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Protein powder: water vs milk and which protein powder is best

by Freya 8 minutes read

Last updated: 16 Sep, 2022

As you might already know, protein powders can be effective at helping build muscle and restoring nutrients used during a workout.

According to research, when trying to build muscle mass it works best if taken within 15-30 minutes post-workout, but they can also be helpful to up your protein intake throughout the day. Protein products can come in all different forms, whether it's in a powder or a protein supplement, they can be equally as effective, however we will be focusing on powders.

Buying protein powder over an already made up shake is much more practical, as powder can be used with water or milk, making it easier to suit your diet, whether you are lactose intolerant, vegan, wanting to put on weight, and so on.

Although, if you follow a particular diet, it can be helpful to check the contents of the powder too, as you can now find effective vegan powder.

Before we get into what is better, milk or water, let's take a look at the different types of protein powder you can get your hands on, as it can be hard to choose a protein powder right for you.

Types of protein powders

Whey protein isolate/concentrate: this powder is a dairy base and contains all amino acids, which are quickly absorbed. This is great to have with water as the dairy base makes it less noticeable that you are using water. Whey isolate contains more protein and less carbs due to the different way of processing the protein compared to whey concentrate.

Casein protein: this is also dairy based, but only contains the essential amino acid and is not absorbed as quickly. This is a good source of protein to have in the evening rather than post-workout.

Pea protein: this plant based protein powder that is made from pea plants that are naturally high in fibre, calcium, amino acids and protein.

Soy protein: another plant based protein that is made from soybeans, it contains all essential amino acids and also has other health benefits, including a boost of energy.

Hemp protein: a plant based protein that is made from hemp seeds, which are naturally high in omega-3 and omega-6 fats as well as fibre. Although, it is low in amino acids such as acid lysine.

Milk vs Water

Whether you use water or milk is totally up to you, it can make a difference depending on your goals, but nothing too major.

If you have a lactose intolerance then you should use a plant-based protein with water, but you can use plant-based milks such as oat or soy. If you are wanting to bulk, it could be a good idea to use a plant-based milk as it will add some extra calories, making it easier to meet your surplus. If you are in a cutting phase, using water may be better as it is 0 calories, therefore you can eat more during the day.

If you do not have an intolerance to lactose and want to use milk, take into consideration the calories and fat content that you find in milk, to make it easier to stick to your surplus or deficit.

Skimmed milk has around 01.-0.3% of fat

Semi-skimmed milk will have between 1.7-2% of fat

Whole skimmed milk is usually 3.5% fat

Of course, the fat content will depend on the brand, but typically each has around 8-9 grams of protein per 240ml.

Health benefits of using milk

As well as extra protein from using milk rather than water, milk has other benefits. It can be a good way of getting extra nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B12, potassium, phosphorus (a mineral found in bones), and riboflavin (vitamin B2).

Research suggests that diets that include dairy can be helpful at decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.

If you are trying to keep your calories lower, opt for skimmed milk or use water, the dairy based protein powder will still have these health benefits.

Best protein powders

Whey protein powders:

Optimum Nutrition - gold standard whey protein powder

Flavour: French Vanilla Creme

Price: £25.19 for 900g

Servings: 30

This whey protein concentrate powder is 24g per serving and 113 calories with water. It is one of the world's most popular sports protein powders as it is a useful way of supporting muscle growth and repair.

It is best to use it as soon as possible after a workout but can be used before to help kick start muscle protein synthesis or in a protein shake or smoothie for breakfast, to start the day off right.

Whey gold standard

Time 4 Nutrition - Time release whey protein isolate

Flavour: peanut butter chocolate flavour

Price: £44.99 for 2.52kg

Servings: 70

This protein powder uses a time release formula with glutamine and branched chain amino acids, this means it will be in the blood stream for up to 8 hours making it perfect to take before bed to aid recovery and encourage muscle growth over night. You can still take this after a workout, but it will be a slow release compared to other whey isolates.

This powder comes in a variety of different flavours including caffe latte, lemon meringue, vanilla coconut milk, and chocolate peanut butter.

It has 25g per serving and it is 144 calories if used with water. It is perfect for bodybuilders or anyone trying to put on muscle mass. It can be used as a meal replacement by adding extra scoops.

Time protein

Casein protein powder:

Applied Nutrition - casein protein powder

Flavour: Banana cream

Price: £48.99 for 1.8kg

Servings: 60

This casein protein powder is perfect for pre-bedtime, it has a time release protein that can be found in the bloodstream for up to 7 hours, helping fuel your muscles as you sleep.

It has essential amino acids that will help repair and grow in tandem with your workout routine.

It includes artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and can be bought in 4 different flavours, including banana, vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. It has 35.39g of protein per serving and 105 calories with water, making it the perfect drink when you’re in a calorie deficit but building muscle at the same time.

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Pea protein powder:

Now Foods - Organic pea protein powder

Flavour: Dutch chocolate

Price: £60 for 907 grams

Servings: 21

This protein powder is the perfect protein source for those that struggle to digest regular protein powders properly. This powder is a non-GMO pea protein isolate with 2,700mg of branched amino acids per serving and 1,300mg of arginine.

It is 160 calories and 24g of protein per serving, it has no dairy and no soy.

Now foods

Soy protein powder:

Bulk - Soya protein isolate powder

Flavour: Chocolate

Price: £20.69 for 1kg

Servings: 83

This protein powder is perfect for vegans, vegetarians, and gluten and lactose intolerant people, and has a great taste. It is available in chocolate flavour, vanilla flavour or you can get unflavoured.

It is low in sugar but includes artificial flavourings unless you get the unflavoured version. It has at least 24g of protein per serving as is 108 calories. It also has 2g of arginine, an amino acid that helps your body build protein.

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Hemp protein powder:

Sevenhills Wholefoods - Organic hemp protein powder

Flavour: Unflavoured

Price: £12.99 for 1kg


Although it is unflavoured, it is one of the best hemp protein powders you can find, it is organic, full of protein, allergen free, registered with the vegan society, GMO free, and versatile to use. Although it is unflavoured, it can be added to cereals, smoothies, porridge and cakes.

It is not the highest in protein, a typical serving would have 12g of protein, but with a plant based protein powder like hemp, this is expected.

Hemp protein

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