Are Protein Powders Complete Protein Sources?


All processes in the human body that involve growth or repair requires protein. Whether you goal is to lose weight, gain muscle or the holy grail, a combination of both, you WILL need to train with weights.

For more information as to why weight training is so important read this.

To discover if protein powders are complete protein sources , keep reading!

Basically weight training is a stress on your body where, at a microscopic level, you are actually breaking down muscle. Your bodies response to this stress is to repair the muscle and grow more muscle in order to be better prepared next time that sort of stress is placed on it again.

The more muscle your body has, the more protein you will require. Without going into complicated formulas and calculations, if you are performing weight training with consistency and intensity, you will need about 1 gram of protein per pound or 2 grams per kilogram of body weight.

Using myself as example, I am 80kg (176 pounds). On a daily basis I aim to eat about 160 grams of protein.

In a future article I will discuss how to more accurately calculate you daily protein requirement, but if you aim for the above mentioned amounts you will be very close to the amount of protein your body requires.

Why Use Protein Supplements?

The ideal situation is to consume your daily protein requirements by eating only whole foods, such as chicken, eggs, fish, lean red meat ect. Eating whole foods is definitely the best way to go, food is ALWAYS a better option to supplements, but it is not always practical.

If you are anything like me, you will find it difficult to consume your daily protein needs by only eating whole foods. My difficulty comes with working shift work and being generally time poor.

My occupation means, some days I can go 8 hours, without going anywhere near a kitchen, fridge, microwave or oven (you get the idea). What that means is that I need some convenient forms of protein that I can consume.


Complete Protein Sources

For Convenience I Carry My Protein Powder Around in a Shaker Like This.


For me I find convenience in a protein shake. When working on the road, I know that I can pack some protein powder in a shaker and when I need a protein hit, I just mix in a bit of water and have a quick protein shake. I don’t need to leave the car, I don’t need a great deal of time to prepare it and I know that I am consuming about 30 grams of high quality protein.

A Simple Guide To Complete Protein Sources

So which protein supplement is right for you?

  • Whey Protein Isolate
  • Whey Protein Concentrate
  • Soy Protein
  • Casein Protein
  • Rice Protein
  • Egg Protein

The most popular protein supplement is whey protein powder, either as an isolate or a concentrate, closely followed by casein protein.

The reason why whey protein is so popular is it is the most biologically valuable protein source available. What that means is more of the protein is used by the body for muscle growth, muscle repair and immune system enhancement compared to other protein sources such as rice or soy protein.

Whey protein is a mixture of globular proteins isolated from whey, the liquid material created as a by-product of cheese production. .

Casein protein (pronounced kay-seen) is the predominant protein found in milk. It makes up about 80% of the protein in cows milk. Casein protein is extracted from the milk through ultra filtration, without the use of chemicals.

Personally I prefer a protein supplement, that is a blend of whey and casein protein!

My reasoning is I generally use a protein supplement as meal replacement, usually mid-afternoon and before bed. I found that when I used on a Whey protein based supplement, that due to it’s very high glycemic index your body absorbs it so quickly, that I was getting hungry not long after having the shake.

The rapid rate of absorption of whey protein is also the reason that I don’t like taking it before bed. I wanted a protein, such as casein that is slowly digested while I am asleep.

Ideally I would love to be able to afford to have a separate whey protein and casein protein powder, as I think that whey protein is ideal straight after weight training, casein is ideal just before bed, and a blend of the 2 is ideal as a meal replacement.

The next best option in terms of nutrition and value for money is a protein that contains a blend of whey and casein protein.

If you are looking for an even more cost effective way to consume your protein, purchase a whey only protein and mix it up with skim milk. Skim milk is a great source of casein protein and is relatively cheap. The casein protein in the milk will slow down the absorption rate of the whey protein.

I choose not to mix my shakes with milk for 2 reasons, firstly I am a little bit lactose intolerant, and secondly I don’t want to consume the sugar that is contained within skim milk. Skim milk contains about 12 grams of sugar per cup.

If I am having 2 shakes a day, that’s 2 cups of milk or an extra 24 grams of sugar. Personally I would rather consume some more good quality carbs during the day, instead of the sugar in the milk.

When looking for a protein supplement to use, try and stick with a basic product. By that I mean don’t bother going for a protein supplement that has added extras, such as creatine, glutamine or some fancy proprietary blend.
The product will cost you a lot more for the privilege and most of the time the added extras are only in trace amounts and will not add much benefit to your shake. You can purchase and add in the extras to your shake for a fraction of the cost.

Try Before You Buy!

Also make sure you try before you buy. Go into your supplement shop and ask for samples of products that you are interested in using. You want to make sure that you like the taste of the product you are about to buy considering you are probably going to buy it by the kilo.

If the shop refuses to offer you a sample of a product, walk out and go to another shop. No matter how much they try to convince you that certain protein powders taste ‘Just like a chocolate milkshake’, the truth is some of them taste like absolute shit and won’t blend properly without the use of an industrial strength blender. The last thing you want is to be stuck with a 3kg bag of powder that tastes like crap.

A word of advice, do not go for the cheapest bucket of protein you can find. You will definitely get what you pay for, and that is a low grade protein source that, because of how it has been processed will contain little to no biological value.

Recommended Protein Supplements

As stated earlier, this article is a protein guide and not a definitive list of all available protein powders on the market. However when it comes to brands, I tend to stick with Scivation, International Protein, Optimum Nutrition, Evolve or Redback.

Some of these brands can only be purchased in Australia. If I was to pick one brand that is available world wide it would be Scivation, I find their product tastes great and mixes extremely well.


Let me know your thoughts on types of protein or what brands you use and recommend.

  1. As usual, you always give practical and cost effective advice on supplements Niko. Good read. I’ve been meaning to get a shaker for some time. 🙂

    • Chris,

      Thanks for the compliment. A shaker is a must have if you want convienience.


  2. Hi Niko

    Sound advice on what can be a confusing topic. Personally I only use protein shakes post workout and maybe at other times if I am busy or out and about. You are right about going for quality products because not only do these taste better but I find they absorb better in the body without ant side affects.Plus there is too much crap in a lot of these products that I don´t want near me. Definitely pays to do your research.



    ps site looks great

    • Howard,

      It can be confusing, especially when some of the worst products out there, are the most heavily promoted. It definitely does pay to do your research. Good tip about the quality products, having the better absorption rate.


      ps: Thanks for the compliment about the site.

  3. I haven’t had a protein shake in ages as I ran out of powder and couldn’t be bothered to spend money on it. I think protein is a bit over rated if I am honest, I eat anywhere from 1-3 meals a day, and I am still seeing muscle gains using my workout program, it is hardcore though lol. When I was taking a protein shake, this was 2 hours after my workout but now I simply have 2 glasses of chocolate milk which is likely the equivalent. Check out my post on the best post workout meal.

    • Michael,

      Thanks for the input, and I agree with the research about chocolate milk. The only problems I have with using chocolate milk as is it’s not convenient and it’s not really cost effective. If you rely on chocolate milk as your post-workout drink you need to make sure that you have a fridge where you train, or you will be heading to a place where there is a fridge shortly after training. With a protein powder all you need is a bit of water, which doesn’t need to be refrigerated. My other problem is with the cost efficiency, my protein powder only cost $1.45 per serve. I can’t see chocolate milk being much of a cheaper alternative, if at all.


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