Protein 101: A Comparison Guide to Choosing the Right Protein Type

February 24, 2023

As a health coach and protein fanatic, I’m here to tell you that choosing the right protein type is about more than just taste. Don’t get me wrong, I love sampling all the weird and wonderful flavors out there as much as the next person (who doesn’t love a good birthday cake protein shake?!), but […]

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I'm Shauna!

Health Coach, Sober Friend, Hybrid Athlete & now Blogger! Also a 40+ Mom of two boys who loves living life to its fullest and sharing it with people who feel the same.  Life is short, we gotta squeeze it for all it's worth!


As a health coach and protein fanatic, I’m here to tell you that choosing the right protein type is about more than just taste. Don’t get me wrong, I love sampling all the weird and wonderful flavors out there as much as the next person (who doesn’t love a good birthday cake protein shake?!), but it’s crucial to make sure that the protein you’re consuming fits your nutritional goals and timing needs. And let’s be honest, sometimes the whole process can feel a little bizarre. I mean, who else spends hours comparing amino acid profiles and debating the merits of whey vs. plant-based protein? But hey, that’s what makes us protein nerds so special! So, buckle up and get ready for a comprehensive guide to choosing the right protein type, with all the fun and weirdness that comes along with it.

Understand Your Protein Goals

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of different types of protein, let’s start with the basics: your protein goals. What are you trying to achieve with your protein intake? Are you looking to build muscle, lose weight, maintain your current physique, or support your overall health and wellness?

Depending on your goals, your protein needs will vary. For example, if you’re looking to build muscle, you’ll likely need more protein than someone who’s trying to maintain their current physique. As a general rule of thumb, aim for at least 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. However, if you’re engaging in intense physical activity, you may need up to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day.

Timing & Absorption Factors

Now that you have an idea of your protein goals, let’s talk about timing and absorption factors. When you consume protein, your body breaks it down into amino acids, which are then used to build and repair muscle tissue. To maximize the benefits of protein, it’s important to consume it at the right times.

In general, it’s recommended to consume protein within 30 minutes to an hour after your workout. This is when your muscles are most receptive to protein and are in need of repair and growth. You can also consume protein before your workout to provide your muscles with the necessary fuel and amino acids to perform at their best.

When it comes to absorption factors, different types of protein are absorbed by the body at different rates. For example, whey protein is quickly absorbed, making it an ideal choice for post-workout recovery, while casein protein is slowly absorbed, making it a good option for a nighttime snack.

Amino Acids

As I mentioned above, it’s important to pay attention to the amino acid profile. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and different amino acids serve different functions in the body. For example, leucine is a branched-chain amino acid that plays a key role in muscle protein synthesis, while lysine is important for maintaining healthy bones and connective tissue.

To ensure that you’re getting a balanced mix of amino acids, look for protein powders that list the amino acid profile on the label. Some protein powders also contain added amino acids such as glutamine, which can help support immune function and improve recovery.

Protein Comparison Guide – At A Glance

Last but not least, here’s a handy comparison guide to help give you an at-a-glance view of protein options.

Protein TypeSourceAbsorption RateBest Time to ConsumeAmino Acid ProfileDescription
Whey – aka The OG of ProteinsDairy (Cow’s milk)FastPost-WorkoutComplete, high in BCAAsThe OG of Proteins – A high-quality protein that’s easily digested, supports muscle growth and recovery.
Casein – aka The Night OwlDairy (Cow’s milk)SlowBefore BedComplete, high in glutamineA slow-digesting protein that releases amino acids gradually, making it ideal for overnight recovery.
Pea Protein – aka The Plant PowerhouseYellow PeasMediumAnytime during the dayComplete, high in lysineA vegan-friendly option that’s easily digestible and supports muscle growth.
Brown Rice Protein – aka The Clean MachineBrown RiceMediumAnytime during the dayLow in lysineA hypoallergenic option that’s easy to digest and supports muscle growth.
Soy Protein – aka The Complete Plant ProteinSoy BeansMediumAnytime during the dayComplete, high in glutamineA vegan-friendly option that’s easily digestible and supports muscle growth.
Hemp Protein – aka The High Fiber HeroHemp SeedsMediumAnytime during the dayLow in lysineA vegan-friendly option that’s high in fiber and healthy fats, and can support muscle growth.
Egg Protein – aka The Gold StandardEggsMediumAnytime during the dayComplete, high in BCAAsA high-quality protein that’s easily digested and supports muscle growth.
Collagen Protein – aka The Beauty BoosterAnimal bones, skin & connective tissueFastAnytime during the dayLow in tryptophanA protein that’s easily digestible and can support skin, hair, nail, and joint health.
Beef Protein – aka The Beef UpAnimal Based (Beef)MediumAnytime during the dayComplete protein, high in leucine High in quality protein and essential amino acids, although it may be higher in fat and cholesterol compared to other protein options.
Protein Types – Comparison Chart At A Glance

Reading the Labels

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s talk about how to read protein labels. When choosing a protein powder or supplement, it’s important to look beyond just the total protein content. You also want to consider the other ingredients that are included, such as sweeteners, fillers, and additives.

Check for Sweeteners, Fillers, and Additives

Many protein supplements contain added sugars, artificial sweeteners, and other additives. These can negatively impact the nutritional value of the protein and can cause digestive issues for some people. Look for products that are sweetened with natural sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit and that don’t contain any unnecessary fillers or additives. Finally, check for any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, which may not be good for your health.

Look for Quality Certifications

Another factor to consider is the quality certification of the protein powder. Look for a product that has been certified by a third-party organization, such as the US Pharmacopeia (USP) or ConsumerLab. These organizations test the product for safety, purity, and potency so you know you’re getting the highest quality.

Check the Price

The final factor to consider is the price. Protein powders can range in price from a few dollars to several hundred dollars. The more expensive options generally contain higher quality ingredients, but they may not be necessary if you’re just looking for a basic protein supplement. Consider your budget and determine how much you’re willing to spend.

You made it to the end! Choosing the right protein type may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. By understanding your protein goals, considering timing and absorption factors, reading labels, and looking for quality certifications you can make an informed decision that fits your needs and tastes great too.

Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just starting on your fitness journey, finding the right protein type can help you achieve your goals and feel your best.

So go ahead, embrace your inner protein nerd, and find the perfect protein for you!

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