Whey, Hemp, Soy & More: The Scoop on Protein Powder



When recently ordering a protein shake at my favorite local juice bar, Juice Generation, I was offered the choice of soy, hemp or whey protein powder. Not really having any clue about the difference, I ordered whey and then consulted with my contributing fitness and nutrition editor, David Kirsch, to get the scoop on the pros and cons of each.

David Kirsch is the founder and owner of Madison Square Club, a state-of-the-art fitness training and nutritional counseling center in NYC. He is one of the most highly regarded trainers in the fitness industry, sought after by some of the biggest names in the entertainment and fashion worlds — Liv Tyler, Kerry Washington, Julia Roberts, Heidi Klum and Kate Upton, just to name a few. David has his own line extensive line of nutritional products, and vast knowledge of what the body needs to get in shape, look great and function at its best. Below is David’s guide, created just for STYLE OF SPORT, on everything you need to know about protein powder in 750 words or less!


Ideally, the path to optimal health is through consuming a balanced diet of nutrient rich foods in all of the food categories – carbohydrate, protein, fruits, vegetables, dairy and some healthy fat. Eating up to 5 small meals a day every three or so hours is the way to do it. Having said that, the reality is few of us have the time to eat that way. Add to that one’s busy, active lifestyle, the stress of work and life, and one can see why supplements factor in to many people’s diets. This article is going to focus on protein supplements. There are so many choices out there. Which is best and how should they be used?

Before we get started with the different types of protein powder, let’s discuss what is meant by Biological Value (BV). BV is one way to measure a protein’s usability. The higher the BV, the greater the proportion of available protein that can be synthesized by the body’s cells. Higher BVs also indicate a greater amount of essential amino acids – those amino acids that the body cannot synthesize or produce on their own and must instead be obtained from the diet.

WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE is my personal favorite. It contains high levels of all of the essential amino acids and branched chain amino acids. It has the highest content of the amino acid cysteine, which aids in the biosynthesis of glutathione.  Glutathione has been called the “mother” of all antioxidants, the ”master detoxifier and maestro” of the immune system. It has an extremely high biological value , is quickly absorbed by the human body, and has positive effects on lean muscle development. For those of us that exercise, a whey protein isolate shake before and/or after exercise is ideal.

CASEIN PROTEIN is a form of milk protein. It doesn’t absorb as quickly as whey, but it’s a complete protein with the range of amino acids, including ample amounts of glutamine. Because of its slow absorption, I find it helpful to take at bedtime.

SOY PROTEIN is not an effective protein for several reasons. It has a lower BV (70 -80) as compared to whey protein; it can be highly allergenic; and it contains high levels of phytoestrogens, which can be counterproductive in large amounts, particularly in children. Lastly, it is not absorbed as quickly as whey protein.


RICE PROTEIN is a complete protein source that is highly digestible and allergen free, but it has a lower BV and a slower absorption than whey and casein protein. Personally, I find it a little chalky in texture and taste. Since rice protein is low in the amino acid lysine, it is often combined with pea protein powder to achieve a superior amino acid profile (only slightly less than whey ) and a better taste experience.

PEA PROTEIN is a hypoallergenic protein with a lighter texture than most other protein powders. Pea protein has an amino acid profile similar to that of soy, but pea protein does not elicit concerns about unknown effects of phytoestrogens. Pea protein is also less allergenic than soy.

HEMP PROTEIN. Hemp seed contains complete and highly digestible protein that is high in essential fatty acids and fiber. It has a lower BV than other protein powders.

So there you have it, the whole protein scoop! Thanks David!

Check out David’s BUTT BLASTER workout created just for STYLE OF SPORT and for more about David Kirsch Wellness and Madison Square Club CLICK HERE