Types Of Protein

Nutritional Meeting - 10/21/2013

What is protein?

Protein is one of the basic building blocks of the human body, making up about 16 percent of our total body weight. Muscle, hair, skin, and connective tissue are mainly made up of protein. However, protein plays a major role in all of the cells and most of the fluids in our bodies. In addition, many of our bodies’ important chemicals — enzymes, neurotransmitters, hormones and even our DNA are at least partially made up of protein. We use up protein constantly, so it is important to continually replace it. If you do not consume enough protein, your body will turn to the muscles and break them down to get that protein. Remember, the more muscle the faster your metabolism so when the body breaks down this muscle, it in turn slows the body’s metabolism.

Proteins are made up of smaller units called amino acids. Our bodies can manufacture most of the needed amino acids, but some of them must be obtain through the food we consume. Animal proteins such as meat, eggs, and dairy products have all the amino acids.  Many plants have some of them as well, but note that it takes more calories to get adequate amounts of protein on a vegetarian diet and living on beans and tofu increases the amount of carbohydrates in one’s diet significantly which can cause weight gain if you are not careful.

How much protein do we need?

Our protein needs depend on our age, size, and activity level. The standard method used by nutritionists to estimate our minimum daily protein requirement is to multiply the body weight in pounds by .37. This is the number of grams of protein that should be the daily minimum. According to this method, a person that weighs 150 lbs. should eat approximately 55 grams of protein per day, however, people engaging in endurance exercise (such as long distance running) or heavy resistive exercise (such as body building) will need to add additional protein in their diets. The current recommendation is for these athletes is to consume 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per day for each kilogram of body weight, therefore a person weighting 150 lbs. should eat between 81-115 grams of protein daily.

Is there such a thing as too much protein? 

There have been many studies done on the effects of a diet that is very high in protein.  Every cell and organ in your body needs protein, but taking in too much of it can cause unpleasant symptoms such as nausea and diarrhea and you could also develop more serious problems, as excessive protein leads to a buildup of amino acids, insulin or ammonia in your blood stream. Your body can only use a certain amount of protein each day so if you take in too much protein, you may gain weight. Each gram of protein has 4 calories. If you take in 100 grams of protein, but your body can only use 50 grams of it, your body will store the extra 200 calories’ worth of protein as fat and doing this daily can cause you to take in 1,400 extra calories per week, resulting in a weight gain of almost 2 pounds per month. Eating too much protein over a long period of time can also cause your liver to become overworked, allowing ammonia and other toxic substances to build up in your bloodstream.


Protein sources:


  • Hamburger patty, 4 oz – 28 grams protein
  • Steak, 6 oz – 42 grams
  • Most cuts of beef – 7 grams of protein per ounce


  • Meat only, cooked & roasted 51.9g per ½ duck


  • Chicken breast, 3.5 oz – 30 grams protein
  • Chicken thigh – 10 grams (for average size)
  • Drumstick – 11 grams
  • Wing – 6 grams
  • Chicken meat, cooked, 4 oz – 35 grams


  • Wild Salmon (Farmed salmon is produced in a way that’s the seaside equivalent of a chicken factory. As a result, the fish are often sick and infected)
  • Tuna, 6 oz can – 40 grams of protein
  • Most fish fillets or steaks are about 22 grams of protein for 3 ½ oz (100 grams) of cooked fish, or 6 grams per ounce


  • Pork chop, average – 22 grams protein
  • Pork loin or tenderloin, 4 oz – 29 grams
  • Ham, 3 oz serving – 19 grams
  • Ground pork, 1 oz raw – 5 grams; 3 oz cooked – 22 grams

Eggs & Dairy

  • Egg, large – 6 grams protein
  • Milk, 1 cup – 8 grams
  • Cottage cheese, ½ cup – 15 grams
  • Yogurt, 1 cup – usually 8-12 grams, check label
  • Soft cheeses (Mozzarella, Brie, Camembert) – 6 grams per oz
  • Medium cheeses (Cheddar, Swiss) – 7 or 8 grams per oz
  • Hard cheeses (Parmesan) – 10 grams per oz
  • Greek Yogurt 

Nuts, Seeds, & Nut Butters

  • Peanut butter, 2 Tablespoons – 8 grams protein
  • Almonds, ¼ cup – 8 grams
  • Peanuts, ¼ cup – 9 grams
  • Cashews, ¼ cup – 5 grams
  • Pecans, ¼ cup – 2.5 grams
  • Sunflower seeds, ¼ cup – 6 grams
  • Pumpkin seeds, ¼ cup – 8 grams
  • Flax seeds – ¼ cup – 8 grams

*Because most nuts and seeds are high in fat, you don’t want to make them your primary source of protein. But they’re great as a post-workout or occasional snack. Two tablespoons of peanut butter contains about 8 grams of protein.


  • Varies by brand, but as a guideline, one serving of tempeh (100 grams) provides about 18 grams of protein

*Tempeh is made from cooked and slightly fermented soybeans and formed into a patty.


  • Contains all of the essential amino acids, making it a “complete protein”. Just one cup of cooked quinoa contains 18 grams of protein, as well as nine grams of fiber!

Beans, Lentils, & Legumes

  • Beans are one of the most common protein-rich foods for vegetarians
  • Most beans (black, pinto, lentils, etc.) about 7-10 grams protein per half cup of cooked beans

Tofu & Soy products

  • Tofu, ½ cup 20 grams protein
  • Tofu, 1 oz, 2.3 grams
  • Soy milk, 1 cup – 6 -10 grams
  • Soy beans, ½ cup cooked – 14 grams protein
  • Split peas, ½ cup cooked – 8 grams

Seitan, Veggie Burgers, Meat Substitutes

  • One veggie patty contains about 10 grams of protein, and 100 grams of seitan provides 21 grams of protein

Other lesser known protein sources include:

  • Cottage cheese (14 g per ½-cup / 4 oz. serving)
  • Dried spirulina seaweed (8.6 g per 1 cup serving)
  • Oatmeal (6 g per 1 cup cooked)
  • Bulgur (6 g per 1 cup cooked)
  • Spinach (5 g per 1 cup cooked)
  • Baked potatoes (4.5 g per medium potato, skin included)
  • Peas (4.5 g per ½ cup serving)
  • Avocados (4 g per avocado)
  • Broccoli (4 g per 1 cup cooked)

Differences in Protein Powder

The types of protein used in protein powders can be divided into two categories: animal source proteins and vegetable source proteins. Animal source proteins include milk protein derivatives like whey and casein, goat’s milk and egg white protein. Vegetable source proteins include soy, rice, pea and hemp proteins.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is derived from milk. The protein portion of whole milk consists of 20% whey protein and 80% casein protein. Whey is by far the most popular type of protein used in protein powders. For most people, it’s the best all-around choice in terms of taste, quality and cost. Another unique benefit of whey protein is that studies have shown it enhances the immune system in several ways.

Whey protein comes in two varieties, whey concentrate and whey isolate.

The advantages of each are:

Whey Concentrate: Whey concentrate is more economical per gram of protein. It has a low lactose level that is well tolerated by most lactose-sensitive people. It has trivial amounts of fat and carbs relative to your overall nutrient intake. Whey concentrate is typically the best-selling category of whey.

Whey Isolate: Whey isolate is virtually fat-free for those wishing to eliminate as much fat from their diet as possible. It is typically lactose free for those few individuals who are very sensitive to the low-lactose levels found in whey concentrate. Whey isolate tends to taste slightly better than whey concentrate too, yet its consistency is a little thinner, without the fat.

Whey protein products can be made from whey concentrate, whey isolate or a blend of both. Other types of protein are sometimes combined with whey proteins in products and are known as protein blends.

The best times to consume Whey protein is:

  • Immediately before your workout (only needed if you’re consuming this meal less than 30 minutes before your workout)
  • During your workout (only needed in certain situations to help fuel the body for long grueling exercises, but not required)
  • Immediately after your workout (the most common use of all to feed the muscles)

Casein or Milk Protein

Like whey protein, casein protein is another milk protein derivative. Since most of the protein (80%) in milk is casein, the terms “milk protein” and “casein protein” are used interchangeably. The key difference between whey and casein is that whey is absorbed in the digestive system quickly, whereas casein is absorbed slowly and steadily. Taste-wise they are similar. Both are more or less tasteless in their unflavored and unsweetened state.  The one time of the day when casein universally beats whey in terms of usage and recommendations is that it is the last meal before bed because of its slow digesting properties and keeps the body full during your sleep.

Egg White Protein

Egg white protein was the most popular type of protein supplement for many years before milk proteins surpassed its popularity due to their better taste and lower cost.  Like milk proteins, egg white is also naturally very low in fat and carbs. Egg white protein is cholesterol-free and an excellent choice for those who wish to avoid dairy products. It’s easily digestible and a perfect choice for building lean muscle.

Vegetable Proteins

Among the vegetable source proteins, soy protein is by far the most popular. Soy and hemp are unique among vegetable protein sources in that they supply all 8 essential amino acids. Most vegetable proteins lack one or more.

Soy protein has additional benefits, too. The isoflavones in soy provide antioxidant benefits, heart health benefits and is often used by women transitioning through menopause. For all its benefits, soy protein has a characteristic taste that, while not unpleasant, can be hard to completely mask with flavors and sweeteners, especially when soy is the sole protein source in a product.

Hemp protein is derived from the hemp seed, this protein-rich plant source offers a complete amino acid profile, plus it’s highly digestible—meaning it’s a smart pre-gym supplement that won’t cause stomach issues during your workout. But hemp’s fat and calorie content can be on the high side, so if your goal is to cut, you might want to opt for whey or casein powder.

Brown Rice protein is not a complete protein by itself, meaning you need to buy a powder that contains enhanced amino acids or you will need to pair it with something, like tofu, quinoa or beans, that will round out the nutrients you need. It’s high in fiber, gluten-free, lactose-free and full of B vitamins, which help out with muscle metabolism and growth and is  less likely to irritate your system or cause an allergic reaction.

Yellow Pea powder is not going to contain all of the essential amino acids you need for muscle building, but if you’re lactose intolerant or allergic to soy, it’s worth adding to your more limited rotation. This too will need to be paired with another protein source, such as beans, quinoa or tofu, to make it complete, and use it in moderation as studies have showed it may cause calcium to leak out of the bones due its effect on uric acid levels in the body.

Spirulina is a blue-green algae used since the 16th century by Aztecs & North Africans and more recently has become an invaluable food source for vegetarians, vegans, and those who cannot take in enough nutrients in their body.  There are over forty thousand varieties, which only need a little bit of water and some sun to grow. It is able to grow by itself in the wild, and not on a farm with the help of humans. After it grows, it is harvested and turned into a thick paste, and then dried. Then it is packed into a powder or turned into a tablet or granulated so it can be filled into capsules. It is about 60%-70% protein and contains all of the essential amino acids making it a pure protein which is not common from plant sources. It also contains high amounts of B-12 and contains less than 3.9 calories per gram. Another benefit is that is has been shown to reduce food cravings & helps to stabilize blood sugar. It should not be used by anyone who might have auto immune diseases because it may cause the immune system to become more active, it may increase the symptoms of these diseases. It should also be avoided by anyone who has Phenylketonuria, a metabolic disorder where the body cannot metabolize phenylalanine, since Spirulina contains phenylalanine and may make Phenylketonuria worse.

Mixed Protein powder was created to form a more “complete” vegetable-based protein. Each protein is beneficial on its own, but this new method mixes multiple types of plant protein to deliver a variety of nutrients in one powder. This is done by mixing a combination of sprouts and beans, like quinoa, millet, buckwheat, garbanzo beans, lentils, bean sprouts and flaxseeds, a mixed powder can provide you with a nice profile of vitamins, fatty acids and fiber to help you diversify your supplements.

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