Select the best protein supplement to meet your needs and preferences with this extensive guide
Every comprehensive supplement plan includes a protein powder due to the many benefits offered by this functional product category.
Protein powders are extremely versatile as you can use them as a post-workout recovery shake at the gym or after training, a quick and convenient snack option, as well as in smoothies and other recipes to boost the protein content to support muscle growth and tissue repair.
In the past, whey dominated this supplement category, but various market-driven factors and shifting consumer preferences have driven a boom in protein powder innovation. As such, we now have more protein options available to us than ever before to meet a range of needs and preferences, from protein source and price to flavour and digestibility.
We take a closer look at the various options available in Biogen range to help you find the best protein powder to meet your specific needs.
Whey is generally considered the gold standard in proteins because it has a complete amino acid profile, including all nine essential amino acids (EAAs) – those that your body can’t produce on its own – including the beneficial branched-chain amino acids (BCAA).
Whey is also rich in leucine, a potent amino acid that the body needs to rebuild muscle during the recovery process and can also reduce muscle breakdown during exercise.
And whey is highly bioavailable, which means your body rapidly digests it to deliver the constituent amino acids to muscles. As such, whey is rapidly absorbed, which makes it the ideal protein option to support recovery after exercise.
Among the three main whey variants, whey hydrolysate has the highest bioavailability because it goes through multiple filtration steps.
A whey isolate, like Biogen Whey Isolate, is less filtered than a hydrolysate so is slightly less bioavailable, but still digests faster than the most common and least processed form, whey concentrate.
Manufacturers typically produce blends that contains all three variants in the formulation, like the tri-matrix blend used in Biogen Iso-Whey Premium or Biogen RAGE Impact Whey, to deliver fast, medium and slower release profiles.
Options like grass fed whey also cater to those who prefer a less processed option for health or environmental reasons. For instance, Biogen Grass Fed Whey is formulated from dairy cows fed on grass rather than commercial feed, and without added sugars, preservatives and colours.
However, multiple factors, including a global spike in demand due to a renewed focus on health and fitness following the pandemic and supply chain disruptions due to freight cargo capacity constraints and worldwide shortages in raw materials, have seen whey prices rise since 2021.
In response, manufacturers like Biogen introduced bigger tub sizes to allow consumers to buy in bulk, which effectively reduces the cost per serving. For instance, the 750 g Biogen Iso-Whey tub contains 25 servings, which works out at R21.40 per serving, whereas buying the larger 1.5 kg tub with 50 servings can save you R2.40 per serving.
Whey at a glance:
- Contains all nine EAAs, including BCAAs.
- Rapidly digested and absorbed.
- Ideal for those looking to build lean muscle.
- Best for post-exercise recovery.
Plant protein supplements have become popular options, particularly among people who suffer from lactose intolerance, those trying to reduce their animal protein intake, or anyone who wants to reduce their carbon footprint by consuming alternatives to products made from resource-intensive livestock farming.
Because most plant protein sources lack certain amino acids – most have incomplete profiles – supplement manufacturers blend multiple complementary plant protein sources together to deliver a product like Biogen Plant Based Protein. These plant-based protein powders contain all the amino acids your body needs in the appropriate ratios.
Plant proteins may also contain beneficial phytonutrients and antioxidants found in the source plant material, which makes this product category popular among those looking to support their overall health through a balanced and nutritious diet.
Plant proteins also offer a cost-conscious alternative to whey, with a serving from a 700g tub of Biogen Plant Based Protein costing R19.37 compared to roughly R21 for a comparably sized tub of whey protein.
Plant protein at a glance:
- Contains a complete amino acid profile comprised of complementary sources.
- Contains additional plant-derived nutrients.
- Ideal as a dairy alternative or for those looking to improve their health.
Slow or stage release proteins offer athletes and active individuals an effective option to support recovery overnight or during extended periods between meals.
Casein is also a milk-derived protein that meets the demand for a product that digests more slowly to support muscle repair over prolonged periods, like when we sleep.
A casein-based supplement like Biogen Timed-Release Protein SR-8 or Biogen Night Feed Casein Protein tends to clump in the digestive tract and digests more slowly than whey. This feature makes it a popular product for use at night when we can benefit from an extended amino acid release to support the muscle-building and repair processes that happen overnight.
The slower digestion rate also means it can leave you feeling full for longer, which makes it a common addition to meal replacement or diet shakes. A popular form of this supplement is micellar casein, which has the slowest digestion rate among supplemental protein sources. Another common form is calcium caseinate.
Casein at a glance:
- Digests more slowly than whey and plant proteins for a sustained amino acid release.
- Ideal for use overnight or when there is an extended period between meals to support muscle recovery.
- A popular inclusion in MRPs and diet proteins as it is more satiating
Meal replacement powders (MRP)
A meal replacement powder, or MRP is a functional protein supplement specifically formulated to replace a meal or snack. MRPs usually differ from standard protein shakes in that they contain fewer calories and are normally rich in fibre to leave you feeling full for longer.
For example, Biogen Lean Whey contains OatWell™, a patented form of oat beta-glucan fibre that helps to maintain blood glucose levels to curb hunger and maintain energy levels.
They also tend to be sugar-free and sweetened with non-nutritive sweeteners. They’re generally low in carbs or contain low-glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates because they are commonly used by dieters or those looking to improve their body composition by gaining muscle and losing fat.
Biogen also caters to those looking to improve their outward appearance with a product like Biogen Lean Whey with Collagen, as the added collagen supports healthy skin, hair and nail growth, as well as connective tissue health.
Some products also contain healthy fats in the form of medium chain triglycerides (MCT) oil and casein protein to boost satiety. And many products include added ingredients that aid digestion, like probiotics and digestive enzymes, with additional nutritional support from vitamins and minerals.
MRPs are an ideal protein supplement option for anyone looking to complement and support a calorie-controlled eating plan or those looking for a nutritious snack alternative to common convenience foods that fits into their on-the-go lifestyles.
Despite the added ingredients, MRPs are comparatively priced to whey, which offers consumers added value. For example, a serving from the Biogen Lean Whey 1 kg tub, which includes added Green Tea Extract and N-Acetyl-L-Carnitine, will cost R22.58, compared to R20.40 per serving from a similar sized tub (750 g) of Biogen Iso-Whey. As such, these products can offer value for money by displacing the need to purchase other standalone supplements.
MRPs at a glance:
- Contains fewer calories than conventional protein powders.
- Lower in carbs or include low-GI carbs.
- Helps to improve satiety to keep you feeling full for longer.
- Ideal for those on a calorie-controlled diet or anyone looking for a convenient yet nutritionally-sound snack option.
While similar to MRPs, diet shakes offer a low-carb, high-protein supplement option that tend to included extra ingredients to support weight loss.
Products like Biogen Diet Protein are typically low in carbohydrates, fats, and calories than conventional protein supplements, and contain compounds that may support fat loss.
These compounds could include conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), L-carnitine, chromium and hydroxycitric acid (HCA), among others, or a combination, along with other beneficial ingredients like digestive support and essential vitamins and minerals to offer a convenient all-in-one product.
Despite these added compounds and ingredients to support weight loss, a product like Biogen Diet Protein compares favourably in the cost per serving compared to an MRP and whey product at R20.50 versus R22.58 and R20.40 respectively. And buying in bulk can unlock savings, with the price per serving dropping to R16.00 when you buy the 1.6 kg tub.
Diet protein at glance:
- Low in carbs, fats and calories.
- Includes compounds that may support fat loss and weight loss and support digestion.
- Ideal to support weight-loss and fat-loss when used in conjunction with a calorie-controlled diet and exercise plan.
The multi-source protein blend, like Biogen’s Complete Whey, is a rapidly growing supplement category. These products combine animal and plant-derived proteins, with whey, soy, and casein a popular combination. Various formulations also include complementary plant proteins, like pea and rice protein.
These proteins all have different characteristics and the body digests and absorbs them at different rates. As such, multi-source blends deliver a prolonged release of amino acids to support muscle recovery and growth.
Moreover, blends offer a comprehensive amino acid profile, providing all the BCAAs and EAAs found in whey, as well as non-essential amino acids like arginine and glutamine, which are found in plant-based sources such as soy.
And protein blends offer competitive pricing options to help counter the rising cost of whey and create an effective product category for price-sensitive consumers. For instance, a serving of Biogen Complete Whey from the 1.75 kg tub costs R13.00 compared to R18.00 per serving from the 1.5 kg tub of Biogen Iso-Whey Premium.
Protein blends at a glance:
- Combine animal and plant-based protein sources.
- Delivers a sustained amino acid release over prolonged periods.
- Offer a more comprehensive amino acid profile than single-source products.
- Typically cheaper than whey.
Find the best protein for your needs
For more guidelines on buying the best protein to meet your needs and your pocket, visit the Biogen protein buyers guide here.