Decoding various protein powders.

Remember the old days when you sat down at an actual table and ate an actual meal? Today, many of us take three big slurps of a protein shake through a straw and call it dinner, usually in the amount of time it takes to re-post the latest Kardashian escapade on Facebook. Protein shakes are all the rage, it seems. We see tons of pictures of UGG-wearing celebs sipping them as they leave the gym and Gwyneth Paltrow often posts recipes for shakes as meal replacements and cleanses. We get it: Everyone is a) busy and b) just trying to get that protein in.  

But when you’re staring down that sea of protein powders in the store, which should you choose? 

Protein Particulars

It’s important to understand what type of protein you’re getting:

Whey: milk/dairy-based protein

Casein: milk/dairy-based protein

Soy: protein isolated from the soybean

Pea: comes from yellow peas (Gwyneth’s fave!)

Rice: brown rice is treated to separate the carbs from the protein

Hemp: comes from the hemp plant

Your Perfect Protein

Nutritionists agree that protein powders are healthy, but different types of protein can be better for different people. Allergies are an obvious issue (lactose intolerant individuals may have a reaction to whey or casein; those sensitive to soy should steer clear of soy protein powder), but hunger levels and exercise activity can also affect your choice. “Protein is the number one macro-nutrient to satiate hunger and keep people from being hungry, but different types of protein are digested at different rates,” explains Jade Teta, PhD, Integrative Physician and Naturopath and founder of Metabolic Effect in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

Celebrity nutritionist Philip Goglia, PhD, has a lengthy client list that includes Owen Wilson, Kim Delaney, Gillian Anderson and many professional athletes. Whey protein is Goglia’s favorite: “Whey is the most biologically available source of protein you can ingest,” he says. ”Just make sure your whey protein comes from a substantiated source like New Zealand.” Kiwi cows are injection-free and graze on pesticide-free grass.

Teta is also a fan of whey, especially for athletes. “Quickly-digested protein, like whey, is good for quick snacks and post-workout. Whey protein is useful right around the time you exercise to help recovery,” he explains. But if you’re feeling peckish an hour after drinking your breakfast whey protein shake, try switching up your protein type. Teta recommends using slower-digesting proteins (like casein and pea) in meal replacement shakes because they’ll satiate you longer. “Proteins that are more slowly digested tend to control hunger a little better,” says Teta, who also suggests sampling different brands for taste as well as satiety. Happy sipping! 


  1. Recipes
  2. Metabolic Effect
  3. Aloha protein powder