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Protein Powders Explained

Protein PowdersJacquie Eubanks RN BSNDesigned to promote increased muscle mass when combined with exercise, powdered protein supplements provide the foundational amino acids required to naturally build muscle tissue quickly and efficiently. In addition to muscle building, proteins have key roles in many biological processes. Required for the structure, function and regulation of the body’s tissues, cells and organs, proteins are necessary for the manufacture of hormones, antibodies and enzymes. Protein powders are popular among individuals seeking muscle growth, improved body composition and nutritional value. There are numerous types of protein powders obtained from a variety of sources, such as whey, casein and plant-based proteins. Protein powders can provide high-quality protein in a concentrated, convenient form. However, protein supplements are not necessarily a substitute for whole food protein, but rather an adjunct protein source.

There are different forms of protein powders including concentrates, isolates and hydrolysates. Concentrates use heat, acids or enzymes to extract protein from whole food. Concentrates  typically contain 60 – 80 percent protein and 20 – 40 percent carbohydrates and fats. Protein isolates undergo additional filtering processes, removing more fats and carbs and providing a higher level of 90 – 95 percent protein. Additional heating and processing that breaks intact protein down into single amino acids produces highly bioavailable protein hydrolysates. This allows for rapid absorption, thereby maximizing nutrient delivery to muscle tissues. Research shows that whey protein has the ability to promote muscle mass and recovery. Both whey and casein promote satiety and fat loss. Plant-based proteins, such as pea, hemp, or brown rice, as well as a blend of plant proteins, can provide a good protein foundation for vegans and vegetarians.

  • Whey: Whey is a water soluble, dairy-based complete protein. It contains all the essential amino acids the body requires and is easily digested and quickly absorbed. Whey protein provides all nine essential amino acids with a high amount of the amino acid leucine. Leucine is key to protein synthesis and plays a major role in promoting muscle growth and recovery after resistance or endurance exercise. Studies have shown that supplementing with whey isolate or concentrate led to improvements in lean muscle mass and strength in individuals who exercised regularly. Both are high quality proteins, although nutritionally whey concentrate has more fat, carbohydrate and lactose.
  • Casein: Sourced from dairy curds, casein is the main protein found in milk. As a complete protein, casein provides generous amounts of essential amino acids.  Casein is higher in glutamine than whey, and is slowly digested, resulting in a steady prolonged release of amino acids into the blood stream. Casein is correlated with greater muscle protein synthesis, and improved body composition in weight training programs. Because casein is known as a time-release protein that provides the necessary amino acids for repair and effective muscle growth, some prefer to take casein protein before retiring for the night.
  • Soy: Due to its natural phytoestrogen content, soy remains a somewhat controversial food. Soy protein isolate powder is processed to contain very little fat, fiber or phytoestrogens. Rich in nutrients, soy is a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids. Soy protein often serves as major source of all-important protein for vegans and vegetarians. For others, research suggests that combining soy with dairy proteins may result in greater muscle protein synthesis. Although soy protein contains leucine, it may not be quite up to par with whey protein for muscle building. Studies have shown that for appetite and weight control, a soy-based high-protein diet may boost weight loss as effectively as a meat-based high-protein diet. Overall, soy is safe for most people and may offer potential health benefits, including weight loss and decreased risk of certain cancers.
  • Pea: Suitable for vegans, vegetarians, and those with allergies or sensitivities to dairy, pea protein is sourced from the yellow split pea, a high fiber legume. Pea protein provides all but one of the essential amino acids, and is rich in branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), leucine, isoleucine and valine. BCAA supplementation has been shown in several studies to support muscle building, prevent muscle wasting, decrease muscle fatigue and alleviate muscle soreness post exercise.

Protein powders may be selected based on dietary preferences, food tolerances and health and fitness goals. It is generally recommended that individuals not consume more than 30 grams of protein at one time. Many protein powders provide approximately 20 grams of protein per serving.

Professional Supplement Center offers these and other high quality protein powders in support of overall health and fitness:

Whey Cool Protein -...Whey Cool™ Protein by Designs for Health®: Whey Cool™ features low carbohydrate, non-denatured whey protein sourced from cows that graze on pesticide and chemical free, non-GMO New Zealand pastures. Gluten, growth hormone and antibiotic free. Low in sugar and 23 grams of protein per serving. Available in Natural, Chocolate and Vanilla flavors.

Naturally Casein...Naturally Casein Protein Powder Vanilla by Eat The Bear: This low-carb all natural protein powder features sustained release amino acids in a non-GMO, rGBH-free micellular casein form. All natural whey protein is sourced from the milk of grass-fed cows. Stevia sweetened, naturally flavored, 23 grams of protein per serving.

Klean IsolateKlean Isolate™ by Klean Athlete®: This non-flavored, non-sweetened clean whey isolate powder provides a source of protein and branched chain amino acids in support of the maintenance and repair of body tissues. NSF Certified for sport. 20 grams of protein per serving.

Alive! Ultra-Shake...Alive! Ultra-Shake™ Soy Protein Vanilla by Nature’s Way: This comprehensive protein enhanced whole food formula provides vitamins and minerals, amino acids, digestive enzymes, green foods, organically grown mushrooms, antioxidants and other nutrients for whole body nourishment. Specific ingredients support energy production and immune defense, as well as  bone, colon, eye and cardiac health. 14 grams of protein per serving.

ProVeg Organic Pea...ProVeg Organic Pea Protein by Vital Nutrients:  This plant-based organic pea protein powder provides a comprehensive amino acid profile and 23 grams of protein per serving in an easily absorbable formula. Soy, gluten, egg, sugar and dairy free, Non-GMO formulation. Naturally flavored. No artificial coloring or preservatives.

Molecular Biology of the Cell. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK26911/
What are the benefits of protein powder? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323093.php
Whey Protein Isolate vs Concentrate: What’s The Difference? https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/whey-protein-isolate-vs-concentrate
Casein Protein: https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hn-10008598
5 Proven Benefits of BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids). https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-bcaa
Protein and older adults. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15640517


Which Protein Powder Is Right For You?

Powder ProteinBy Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

Protein powders have long been popular with body builders and athletes but can the average active person benefit as well?  As a major component of our diet, protein fuels energy and serves as the basis for health, repair and replenishment.  How much protein the body requires and what kind of protein best meets individual needs has long been a subject for debate.  We do know, however, that adequate daily protein recommendations depend largely on age and activity level and that people who exercise regularly require more energy. 

For example, a pregnant woman, a growing child, or an athlete who trains intensely will all require more protein than an adult in their senior years.  For the general population, approximately 20 – 30% of your total caloric intake should come from protein sources.  Protein clocks in at 4 calories per gram, and like all foods, if you eat more than you burn you will gain weight from eating protein in excess.  It’s important to remember that to obtain optimal health and weight, you need to eat a good balance of healthy fats, carbs and protein. 

Signs of low protein intake may include weakness when attempting to work out, unusual fatigue, or slow injury recovery.  According to dietitian and sports nutritionist Barbara Lewin, RD, LD, you may need extra protein if:

  • You are a teenager who is working out.  Teenagers who are still growing need more protein in general and may need extra protein to fuel workouts. 
  • You are a newbie to exercise.  If you haven’t worked out before and are trying to build muscle, you will require additional protein. 
  • You want to amp it up.  If you are a regular exerciser who now wants to train for a marathon, you will need additional protein.
  • You are in recovery from an injury.  Anyone who is injured or has had surgery as well as    athletes with sports injuries may need more protein to aid healing. 
  • You have decided to go vegan.  People new to vegan or vegetarian diets who are eliminating animal protein, dairy or eggs, need a new source of protein in their diets.  Protein powders can fill that void. 

Protein powders are an easy and convenient way to add more protein to your diet.  Individuals who combine a slightly higher protein intake with exercise have more lean muscle tissue and less body fat.  Complete high-quality proteins contain the 9 essential amino acids that the body cannot manufacture and must obtain from foods.  Personal needs and dietary preferences will help determine which protein powder is right for you.  You can alternate between a dairy based or a plant based protein powder if you are aiming for overall health. 

Whey Protein Concentrate  Low in both fat and cholesterol, whey protein is quickly broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream, which makes it a good choice to consume after a workout.  Whey is a complete protein made from cow’s milk so it is not suitable for those with lactose intolerance or milk allergy. 

Whey Protein Isolate – Processed to remove the fat and lactose, whey protein isolate is the purest and most concentrated form of whey protein.  On a gram-to-gram basis, whey protein isolate delivers more amino acids without the fat or cholesterol. 

Calcium Caseinate – Derived from skim milk, casein is a slow release protein, making it a good choice for meal replacement or to take before bed.  High in amino acids and low in fat and carbs, calcium caseinate releases helpful muscle-building amino acids over a longer period of time as compared to other protein powders. 

Soy Protein This highly digestible form of vegetable protein is a great alternative for those who want to avoid animal and dairy protein.  Soy protein is a complete protein and provides all the essential amino acids for nutrition.  Soy protein is generally highly processed and may be genetically modified so look for non-GMO sources and consume in moderation. 

Pea Protein Hypoallergenic and highly absorbable, pea protein contains essential and nonessential amino acids.  Pea protein is a good choice for sports and performance recovery, as its branched chain amino acid protein compounds have been shown to delay fatigue during exercise.  This is a high protein option for vegans and vegetarians or anyone who leans toward a plant-based diet.   

Brown Rice Protein – Plant-based and largely carbohydrate, brown rice protein needs to be paired with pea or hemp protein to compete the amino acid profile.  However, it’s considered hypoallergenic and is a good choice for those with allergies to soy, wheat or dairy. 

Hemp Protein –  The high fiber content of this near complete plant-based protein may be helpful in weight loss. Like other plant-based  proteins, hemp is easily digestible and may help reduce muscle soreness, making it a good choice for active people. 

New Zealand High Protein Whey Powder – 92% by Vital NutrientsWith 23 grams of protein per serving, this naturally flavored and minimally processed whey protein isolate is harvested from milk produced in New Zealand by cows that graze on chemical and pesticide free pastures.  Free of antibiotics and growth hormones, this product contains naturally occurring immunoglobulins that help support and maintain a healthy immune system. 

Ultra Protein Plus by Douglas Laboratories –  This low allergen, nutritionally fortified product contains 18 grams of non-GMO sourced yellow pea protein per serving plus essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals and prebiotics.  Pesticide, lactose,  gluten free.  

Klean Isolate by Klean Athlete –  Free of flavorings, sweeteners, and artificial ingredients, this product contains 20 grams of pure whey protein isolate per serving for enhanced protein and amino acid intake. 

Low Carb Protein by Metabolic Response Modifier –  Sustained release blend of whey protein concentrate and calcium caseinate with 22 grams of protein and 2 grams of carbs per serving.