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We at Body Builders Network welcome your nutrition questions. Go ahead, ask us for advice by emailing us at You will find our advice replies to you requests here, in our Building Muscle Column.

Q: I'm working hard to build muscle, which protein powder should I use to increase muscle mass?

Almost everyone will agree that protein is required in larger quantities for the athlete and bodybuilder. This fact also applies to those individuals in physically demanding jobs involving heavy lifting and high levels of physical activity; which requires additional protein intake as well. The focus of this article will be limited to the different types of proteins used in protein powder supplements today.

The Importance

Protein is an essential macronutrient that the body requires on a daily basis. Large quantities, considered to be in excess of 1.5 grams per pound of body weight, can be difficult for the body to digest. As mentioned previously, individual activity levels require additional protein requirements. This is especially true when one's goal is to gain lean body mass. The busy schedules of today demand convenience and nutritionally dense super foods. This is where protein powder supplements play a vital role in a physically active and demanding fitness lifestyles.

Basic Protein Types

Protein powders basically come in three different types regardless of the fancy processing names associated with them. These are Whey, Egg and Soy. Let's break each one down into its separate types for clarity in understanding.


Whey protein comes in three, distinctly different types, of which some are better than others, depending on different factors. One of great importance is absorption, followed by the price.

Hydrolyzed Whey

Protein Isolate (HWPI)

In the whey protein family, Hydrolyzed Whey Protein is the most readily digestible. While having the highest efficacy of all the whey proteins it is also the most expensive. HWPI is partially utilized to aid in the human digestive process, which makes it very soluble. The problem with HPWI is that it has an extremely bitter taste that is impossible to overcome with sweeteners or flavorings, which prevent it from possibly ever becoming a primary ingredient in this class of protein supplementation. HPWI still can be found in some supplements but as one of the lesser ingredients.

Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)

Whey Protein Isolate is a whole other story. WPI has a good taste and is also extremely digestible. WPI is almost entirely void of fat and is lactose free. The latter is of great importance to individuals with lactose intolerance. The process of cross-flow microfiltration helped to revolutionize this type of protein. This is the phase in processing which follows the "concentration" phase to "isolate" the whey protein.

Whey Protein

Concentrate (WPC)

Whey Protein concentrates have a variety of different problems associated with them. Symptoms from users of WPC included bloating, gas and in some cases diarrhea. There is a very large variance in the protein content itself. Actual protein content can vary widely from twenty-five (25) to eighty (80) percent that is a direct result of the dependence on the quality and cost.
If you were to compare WPI to WPC you will find that WPC has higher concentrations of fat, carbohydrate and lactose. The absorption is also reduced due to the lower assimilation in the stomach and intestines.
Due to the lower cost of manufacturing and the reduced quality and quantity of the protein content, this is the most economical.


This is an old friend to most of us who have been around a long time. Many years ago, a man by the name of Blair formulated a protein powder that is still has variations used today. Egg protein is extracted from pure egg whites and has one of the highest P.E.R. (Protein Efficiency Ratio) at 3.9.
This is an important point because the higher the P.E.R. the better the body utilizes the protein. Egg protein has the longest history of use among weightlifters and bodybuilders due to its high ratio of absorption and its time-proven results; not to mention that for many years it was the only type of protein powder other than milk.
Like the Whey and Soy Proteins, Egg Protein offers the full spectrum of amino acids in an efficient form that is readily used by the body while being fat and cholesterol free. As far as protein powders are concerned, it is not very soluble and used to require a blender. Today with the advancement of emulsifiers, it can be mixed with a spoon. The cost of Egg Protein is usually in the same range as WPI.
If you are ever in doubt about which protein powder to choose, this is always a good choice.


Lastly, Soy Protein is extracted from the soybean. New processing techniques which use a slightly alkaline pH, followed by precipitation, washing and drying phases yields what is called "Soy Protein Isolate". This process retains about ninety (90) percent of the protein. Soy Protein is an abundant, economical protein source. Soy products offer numerous additional health benefits, from lowering the risk of cancer, osteoporosis and other chronic diseases to easing the symptoms of menopause. This type of protein is especially good for women who are looking to balance hormone levels. Soy protein isolates are a highly digestible source of amino acids: the protein building blocks essential for human health. Soy protein is low in fat, calories and cholesterol. The cost is usually somewhere between the Whey Protein Isolate and Egg Protein.

I hope this brief overview offers a better, general understanding of the different major protein types used in protein powder supplementation today. One thing to be aware of is that if a company does not state what type of protein is used on the label it is best to assume that it is the cheapest and the primary protein source is most likely Whey Protein Concentrate. All of these protein powders are used in various combinations so be sure to check the order of the ingredients listed on the label so you know exactly what you are purchasing for your hard earned dollar. It should also be noted that WPI users do not experience the usual side effects such as bloating, gas and in some cases diarrhea that are commonly associated with the use of Whey Protein Concentrate in some individuals. My suggestion to all my clients is to find a protein powder with a taste and price you can live with, but try to stay clear of products that contain a large amount of Whey Protein Concentrate. Most stores will usually have samples that you can try so be sure to ask before you purchase. This will give you an opportunity to taste and see how the product mixes and keep you from ending up with a couple of pounds of protein powder that you have to suffer through until it is gone. Believe me, it is worth it to ask for that sample.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Please feel free to e-mail us and tell us what you would like to see, here on Body Builders Network.

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