Whether it be for fitness or aesthetic reasons, many choose to consume protein powder to increase muscle mass and repair. There are a wide array of powders to choose from, including whey, soy, egg, casein, plant, beef, and rice options. Each works similarly, repairing the miniscule tears in our muscles that occur when we exercise. When we take rest days, our bodies use the amino acids in the proteins that we consume to repair the tears, thus increasing muscle size and strength over time. The question is, which is the most effective?

The most popular option for those who take supplementation is whey protein. Whey protein is derived from milk, and is fairly cost effective, having the most options ranging anywhere from $30-$85, while maintaining a more neutral taste as opposed to its alternatives. This powder is known for its ability to help reduce hunger, and has been said to prevent prostate and colon cancer.

In 2004, the University of Alberta studied the effects of whey protein on sedentary males when being introduced to aerobic exercise and found that men were actually able to stunt decreases in glutathione levels, which allowed them to exercise longer and helped improve their immune system.

It seems that the only issue with whey proteins is that those who are lactose intolerant or don’t consume milk for other dietary reasons are unable to rely on this type of supplement.

Another option, and a strong option for vegans, is soy protein. The soybean is an ancient legume, and is a staple in East Asian diets. It contains all 20 essential amino acids and has high amounts of arginine and glutamine, which reduce stress and stimulate muscle formation. It’s low in fat and cholesterol and also has a wide price range, from $20-$75, but it’s taste is more potent than other options.

Some nutritionists and dieticians believe that too much soy can be blamed for low energy, digestive issues, infertility, and decreases in testosterone, but research to validate these claims is inconclusive. A 2004 study performed by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), found that soy protein increased muscle mass more effectively than skim milk and maltodextrin beverages, and when used in concert with whey, can rapidly lead to muscle hypertrophy, the increase of muscle through its increase in size of component cells.

Overall, the proven efficacy of soy outweighs the controversy surrounding it, making a popular choice among athletic enthusiasts.

Casein is another popular choice that is also a product of cow’s milk. It is commonly referred to as milk protein, as cow’s milk makes up about 80 per cent casein protein and 20 per cent whey. Like all other protein supplements, casein is helpful in muscle growth and repair and does not affect the lactose intolerant.

This supplement comes in a wide variety of flavours and price points, from $35-$80. However, casein protein overuse can strain kidneys and contribute to severe dehydration as well as slowed digestion. Casein allergies also exist, and can be defined by stomach cramping, bloating, hives, and rashes. Granted, casein can still be a good protein option if used correctly.

These supplements have a wide price range, but remember that expensive doesn’t always mean better, so it’s crucial to research brands beforehand. Before buying, remember that you can also increase protein intake from eating foods like fish, beef, chicken, and pork.

It is difficult to find conclusive evidence on which protein powder is most effective, and it can be said with great certainty that each performs the same role. Each powder supplies complete proteins that when consumed conjointly with exercise, can help increase muscle mass and strength.