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Whey Vs Collagen Vs Pea Protein

Whey vs Collagen vs Pea Protein Powder

Whey Vs Collagen Vs Pea Protein

Protein supplements are exactly that: supplements.  They are made to complement and balance what’s already in your diet.  All of the following options are great for an extra protein boost which can be beneficial for satiation, muscle building, and blood sugar balance.  Different protein supplements have different functions, which is great, as you can narrow your choices based on your goals.  I’m diving into a few of the most popular type of protein powders to discuss their benefits and differences to help you make the best choice.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is one of the most popular supplements on the market.  It’s been studied in a number of different capacities, including muscle building pre- and post-workout, skin healing, and post-workout recovery.  Whey is derived from milk, and contains all 9 of the essential amino acids our body needs to develop and maintain muscle.  It’s readily available, but if you’re looking to purchase one, you may notice there are three different types:

  • Whey Concentrate
  • Whey Isolate
  • Whey Hydrolysate

Let’s look at these different types a little closer..

Whey concentrate is defined as a mix of 70-80% pure protein powder with some lactose and fat kept for flavoring purposes.  It’s the most popular type of protein powder due to its nutrition composition, palatability, and price.  It comes in many different flavors which can be great for making a variety of shakes, smoothies, or even adding to baked goods and other desserts.  The biggest con with whey concentrate is that with the flavoring may come ingredients like sugar, fake coloring, and other additives.  Check the ingredients before purchasing.

The second type of whey is whey isolate.  Isolate undergoes more processing to remove almost all the carbohydrates and fat.  This powder is 90% protein.  It is typically more expensive than whey protein concentrate, but could be beneficial to people who are strictly limiting their carbohydrate intake or are very sensitive to lactose.  Another downside is that it doesn’t taste great, but again can be added into different food/beverages for increased palatability.

The last type of whey protein is whey hydrolysate. This protein powder contains whey peptides broken down into smaller molecules for easier digestion.  Studies have suggested that whey hydrolysate may have a bigger impact on muscle gains and post-exercise recovery than whey concentrate or isolate, but more studies need to be done.  Again, the disadvantages of this type are price and taste.  

With any whey that you choose, make sure it’s a good quality, minimal ingredients, and sourced from a pasture raised cow. Highly quality matters!

Collagen Protein

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body.  It binds all the tissues in the body together and keeps them working properly.  It also plumps up your skin and give it its elasticity.  Collagen also makes up part of the semi-permeable lining in the GI tract.  After the age of 30, most people’s ability to create collagen decreases.  That’s where the supplements come in.  

Collagen peptides are the collagen proteins broken down to make absorption easier for the body.  Small studies have shown the supplement improves joint pain and appearance of the skin, plus the amino acids glycine and glutamine in the peptides keep your GI tract healthy.  I will note that not all the essential amino acids are present in collagen peptides, so if you’re looking to build muscle, whey or pea protein is still your best bet.

The three main types of collagen are aptly named Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3.  Type 1 collagen is the main structure for organs, skin, nails, and hair.  Type 2 supports cartilage and joint health.  Type 3 is mainly found in bone marrow, typically along with Type 1 collagen.  Most collagen supplements contain a blend of all three types, giving you all the advantages of this supplement.  

Collagen powder can be derived from bovine and marine life.  Again, both types work equally well.  Bovine collagen mainly consists of Type 1 and 3 collagen, which may be appropriate for people looking for more joint support.  Marine collagen is mainly Type 1, which supports skin and hair health, along with anti-aging benefits.  One thing to note is if you have a seafood or shellfish allergy, avoid marine collagen!

My favorite thing about collagen, however, is that it dissolves in hot and cold beverages, don’t change the texture of any food/beverage, and doesn’t add much flavor.  I’ve been trying to branch out beyond adding the peptides to coffee and tea, and recently I made a delicious chocolate mint shake for the hot summer months which you can find on the blog later this week!

Pea Protein

A third type of popular protein is pea protein. This protein is created by removing the proteins from yellow peas and grinding into a beige powder.  Pea protein is vegan and hypoallergenic.  It’s also one of the plant protein powders that are easier on digestion.  Pea protein also comes as a regular protein powder and pea hydrolysate.  Pea protein has all nine essential amino acids present, and a study has shown that pea protein is just as effective as whey protein in building muscle strength.  It is worth noting that pea protein is low in methionine, so supplementing your diet with high methionine foods such as nuts and beans.  Animal products are also high in methionine if you consume them as well.

Furthermore, pea protein is high in iron, but unfortunately plant-based sources are not as biologically available.  In order to maximize the amount of iron you’re absorbing, combine the pea protein with a source of vitamin C, such as citrus fruit, strawberries, bell peppers, or kiwis.  The main downfall of pea protein is that it tends to run higher in sodium that other proteins, so if you watch your sodium intake, whey or collagen may be a better choice.  Pea protein blends into food and beverages more smoothly than other plant based proteins

Hope this rundown was useful in helping you choose the best protein powder for you.  If you’d like to learn more about  incorporating protein supplements into your diet, feel free to schedule a free 15-minute phone call right here!

Jill Galligher
jill@thrivalnutrition.com

Jill is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist currently working with patients with kidney disease, however has always had an interest in wellness and functional nutrition. She previously worked at different healthcare facilities in Arlington, VA and Naples, FL as a general nutrition practitioner. She has a B.S. in Human Nutrition and Foods from West Virginia University and completed her dietetic internship at Adagio Health, a community healthcare organization located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is originally from Pittsburgh, but settled in Austin after meeting her now husband. She enjoys cooking, recipe development, gardening, and playing with her dog. Book an appointment with her over at https://thrivalnutrition.com/austinnutritionist-jillgalligher/