When choosing the right protein supplement for you, it can feel like there are an endless amount of options on the market. Plant based options, whey protein options, collagen, protein isolates, concentrates and hydrolysates, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. So, what's the difference between these kinds and types of proteins and how to choose which one fits best with your body and lifestyle?
Let's start with a basic question: What is protein? Protein is one of the three macronutrients, the other two being carbs and fat. It is one of the building blocks of the human body, and is key for muscle, skin, blood, bones and cartilage development, energy, and for building and repairing tissues. It is used in every cell of the body and is comprised of twenty-one amino acids, nine of which are the “essential acids”; those that the body cannot produce on its own, that need to be acquired through food (cite).
So, what is the difference between all of the different kinds of proteins on the market? One main difference is the source of proteins, whether it be peas, soy, rice or chocho. Chocho protein comes from the chocho plant, a legume which you might not have heard of before. It is not popular in American markets (yet) but is an ancient Ecuadorian crop used since before the incas. Plant based proteins are often derived from their whole food source, chocho for example has 52 grams of protein per 100 grams of whole chocho, while popular other plant based options like soy have only 32g per 100g or peas 6g per 100g. (cite chocho guide). Other protein sources might come from animals, such as whey protein or collagens which are derived from milk and from animal bones or connective tissues respectively.
Now, beyond the source of protein you may have come across different types of protein. The three main ones you may have seen are concentrates, isolates, and hydrolysates. The main difference between these three types is the amount of processing they have gone through.
- Protein concentrates have undergone the least amount of processing, meaning that they often contain other macronutrients like carbohydrates and fats. For this reason, they traditionally offer the least amount of protein per scoop. But if you choose a protein source with higher amounts of protein per 100g, such as chocho, this offsets the effect of the powder containing other ingredients. Chocho powder not only boasts a whopping 17 grams of protein but also contains fiber and fats that will help keep you satisfied and well nourished. (cite) and (cite)
- Isolates are the next most processed form of proteins. Protein isolates are processed by cooking, filtering, and decanting off fat, lactose, gluten, and other ingredients. Protein isolates deliver more protein with less calories, but opinions are divided on whether they are easier to digest or not compared to their whole-protein counterparts. Some sources believe that without the source of protein being whole, the body has a harder time digesting the ultra-concentrated protein. However, dissenting opinions believe that eliminating problematic ingredients such as lactose and gluten aid the digestion process.
- Protein hydrolysates are the most processed form of protein powder, and the most expensive. Hydrolysates are made by taking a concentrate or isolate and subjecting them to further processing, including exposing them to acid, heat, or enzymes to break large protein chunks down into smaller, more digestible pieces. For those that are looking for non-processed foods to incorporate into their diet, it is advised to choose an alternative to protein hydrolysates. (cite).
So, which protein is best for you and your lifestyle? Considering that animal agriculture is the basis for some sources of protein such as whey and collagen and that animal agriculture is a leading cause of climate change, a plant based protein is probably best for you and the planet. Additionally, the more processing a protein has undergone, the more energy intensive and wasteful it likely is. Because chocho is close to its whole food state, it requires less energy inputs, creates less waste, and is more bioactive and bioavailable than other proteins, meaning the antioxidants and nutrients are easier for your body to absorb. Ultimately, you will have to make the decision yourself, but hopefully this information has helped you better understand the differences between types of proteins. Since chocho has the highest percent of protein content out of all plant based sources, contains other nutrients, and is non isolated and non extracted, it might benefit you and the planet to add Mikuna’s protein to your diet.