Differences Between Proteins

Six Sigma Fitness

I am often asked about what type of protein to buy and what the difference is between them.  In reality the best protein is one you will drink but that being said you want the cleanest, purest and fastest digesting protein for post-workout recovery.  If the protein tastes good, mixes well and is not chalky or granular then you have the beginnings of a protein that you can integrate into your regular nutritional habits.  Once you narrow down the range of powders you think you can live with then the different attributes that enhance quality should govern your choice.

The short answer is look for a Hydrolyzed Whey Protein Isolate with a small ingredient list made up of mainly amino acids, nutrients and possibly a sweetener, as amino acids by nature are bitter.  I don’t like artificial sweeteners in general but this is one place where some dispensation has to be given to find something that you can live with.  Past that you don’t want to see a bunch of chemical names you can’t identify.

That all being considered, there are many choices and some may be considered better than others but in fact some are just different or may achieve a different purpose.  We are going to focus on the best types of protein for post-workout recovery.

Some Protein Definitions:

Proteins are made up of chains of amino acid molecules.  Amino acid molecules are the molecular building blocks your body requires for may uses including building tissue, hormones, enzymes, structural proteins, transport proteins, and antibodies.  Whole proteins are broken down into amino acids in your intestinal tract.  Whole food proteins like meat break down very slowly.  Proteins that have been broken down into their separate amino acids will digest much faster than proteins consumed in their natural state as in a whole food.

There are times where the speed of amino acids entry into the blood stream is important for recovery as opposed to the majority of the time in which normal protein digestion in the form of whole foods is adequately beneficial for your health.  Post work-out is one of those times in which you have a 30-60 minute window of opportunity to maximize protein and glucose uptake into the muscle tissue for recovery.

As such, post-workout is a time in which you want to use a predigested protein in the form of amino acids to speed entry of protein into the blood system.  Whole foods during the first 30-60 minutes post workout can take up to 2-4 hours to digest and enter the bloodstream missing the window of opportunity to optimize recovery.


Proteins typically come in 2 different predigested types, animal and vegetable.  Animal protein is typically considered better molecularly due to certain qualities we will discuss below but the reality is that this is a personal and financial choice as vegetable proteins can be successfully used to fuel post-workout recovery if you know what to look for and what to do.

The best type of protein powder post-workout is whey protein due to its molecular makeup and speed of entry into the blood stream. Compared to the other proteins on the market, whey is one of the fastest digesting proteins.

Milk protein is made up of 80% Casein proteins and 20% Whey proteins.  Whey is preferred due to the large amounts of branched-chain amino acids as well as the full spectrum of amino acids making up the building blocks you need to build muscle in addition to the reduced level of allergens found in Whey as opposed to Casein.

Whey is a dairy protein that is a by-product of the cheese making process. In its original form, whey contains significant amounts of fat and lactose.  Lactose is a milk sugar, which many people cannot digest due to a lack of production of an enzyme called lactase.  During the production of whey protein supplements, these components are filtered and processed to remove most of the lactose and fat.

The ingredients label on the back of your whey protein supplement will tell you how the protein has been manufactured using microfiltration or “ion exchange”.  These are methods of separating the fat and lactose from the protein. The result is a concentrated protein available in one of several grades: concentrate, isolate or hydrolysates.  Each of these protein types and grades has unique properties and tastes as well as speed of entry into the blood system.  (concentrate = fast, isolate = faster, hydrolyzed = fastest).

Let’s examine the differences between these protein types. The filtration processes and remainder molecules along with speed of digestion distinguish the difference between the processes.

Protein concentrates
Protein concentrates are created by a filtration process allowing water, minerals and other organic materials to pass through the filter.  The remaining proteins, which can’t pass through the filter, are used to create the protein powder.  This process yields a protein powder that is 70-85% protein and up to 5% lactose. If you have lactose intolerance you will have difficulties if you consume large amounts of whey protein concentrate.

Protein isolates
The next level up in the purification process is a technique called ion-exchange or cross-flow microfiltration.  These proteins are made up of very low amounts of carbohydrates and fat and are almost pure protein.  Individuals with lactose intolerance should not have trouble with whey protein isolates.  A reputable whey protein isolate should certify their products as lactose free or supplemented with lactase to make milk sugars digestible.

Hydrolyzed Protein
When protein isolate particles are broken down further into smaller pieces the result is Hydrolyzed Protein.  This allows for faster digestion and helps enable your muscles to start recovery more quickly.

The primary difference between isolate and concentrate is that the isolate is the purest form of protein. Whey isolate usually contains between 90-94% protein while whey concentrate has a protein ratio of around 70-85%.

A couple of notes regarding plant vs. animal proteins….

Most individuals believe that the usability or bioavailability of protein is a question of animal versus vegetable source. Although animal protein is “more complete” (see below) than many vegetable proteins, it does not automatically make it better.

Molecularly, protein is made up of 20 Amino Acids.   Most proteins are large molecules that may contain several hundred to many thousand amino acids arranged in branches and chains.  8 Amino Acids are essential in adults and an extra one is essential in children.  This means that our bodies can make all the amino acids it needs except for these 8 essential amino acids.  As such, we have to get them through our diet.  If we don’t we will starve and eventually die.  Some animals can make all the amino acids they need to form proteins, we can’t.

As such, for a long time, it was thought that  getting a “complete” profile of proteins in your foods is important.  However, research has proven that the intestinal tract maintains a similar ratio of essential amino acids through the mixing of endogenous and dietary protein.  So although an incomplete amino profile is found in the proteins in lots of foods like vegetables and grains, the body can compensate for this shortfall providing you are consuming an adequate whole food diet with enough calories to fuel the body's energy needs.  Meats, eggs and dairy are complete proteins and have a complete amino acid profile.  If you don’t eat meat then you can get your minimum required proteins from a compliment of vegetables, legumes, nuts and grains.

As a side note, the effects of not eating a full compliment of various foods can leave you protein malnourished as is the  case when we think we are helping to feed the world by sending massive amounts of rice to third world countries.  Rice is a primary staple but yet is an incomplete protein, which essentially does not stop starvation, but only delays the deterioration of the body. For a period of time the body will compensate with endogenous proteins but eventually the catabolic state will run out. You will see evidence of this when you see pictures of starving children in third world countries that have a big huge belly and skinny legs and arms.  These kids have Kwashiorkor’s Disease which is a form of childhood protein-energy malnutrition. It is thought to be caused by insufficient protein consumption but with sufficient calorie intake.

Protein Bioavailability

As for bioavailability, pretty much everything could be compared to meat in general which has a biological value of about 70.  This rating takes into consideration many factors including the body’s ability to digest the protein and its relative completeness of Amino Acid profile including the BCCA’s that it contains.

Although bioavailability is important, there are other factors that should be considered first.  Allergies and digestive problems such as gas, bloating, and constipation are common issues that individuals experience with different types of proteins.  This process is really one of trial and error.   It doesn’t matter how “complete” or “bioavailable” a protein is for the general population if you can’t eat it.

As for bioavailability, Whey protein supplementation by far exceeds all other forms of protein supplementation. It has long passed milk based protein supplements, egg proteins, and soy proteins which are all inferior. By inferior I mean less bioavailable but not necessarily bad, just inferior.   Whey protein has an extremely high biological value ranging from 90-100 for whey concentrate and from 100-150 for whey isolate. It’s also high in the branch chain amino acids and is quickly absorbed by the human body.  The down side is it is highly allergenic often causing extra mucous, constipation, or bloating.
Rice protein has a biological value of between 70-80.  It is very bioavailable although not as high as Whey.  Rice protein tends to be chalky in texture and has an unpleasant bland flavor when not mixed or combined properly.  Usually rice protein will be combined with pea protein to improve both amino acid profiles, textures and flavors.

Hemp seed protein also has good bioavailability and is very hypoallergenic.  In addition it has many other very good nutrients but although the proteins in hemp (edestin and albumin) are great immune builders, they are less effective as muscle builders.

In combination, rice protein and yellow pea protein offer a Protein Efficiency Ratio that begins to rival dairy and egg — but without their potential to promote allergic reactions. In addition, the texture of pea protein helps smooth out the “chalkiness” of rice protein. Like rice protein, it is hypoallergenic and easily digested.

Side by side comparisons
Now that you have a little bit of background here is an analysis of 2 proteins, Whey and Vegetable based.  Note that the price I used on the Optimum Nutrition is the price we have purchased it for recently online.  Pricing in retail stores can be up to 50% higher.  As such in all likelihood you will pay much more at the local health food store.

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Optimum Nutrition®



Lifetime Life’s


Plant Protein


1 Scoop

1 Scoop

Product Size in Ounces






Servings pre container



Grams of Protein per Serving



Cost per 1 gram of Protein



Lifetime Life's 

                                                      Whey Protein
Plant Protein​
Serving1 Scoop1 Scoop
Product Size in Ounces18.680
Servings pre container8015
Grams of Protein per Serving2422
Cost per 1 gram of Protein0.0260420.051515
Amino Acid Profile in mg
Essential Amino Acids (EAA)
Valine (5)14221090
Isoleucine (5) (6)1573958
Leucine (4) (5)25311760
Conditionally Essential Amino Acids (CEAAs)
Arginine (2)5050
Tyrosine (1)703807
Histidine (3)423569
Glutamine & Precursors40824132
Nonessential Amino Acids (NEAAs)
Aspartic Acid25082505


1.  If the diet is deficient in phenylalanine, tyrosine will be required as well.

2.  Essential/Required for children, but not for adults

3. Although the body manufactures its own histidine, it is fairly easy for natural supplies to run short.

4. Leucine is the only dietary amino acid that has the capacity to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.

5. Part of the Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) accounting for 35% of the essential amino acids in
muscle proteins and 40% of the preformed amino acids required by mammals. These three amino acids (BCAA) are special in that they are metabolized in the muscle as opposed to the liver.
The greater their presence in a protein, the higher the protein’s bioavailability.

A graduate of Loyola University and MBA from The University of Chicago.
Pre-med LSU and post graduate at A.T. Still University.

His love of technology started right out of school. As a new hire for Arthur Andersen's Consulting group, the largest accounting and consulting firm in the world at that time, he led the first implementation of one of the very first IBM and Apple personal computers ever used in the business environment quickly becoming the world wide expert in analytical implementation of personal computers for business. Eventually moving on to a widely successful leveraged buy-out and then returning to Arthur Andersen and becoming a Partner in the Chicago office, he specialized in health, fitness, nutritional and food businesses managing some of the largest strategic food industry restructuring deals at the time. As COO of a successful Midwest Venture Capital firm, he was responsible for the operational management and success of over 25 investments each averaging $2-5 million over 5 years yielding returns in excess of 1000%.

He served on the board of many businesses in the health and nutrition sector as well as the educational and certification industries, including the board of Nutrisystems and one of the largest licensing and certifying bodies in the US. Achieving a modest level of success he decided return to school to increase his scientific and technical knowledge and launch an investment company targeting startups in the health and fitness sectors. During this time he became one of Infusionsoft's first Certified Partners providing digital marketing consultation and implementation for many industries including the health, fitness and hospitality service sectors. Having custom developed some of the very first website to Infusionsoft CRM integrations, he implemented over 50 Infusionsoft installations and one of the first website membership systems providing targeted content to clients based on funnel tagging and online behaviors. While UltraFit Systems has incubated and exited several fitness concepts, he noted a need for better digital marketing and client management systems as well as analytical tools for health practitioners to use to chart a scientifically valid path to achieving their goals and objectives.

He is a founding member of Six Sigma Fitness (SSF), an online science and technology company with multiple distribution channels. SSF is a Cloud based SaaS health technology platform for Athlete Management and sub-clinical Health, Wellness and Fitness evaluations for the Health and Fitness industry. It is also a health practitioner educational resource that certifies practitioners in the SSF proprietary methods and business processes. He has created proprietary scientific algorithms, custom CRMs and integrated technologies using API integrations and behavioral logic for marketing and conversion strategies in the health sector. This platform and technology is currently being adopted and customized for a small muti-location mobile technology retail organization as well and B to B telcom provider.

A wrestler in high school and for a brief time in college until realizing the challenges of studying and playing sports at a high level while constantly having to cut weight, he decided to coach and master the challenges of health and fitness through weightlifting and martial arts while pursuing careers in consulting and eventually the venture capital and private equity business specializing in food and nutrition industries.

He is a multiple blackbelt having studied martial arts for over 30 years including kickboxing, Muay Thai, BJJ, Krav Maga, Kenpo Karate, Kung Fu, Northern (Longfist) and Southern Shaolin (Hung Gar Tiger and Crane), Tai Chi, Qigong, Traditional Weapons and Chinese philosophical studies including Taoism, internal arts and energy systems from an Eastern medicine perspective.

He has had the good fortune to train with and or under the direct lineage of some of the greatest martial artists in the world including Master Ed Parker, Master Jinheng Li, Kru Pol and Master Eddie Cha.

He is also the author of the Six Sigma Fitness™ Scholar Warrior Program which brings together the Eastern and Western sciences as well as the training of both traditional strength and conditioning with martial arts programming.

He is currently the Research Physiologist with UltraFit Systems, Physiologist/Consultant to many professional athletes specializing in combat sports, weight cutting and physiological adaptation. Authored and developed The Scholar Warrior Program for Six Sigma Fitness™ and The Six Sigma Fitness™ Methodology.

Past certifications are too numerous to list but more include Six Sigma Fitness™ Certified Practitioner, Certified Personal Trainer (C.P.T.), CrossFit Level 1, Precision Nutrition, Poliquin Biosignature, Poliquin PICP, BioForce HRV, BioForce Certified Conditioning Coach

He is available for consults, private self-defense training and speaking engagements.

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