With many types of protein powders available, including whey, pea, brown rice and collagen, it’s important to understand the science-backed benefits of each in order to ensure one is adequately meeting their nutritional needs and able to make a well-informed decision about which protein powder to use. Overall, protein is a critical macronutrient that acts as the building blocks for tissue in the body, supports muscle growth and is required for proper immune system functioning. Insufficient protein intake is linked to many problems including decline in protein synthesis, endocrine imbalances, impaired nutrient absorption, fatigue, muscle wasting, impaired immunity, more frequent infections and increased morbidity, and mortality rates from infectious diseases.¹
Whether animal or plant-based, protein powders play a valuable role in helping individuals meet their individualized protein needs. While whey protein was the market leader for a long time, plant-based options are now abundant to provide comparable nutrition and amino acid profiles and meet a wider variety of dietary preferences. Growing in interest and popularity – collagen is a trending topic for its role in body composition and skin health! The concept of protein quality is evolving to expand its considerations from an amino acid profile alone to include its impact on human health and the environment. The amino acid profile may differ in plant foods versus animal foods, but plant foods still have been shown to contain all 20 amino acids. Plant protein sources, like pea and soy, are known as complete protein sources since they contain all nine of the essential amino acids.
Rich in essential branch-chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine whey protein has long been studied for its role in body composition and weight management. Studies have shown that whey protein may reduce long and short-term appetite2, enhance muscle protein synthesis and improve recovery after resistance exercise3. When combined with vitamin D and E, whey protein may help improve skeletal muscle measures, muscle strength, and anabolic markers in older adults with sarcopenia.4 In cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, whey protein supplements have been shown to increase glutathione levels and improve nutritional status and immunity.5
Pea protein is a nutrient-rich option for individuals who need to or want to avoid dairy or soy, or prefer a plant-based option (depending on the other ingredients in the product). Pea proteins have high amounts of lysine6 and limited amounts of methionine and are most often paired with other complementary plant proteins, like brown rice protein, to ensure the final product contains higher amounts of all the essential amino acids. Like dairy proteins, pea protein is an excellent source of branch-chain amino acids, leucine, isoleucine and valine which help promote muscle growth.6 A study examining oral supplements found a higher increase in muscle thickness after a 12-week resistance training program with pea protein supplementation compared to a placebo.7 Additionally, the results comparing pea and whey protein’s impact on muscle thickness were similar, indicating they are both effective protein supplements.7
Brown Rice Protein
Brown rice protein is ideal for those seeking plant-based protein sources or for those with dairy allergies. Like pea protein, brown rice protein is typically paired with other complementary plant products to provide higher amounts of all essential amino acids. Brown rice protein is generally rich in methionine and lower in lysine and is paired with proteins like pea protein to complete the amino acid profile.7
You may hear a lot of buzz around collagen, a protein supplement with documented benefits and the most abundant protein.8 It has been studied for its role in bone, muscle and skin health. A randomized, blind, placebo-controlled study found a drinkable collagen supplement significantly improved skin hydration, elasticity, roughness, and density after 12 weeks.9 Reviews of the literature on collagen have stated that early findings are promising for the use of collagen supplements for wound healing and skin aging.10 In an aging population with sarcopenia, collagen in combination with resistance exercises has been found to improve body composition and muscle strength.11
With a variety of protein powders and shakes in Orgain’s product portfolio – there are options to help meet the dietary preferences and protein needs of your patients or clients. Click here to view our Orgain Product Guide, which includes nutritional highlights and ingredients of our protein powders and more.
¹ Wu G. Dietary protein intake and human health. Food Funct. 2016 Mar;7(3):1251-65. doi: 10.1039/c5fo01530h.
² Mollahosseini M, Shab-Bidar S, Rahimi MH, Djafarian K. Effect of whey protein supplementation on long and short term appetite: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Clin Nutr ESPEN. 2017 Aug;20:34-40. doi: 10.1016/j.clnesp.2017.04.002. Epub 2017 May 8.
³ West DWD, Sawan SA, Mazzulla M, Williamson E, Moore DR. Whey Protein Supplementation Enhances Whole Body Protein Metabolism and Performance Recovery after Resistance Exercise: A Double-Blind Crossover Study. Nutrients. 2017 Jul 11;9(7):735. doi: 10.3390/nu9070735.
⁴ Bo Y, et al. A high whey protein, vitamin D and E supplement preserves muscle mass, strength, and quality of life in sarcopenic older adults: A double-blind randomized controlled trial. Clin Nutr. 2019. PMID: 29395372 Clinical Trial.
5 Bumrungpert A, Pavadhgul P, Nunthanawanich P, Sirikanchanarod A, Adulbhan A. Whey Protein Supplementation Improves Nutritional Status, Glutathione Levels, and Immune Function in Cancer Patients: A Randomized, Double-Blind Controlled Trial. J Med Food. 2018 Jun;21(6):612-616. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2017.4080. Epub 2018 Mar 12.
6 Lu ZX, He JF, Zhang YC, Bing DJ. Composition, physicochemical properties of pea protein and its application in functional foods. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2020;60(15):2593-2605. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2019.1651248. Epub 2019 Aug 20.
7 Babault, N., C. Paizis, G. Deley, L. Guerin-Deremaux, M. H. Saniez, C. Lefranc-Millot, and F. A. Allaert. 2015. Pea proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial vs. Whey protein. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 12 (1):3. doi: 10.1186/s12970-014-0064-5.
8 Lodish H, Berk A, Zipursky SL, et al. Molecular Cell Biology. 4th edition. New York: W. H. Freeman; 2000. Section 22.3, Collagen: The Fibrous Proteins of the Matrix. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21582/
9 Bolke L, Schlippe G, Gerß J, Voss W. A Collagen Supplement Improves Skin Hydration, Elasticity, Roughness, and Density: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Blind Study. Nutrients. 2019 Oct 17;11(10):2494. doi: 10.3390/nu11102494. PMID: 31627309; PMCID: PMC6835901.
10 Choi FD, Sung CT, Juhasz ML, Mesinkovsk NA. Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications. J Drugs Dermatol. 2019 Jan 1;18(1):9-16. PMID: 30681787.
11 Zdzieblik D, Oesser S, Baumstark MW, Gollhofer A, König D. Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial. Br J Nutr. 2015 Oct 28;114(8):1237-45. doi: 10.1017/S0007114515002810. Epub 2015 Sep 10. PMID: 26353786; PMCID: PMC4594048.