How protein powder is made?

If you’re interested in keeping in shape you may already be including protein powder in your diet. But did you know that not all protein powders are created equal?

Some are more concentrated, some contain more essential amino acids than others, some will make you feel fuller for longer, and some will be suitable for vegans. And that’s just for starters.

Protein powder is a supplement that is now commonly used by professional athletes and people who are serious about training, to help them maintain the correct protein intake. 

Muscle is built from protein, so people looking to gain muscle size and/or strength will often aim to include more protein in their diet.

There are 20 amino acids that form the building blocks of muscle protein - nine essential and 11 non-essential. Within the essential amino acids are the three branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) - leucine, isoleucine and valine, which are particularly important for muscle building. 

Some protein powders contain all of them, and others don’t. Generally, animal sources of protein will be ‘complete’, containing all the essential amino acids, while plant sources are usually not complete. 

Whey and casein protein powders are two different types that are both made from pasteurised milk. Enzymes are added to make the milk curdle.

Whey and casein 

Made from dehydrated egg whites, egg protein powder is a good option for people who have an issue with dairy protein powders like whey and casein and contains all nine essential amino acids.


Although soy is a plant product - classified as a legume - it also contains all nine essential amino acids and is considered to be a complete protein. 


Made from yellow split peas (not green peas, as the name might make you think!), pea protein contains high levels of branched-chain amino acids and should make you feel nicely full, just like animal-derived protein powders.


Brown rice protein is a plant-based option but is low in lysine so, although it contains all nine essential amino acids, it’s not viewed as a complete protein. 

Brown rice 

Like brown rice protein, hemp is viewed as an incomplete protein due to its low levels of lysine and leucine. However, it’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids (popularly derived from oily fish), while still being from a non-animal source. 



How a protein powder is manufactured has a direct effect on how much protein it actually contains - another case of not all protein products being made equal. Protein concentrate Protein isolate Protein hydrolysates


Sports dietician Claire Fudge, of Fourth Discipline Nutrition, works with elite level athletes to ensure their nutrition is optimal at all times. She says different types of protein powder could be used for different things, with whey protein, which is quickly absorbed, being a good option for people training early in the morning who might then struggle to fit in breakfast for another couple of hours.