is even significantly higher.
Pea protein, on the other hand, is made from yellow hull peas. It has 85% protein content and is thus, like the other vegetable proteins, a good protein supplier.
The very high proportion of the amino acids arginine and lysine particularly stands out in pea products.
Buying criteria: You can use these factors to compare and evaluate protein powders
In the following, we will show you which aspects you can use to decide between the many possible protein preparations.
The criteria you can use to compare the different protein powders include:
- Protein content
- Calorific value
- Protein source
- Solubility & Taste
In the following paragraphs, we will explain to you what is important in the individual criteria.
The protein content is a key indicator of the quality and value of the protein powder. The higher the protein content per portion, the higher the quality but also the price of the protein.
Whey concentrates usually have about 70-80% protein content. The protein content of whey isolate, on the other hand, is significantly higher and is often around 90 %.
A very special form of whey protein is the hydrolysate, which is already strongly broken down by certain processes.
You could also call it "already pre-digested", so to speak, as it consists almost of pure protein.
The calorific value is also interesting for comparing different protein powders with each other.
Athletes on a diet should pay particular attention that their supplement does not have a high calorific value, i.e. no large additions of carbohydrates and fats.
Here, too, it is similar to the protein content. Concentrates have the most additives, so they also have a higher calorific value.
An isolate is practically free of fat (usually less than 1 %) and also has very few carbohydrates (usually less than 3 - 4 %).
You should pay particular attention to the source of protein if you have certain intolerances or if you want to consciously avoid animal products.
The distinction between animal and vegetable protein powders has become quite simple and you can also buy vegan protein without any problems.
The vegetable (vegan) protein types mainly include hemp, soy, pea and rice protein.
As already mentioned in the guide, there are relatively large price differences between the various products.
Not all protein is the same and therefore does not always cost the same. Therefore, the price is of course also a criterion for comparing different protein powders.
Solubility & taste
Solubility and taste are especially important to many people, if not the most important purchase criterion when choosing protein.
If you are particularly keen that your protein powder has a certain taste, you can of course compare different products based on this.
Manufacturers such as Myprotein place great value on a diverse selection of flavours.
There are also seasonal "specials" such as speculoos or cinnamon in winter.
The solubility of the different powders is also not always the same. Some are specially designed for water, others more for milk.
In some cases, shaking the shaker creates a creamy substance, whereas other protein powders are unfortunately still slightly lumpy.
Interesting facts about protein powder
How much protein per day is sensible?
According to the DGE, 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is recommended. However, this is a guideline for all non-athletes.
If you train regularly, you must of course adjust your protein intake accordingly.
Especially those who want to build up muscles should increasingly turn to protein-containing foods.
If the focus is on building muscle, we recommend a daily intake of 1.5 to a maximum of 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram - this applies to both sexes.
According to a study, the time of intake does not play a role at first. The results of this study refute the commonly held belief that the timing of protein intake in and around a training session is crucial for muscle adaptations.
They suggest that consuming sufficient protein in combination with resistance training is the key factor in maximising muscle protein accretion. (4)
Is too much protein harmful?
Whether too much protein is harmful has not yet been proven by science. However, it is often claimed that too much protein over several weeks damages the kidneys and causes acidification of the body.
What is certain, however, is that you simply eliminate the excess amount of protein that your body cannot process.
For example, in one study, mice were given either double the amount of BCAAs, the standard amount, half or a fifth. The result showed that double the intake led to increased food intake or acute obesity. (5)
So it makes sense to stick roughly to our guideline values in order not to throw money out the window unnecessarily on the one hand and not to take any risks on the other.
In addition, a balanced diet of complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and high-quality proteins is a prerequisite for a fit and active life.
(Image source: 123rf.com / lecic)
Cermak NM, Res PT, de Groot LC, Saris WH, van Loon LJ. Protein supplementation augments the adaptive response of skeletal muscle to resistance-type exercise training: a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Dec;96(6):1454-64.
Finger D, Goltz FR, Umpierre D, Meyer E, Rosa LH, Schneider CD. Effects of protein supplementation in older adults undergoing resistance training: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2015 Feb;45(2):245-55.
Paige E. Miller, Dominick D. Alexander, Vanessa Perez. The Effects of Whey Protein on Body Composition: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
Brad Jon Schoenfeld, Alan Albert Aragon & James W Krieger. The effect of protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-analysis. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2013 Dec 03; Volume 10, Article number: 53.
Luisa Low. Put down the protein shake: variety of protein better for health. 1 May 2019. University of Sydney.