Protein is fundamental to human life because it lies at the heart of all metabolic functions. Protein is also imperative for building lean muscle and keeping cellular energy processes running smoothly. Regardless of your health and fitness goals, protein should have a fundamental role in your nutritional supplement regime. Protein supplements come as powders, bars, ready-to-drinks (RTDs) and even protein pudding. Bars come with various different nutritional profiles and are a great way to get extra protein in between meals or on the go. RTDs are becoming increasingly popular because of their creamy taste and convenience. Protein powders are by far the most popular and cost effective way to add protein to your diet. Below is a breakdown of the different types of protein powders available and our top sellers in each category.

Whey Protein

When it comes to protein, whey is King. Whey protein is a fast-absorbing protein found in milk and boasts a very high biological value, meaning that the majority of the amino acids found in whey are absorbed and utilized by the body. When muscles are hungry from an overnight fast or after a tough workout, whey protein is the perfect choice to feed them quickly. Whey protein also contains immunoglobulins and lactoglobulins, which have been shown to possess immune boosting properties. Because it’s derived from milk, whey protein shakes often have a creamy, rich taste.

The most common types of whey protein are whey protein concentrates, whey protein isolates and whey hydrolysates (hydrolyzed whey). Whey concentrates are 80% protein by weight and often slightly higher in fat and carbs, making them creamier and less expensive. Whey protein isolates are 90% protein by weight and contain less fat and carbs than concentrates, making them an ideal choice for dieters or those trying to shed pounds. Whey protein hydrolysates are whey fractions that have been “hydrolyzed,” or pre-digested so they are more rapidly absorbed.

• Best Whey Protein Concentrates: BodyStrong 100% Whey

• Best Whey Protein Isolates: AllMax IsoFlex, BodyStrong 100% Whey Isolate

• Best Whey Protein Hydrolysates: MyoGenix Aftershock, Optimum Nutrition Platinum Hydro Whey

Casein Protein

Like whey, casein protein is also derived from milk, but it digests much more slowly. Casein protein is typically taken at night to help deliver a steady stream of amino acids to muscles during sleep and recovery. Casein protein is a favorite among dieters and fitness enthusiasts because it provides a longer sense of fullness and satiety than whey protein.

Egg Protein

Like casein, egg protein is also a slow-digesting protein. Egg protein has a high leucine content and bioavailability factor. Egg protein has one of the highest biological values of any protein, meaning that the majority of amino acids digested from egg protein can be absorbed and utilized by your body. The amino acid profile of eggs is complete – it contains all of the essential amino acids in adequate proportions. Egg proteins are generally taken by those looking to gain lean muscle and reduce body fat.

• Best Egg Protein: Jay Robb Egg White Protein

Soy Protein

Soy protein is extracted from whole soybeans and is typically used by vegans and vegetarians to meet their daily protein requirements. Soy provides a diverse set of amino acids that can help build strong muscles, promote healthy weight management, and improve immune system function. Soy protein has been shown to possess heart health benefits. It is also rich in natural plant phytoestrogens, which have been shown to be effective in blocking some of estrogen’s stronger and sometimes adverse effects.

• Best Soy Protein: Now Soy Protein Isolate

Plant Protein

Plant protein is typically a “catch-all” category for all plant-based proteins outside of soy. The most popular plant proteins outside of soy include brown rice protein, hemp protein , pea protein and vegetarian/vegan multi-plant protein blends . Brown rice protein is notable for its grainer taste and ease of digestion, making it a great choice for those who are sensitive to protein supplements. Hemp protein is becoming very popular for its far-reaching health benefits, unique taste, and ability to replace wheat and flour in many different recipes. Pea protein is an emerging plant protein that tastes great and also mixes well in smoothies and home recipes. Vegetarian and vegan multi-plant blends typically contain a base of soy protein with added hemp, brown rice and/or pea protein. They are a great choice for those looking to expand their protein intake to include protein from varying sources.

• Best Plant Protein: Garden of Life Raw Protein,