National Protein Day: An expert guide to picking your protein

27 February,2024 10:30 AM IST |  New Delhi  |  Maitrai Agarwal

From vegan to whey, nutrition expert compares popular protein alternatives and shares tips to help you pick the most suitable one

Image for representational purposes only. Photo Courtesy: iStock

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National Protein Day is observed across India on February 27 every year. The main aim is to raise awareness about the health benefits of protein in our diets. "It's crucial to understand the significance of protein in our diets and the diverse options available to meet our protein needs," says Dr Archana Batra dietician, and a certified diabetes educator. With a plethora of protein supplements flooding the market, it can be overwhelming to determine which one is best suited to your lifestyle, dietary preferences, and fitness goals. On National Protein Day, we asked the nutrition expert to outline the pros and cons associated with popular protein alternatives and help us make an informed decision by offering in-depth comparative information.

1. Whey protein

Whey protein is one of the most popular and widely consumed protein supplements. It is derived from milk during the cheese-making process and is rich in essential amino acids, making it an excellent choice for muscle building and recovery. Whey protein is rapidly absorbed by the body, making it ideal for post-workout consumption when fast delivery of amino acids to the muscles is crucial for recovery and growth.


Fast absorption: Whey protein is quickly digested and absorbed by the body, making it ideal for post-workout recovery.

High in essential amino acids: Whey protein contains all nine essential amino acids necessary for muscle growth and repair.

Versatile: Whey protein can be easily incorporated into shakes, smoothies, and recipes to increase protein intake.


Dairy-derived: Individuals with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies may experience digestive discomfort when consuming whey protein.

Price: Whey protein supplements can be relatively expensive compared to other protein options.

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2. Casein protein

Casein protein is another dairy-derived protein sourced from milk. Unlike whey protein, casein is digested and absorbed slowly by the body, providing a sustained release of amino acids over a longer period. This slow-release property makes casein protein an excellent choice for providing a steady supply of amino acids to the muscles, particularly during periods of fasting or overnight.


Slow digestion
Casein protein forms a gel-like substance in the stomach, resulting in slow digestion and prolonged amino acid release.

The slow digestion of casein protein can help promote feelings of fullness and satiety, making it a suitable option for weight management.

Muscle preservation
Casein protein may help prevent muscle breakdown during periods of fasting or between meals.


Similar to whey protein, casein protein may not be suitable for individuals with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies.

Casein protein tends to have a thicker and creamier texture compared to whey protein, which may not be preferred by some individuals.

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3. Plant-based protein

Plant-based protein supplements have gained popularity in recent years, particularly among vegetarians, vegans, and individuals with dairy allergies or lactose intolerance. These protein powders are derived from sources such as peas, rice, hemp, soy, and quinoa, and they offer a complete amino acid profile comparable to animal-based proteins. Below, are the various types of plant-based protein sources commonly available:

Pea Protein
Pea protein is derived from yellow peas and is rich in essential amino acids, particularly lysine, which is often limited in plant-based proteins. It's easily digestible and suitable for individuals with soy or gluten allergies.

Hemp Protein
Hemp protein is extracted from hemp seeds and contains all nine essential amino acids. It's also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and fibre, making it beneficial for heart health and digestion.

Soy Protein
Soy protein is derived from soybeans and is a complete protein, meaning it provides all essential amino acids. It's commonly used in plant-based protein powders and offers various health benefits, including supporting bone health and reducing cholesterol levels.

Rice Protein
Rice protein is made from brown rice and is hypoallergenic, making it suitable for individuals with food sensitivities or allergies. While it's not a complete protein on its own, it can be combined with other plant-based protein sources to enhance its amino acid profile.

Quinoa Protein
Quinoa is a pseudo-cereal that contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source. Quinoa protein powder is gluten-free and offers a range of nutrients, including fibre, magnesium, and iron.


Plant-based protein supplements are free from animal products, making them suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Plant-based protein powders are free from common allergens like dairy and lactose, making them suitable for individuals with food sensitivities.

Producing plant-based protein requires fewer resources and generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to animal-based protein production.


Some plant-based protein sources may be less digestible or bioavailable than animal-based proteins, leading to potential digestive discomfort for some individuals.

Plant-based protein powders may have a stronger, earthier taste compared to whey or casein protein, which may not be appealing to everyone.

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4. Blended Protein

Blended protein supplements combine multiple protein sources, such as whey, casein, and plant-based proteins, to provide a balanced amino acid profile and a combination of fast and slow-digesting proteins. These supplements aim to offer the benefits of both rapid and sustained amino acid release for optimal muscle growth, recovery, and satiety.


Balanced amino acid profile
Blended protein supplements combine different protein sources to provide a complete spectrum of amino acids for optimal muscle building and recovery.

Blended protein powders can be used at any time of day, whether post-workout, between meals, or as a meal replacement.

Blended protein supplements may be easier on the digestive system compared to pure whey or casein protein for some individuals.


Blended protein supplements may be more expensive than single-source protein powders due to the inclusion of multiple protein sources.

Flavour and texture
Blended protein powders may have a different taste and texture compared to single-source protein supplements, which may appeal to only some.

Five things to consider while choosing the right protein for you
By considering these factors and exploring the diverse range of protein options available, you can select the protein supplement that best aligns with your dietary preferences, supports your fitness goals, and enhances your overall health and well-being. By making informed choices and incorporating quality protein sources into your diet, you can nourish your body with the nutrients it needs to thrive.

1. Assess your dietary preferences and restrictions
Consider whether you follow a specific dietary pattern, such as vegan, vegetarian, or omnivorous.
Determine if you have any dietary restrictions or allergies, such as lactose intolerance or sensitivity to certain plant-based proteins like soy.

2. Identify your fitness goals
Determine your primary fitness objectives, whether they involve muscle building, weight management, or overall health and well-being.
Tailor your protein choice to support your specific fitness goals. For example, if you're aiming to build muscle, prioritise protein sources that are high in essential amino acids and easily digestible.

3. Consider timing and usage
Evaluate when you plan to consume protein supplements. For instance, do you need a fast-digesting protein for post-workout recovery, or are you seeking a slower-digesting protein for sustained energy and satiety? Determine how you intend to incorporate protein supplements into your daily routine. Will you use them as post-workout shakes, meal replacements, or snacks between meals?

4. Review protein quality and composition
Assess the amino acid profile of different protein sources. Look for complete protein sources that provide all nine essential amino acids in adequate proportions.
Consider the bioavailability and digestibility of different protein types. Some proteins may be more easily absorbed and utilised by the body than others.

5. Evaluate taste and texture preferences
Take into account your taste preferences and sensory preferences when selecting protein supplements. Some individuals may prefer the taste and texture of certain proteins over others.

Experiment with different flavours and formulations to find a protein supplement that you enjoy and can consistently incorporate into your diet.

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