FemaleF.I.R.S.T, Inc.

Personal and Virtual Training

Supplements- Part II

Protein powder is part of the “big three” when it comes to workout supplements (the other two being pre-workout and post-workout supplements). And if you’ve ever walked into vitamin store, or in the supplement section of a supermarket, you’ve probably seen tub after tub of the stuff: whey protein, soy protein, hemp protein - the list goes on! All promise big results, so how do you know which protein supplement is right for you? What’s the difference between whey protein, soy protein, and plant-based protein?


    Whey is the most commonly found protein supplement on store shelves. Made from milk, whey contains all nine amino acids (important for building muscle, if you’ll recall from the last blog post), has been thought to enhance the immune system, and helps maximize protein absorption by muscles. When it comes to building muscle, whey has shown time and again that it works, which is why it is so common. There are three types of whey supplements:

  • Whey concentrate, which is low in fat and carbohydrates, and can contain anywhere from 30% to 90% protein, depending on the concentration;

  • Whey isolate, which is more processed than whey concentrate, and contains 90% protein; and

  • Whey hydrolysate, a “predigested” form of whey protein, commonly found in medical supplements and infant formula due to its easy digestibility and reduced allergen content.

    While whey has shown to be effective at building muscle, these protein supplements are largely unregulated and can come with some undesirable side effects if taken in large doses, such as nausea, bloating, and cramps, among others.


    Soy, along with other plant-based protein supplements (discussed later), is starting to pop up more frequently on store shelves, as its health benefits are becoming more well-known. Soy contains 30% carbohydrates (15% of which is fiber), 38% protein, 18% oil (85% of which is unsaturated), 14% moisture, plus all nine essential amino acids. In fact, soy and whey proteins complement each other, as whey is higher in the branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine), and soy is higher in arginine (good for muscle formation stimulation) and glutamine (helps with metabolic stress). Like whey, there are three types of soy supplements:

  • Soy protein concentrate, which contains 65% protein and most of the carbs found in the soybeans themselves;

  • Soy protein isolate, the most pure and refined soy protein on the market, containing more than 90% protein; and

  • Textured soy protein, made from protein concentrates, and used to make imitation meats (chicken, beef, etc.).

    Like whey, soy can have undesirable health effects. In fact, it has come under scrutiny recently, as it’s been thought to lower testosterone levels, increase estrogen levels, cause thyroid problems (hypothyroidism), contribute to low energy, cause digestive disturbances, and possibly affect fertility.


    The new kids on the block, plant-based protein supplements are making a huge splash among vegans and those for whom soy and whey might pose health problems. The most common forms of plant-based proteins are brown rice, pea, hemp, and the aforementioned soy. While much research still needs to be done on these supplements, it is thought that these types of supplements are allergen free, and combining two or more (such as brown rice, which is high in amino acids cysteine and methionine, and pea, which is high in lysine) can achieve the protein levels found in whey. They also have a neutral taste, which makes them easy to mix into smoothies and in water, and are easily digestible. The protein breakout is as follows:

  • Brown rice: 90% protein content; 20-24 grams of protein per one scoop serving

  • Pea: 80% protein content

  • Hemp: half the amount found in brown rice

    Of course, the decision whether or not to go with whey, soy, or another plant-based protein supplement is dependent upon each individual person’s health, as well as their fitness goals. Personally, I use Arbonne plant-based protein supplements, but consult with your doctor or a sports nutritionist to see which form of protein makes the most sense for you. And if you are interested in learning more about Arbonne products, or purchasing some for yourself, feel free to contact me!