There are a wide variety of protein supplements out there, and while it is great to have options, it does make deciding which ones to use difficult. Knowing the differences between some of these major proteins and when to use them can help you make educated decisions to enhance your diet and help with your training.
Whey: The first of these main protein supplements, and probably the most widely known and used is whey protein. When milk is curdled, the liquid that remains is known as whey, or milk serum, and the whey protein supplements covering the shelves in the health stores are derived from this liquid. Whey supplements are relatively inexpensive and good for anyone wanting an easy way to get more protein in their diet, especially those on a budget. It is also a faster absorbing protein than some of the other choices out there, making it a great post-workout supplement to help get the nutrients you need in order to rebuild and recover.
Casein: You probably remember the story of Little Miss Muffet eating her curds and whey, and while we have already discussed what whey is, the curds are actually the source of our second main protein supplement. These curds are the solid masses left behind after draining the whey from coagulated milk and they are made up of largely casein protein. Casein has a much slower absorption rate than whey; it stays in the stomach longer where it is slowly broken down and released into the blood. This slow release has made it a very popular protein supplement to use before going to bed, as it will continue to release nutrients during the night.
Soy: Lastly, we have soy. Soy protein, while not a very popular protein supplement, is worth mentioning because it is special. Unlike whey and casein which are derived from milk, soy protein is processed from soy beans. It is a non-animal source protein making it a great vegetarian choice and will certainly still give you the nutrients needed.