Not All Protein Powders Are Created Equal
Some are definitely better than others.
But with hundreds, maybe even thousands, of options out there, it can be hard to know the right protein powder for you .
After all, each person has unique goals, physiology, and preferences. So theres no one single protein powder thats best for everyone.
There may, however, be a best protein powder for you.
And we can help you find it.
In this complete guide to protein powder, youll learn:
- Why protein matters so much in the first place
- When it makes sense to include protein powder in your diet
- What to look for in protein powder
- How to choose the right protein powder for you
If youre looking for a quick answer to a specific question, you can jump directly to any of the information below:
Be Mindful Of Your Goal
Heres what you might want to consider depending on your goals, and what youre hoping to get out of your protein shake.
Weight loss / fat loss: If youre looking to lose fat, pay attention to the protein-to-calorie ratio of your protein powder. The best protein powder for weight loss will be higher in protein and lower in carbs and fat, since the latter two macronutrients will be more satisfying coming from whole foods.
Muscle gain: To put on muscle, look for a protein powder with a high protein-to-calorie ratio, as the main goal is to consume adequate overall protein. If youre struggling to get adequate overall calories, a protein powder thats also rich in carbohydrates can be helpful around workouts.
Weight gain: For those who are looking to gain any type of weightmost often this is due to illness that reduces appetiteconsider powders that are high in protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Particularly if you wont be getting much other nutrition, its important to get all three.
Meal replacement: If you plan to use your protein shake as a meal replacement, its important to get some other nutrients in there, too. While there are protein powders that come with additional nutrients built-in, we recommend making your own Super Shake instead by incorporating fruit, vegetables, a source of healthy fats, and possibly more. That way, you get all the whole-food benefits of these ingredients.
How Much Protein Powder Is Too Much
If you choose to use protein powder, 20-40 grams of protein per day from protein powder is a reasonable amount. For most people, 80 grams per day is a good upper limit of supplemental protein intake.
This isnt a hard and fast rule, just a general guideline.
The main reason: Getting more than 80 grams from protein powder is excessive for most people, as it displaces whole food sources that provide vitamins, minerals and other nutrients we need.
There are some exceptions, of course, such as for people who are struggling to gain weight.
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How Many Protein Shakes Should You Drink A Day
Thankfully, theres nothing complicated about this. Heres how you can find out:
Not a big fan of algebra? No worries. Heres an example thatll help you get a better idea of just how much protein powder you should drink a day:
Protein powders are great when youre struggling to hit your daily required protein intake. To find out how many protein shakes you should drink a day, calculate how many grams of protein youre falling short on daily then divide that by the number of grams youre getting from a scoop of protein powder.
Gold Standard Whey Protein
Many protein powders come complete with a range of flavors some more palatable than others.
The main objection to this product among reviewers relates to price, and especially to recent price rises in the product. “I think its a quality product overpriced”, says one. Unless you have a great recycling service, you may find that you cant recycle the black tub, either.
However, if you want the flexibility to add your own flavors, or you dislike the sweeteners found in flavored whey products, this is a great choice. Its not entirely flavor-free, but the taste is neutral enough that it wont come strongly through your own flavors.
In common with most protein powders, it has added soy lecithin as an emulsifier, which is the only added ingredient beyond the whey products . It mixes well, without too many lumps.
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How To Choose A Plant
If you prefer to use a plant-based protein powder for whatever reason, you may be wondering whether to choose a single-source protein or a protein powder made of a mixture or plant sources.
Frankly, it doesnt really matter. It was once thought that if a protein source wasnt a complete protein , it wasnt a good quality protein source. Many plant-based protein sources are considered incomplete. So in order to offer a complete amino acid profile, this is why a lot of plant-based protein powders contain a mixture of plant protein sources.
But, we now know that as long as youre consuming a variety of protein foods offering you a variety of amino acids throughout the day, youre likely to get all of the ones you need. This means that its not absolutely necessary to always have a complete protein source, this includes plant-based protein powder.
Generally speaking, choose protein powder that you like . And if you can, try to choose one with a shorter list of added sugars, flavours, and fillers.
Best Casein Protein Powder
Casein is digested and absorbed slowly, which can help you feel satiated for longer. As such, it may help reduce your appetite. The slower digestion and absorption rate may also help support muscle growth and recovery over longer periods (
Its also produced in a facility thats certified by NSF International. According to the companys website, BulkSupplement products also undergo third-party testing, but the name of the third-party lab isnt disclosed.
The powder is particularly a good choice for adding to smoothies or batters because it doesnt clump.
However, its not ideal if you prefer a flavored or sweetened protein powder.
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How Much Do I Need
The amount of protein needed is based on the amount or type of activity you are doing and is measured per gram per kg of your body weight.
This means a short, petite person with a sedentary lifestyle e.g. desk job will need significantly less protein than a tall, heavier set person who plays team sports.
See the table below to see how much protein you should be consuming every day:
|Muscle gain and weight loss||2.0g|
If you choose to increase your protein intake, you can do this in a few ways.
One way to consume more protein is by simply increasing the amount of protein you eat at mealtimes, with foods like lean meat, soya products, wholegrains, legumes, beans, fish, etc.
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Another way is to use protein powder or high-protein meal replacement shakes to quickly top up your protein.
Of course, you can always do both if you want to seriously boost your protein intake, it all depends on how much you need.
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Whey Protein Concentrate Vs Isolate Vs Hydrolysates
Whey protein is available in the following forms:
- Whey protein concentrate: approximately 80 percent of calories come from protein, although the amount of protein can vary from 25 to 89 percent
- Whey protein isolate: greater than 90 percent of the calories come from protein
- Whey protein hydrolysates: greater than 90 percent of the calories come from protein
Whey protein isolate has a higher protein content and lower lactose content compared to whey protein concentrate. And protein concentrates are generally less “pure” than isolates, in that they have more carbohydrates and non-protein components than isolates do.
This doesn’t mean concentrates are of lesser quality or value. In some instances, athletes need carbs in addition to protein to help with recovering from a hard workout.
Read The Whole Nutrition Label
Once youve identified the type of powder and protein you like, dont forget to read the entire nutrition label. Pay attention to the fat and sugar content. Many powders also use artificial sweeteners, which youll see on the ingredient list, says Suggs. Its a good idea for everyone to choose a powder thats low in fat and sugar, but diabetics should be especially mindful of the sugar content and any other ingredients that may affect blood glucose levels. People with irritable bowel syndrome should choose a powder without artificial sweeteners or lactose sugars.
Target The Bcaa Ratio
Its short for branched-chain amino acids, three protein building blocks essential for maintenance and growth. Most labels list BCAAs as a ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine, in that order. Look for two parts leucine to one part isoleucine to one part valine. This ratio is ideal for muscle building, fat loss, and fatigue, says White. If these amino acids are not listed, go with another powder.
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What To Look For When Choosing A Vegan Protein Powder
If youre taking a peek at vegan protein powders, you may be wondering what to look for!
Below are the six things I check out when Im considering a new one:
How To Choose A Dairy
Between whey and casein protein powders, whey tends to be your best bet, especially if you are using the supplement to recover after a workout. This is because whey protein is more readily digested and absorbed for use by the body, while casein protein has a slower release. This is why professional athletes or bodybuilders will take casein protein before bed, and whey protein after a workout.
Whey Concentrate vs. Whey Isolate:
You may have seen that theres different varieties of whey protein available. Specifically, whey concentrate and whey isolate. So which one is best?
Generally speaking, it really depends. A whey isolate protein has been further processed to filter out more fat and carbohydrates than whey concentrate, leaving a more isolated protein source, hence the isolate. That said, with further processing comes a higher price tag.
Whey concentrate tends to be slightly lower in price and protein content, and slightly higher in carbohydrates and fat. While whey isolate tends to be slightly higher in price and protein content, and slightly lower in carbohydrates and fat. Because the carbohydrate content is lower, whey isolate protein is also lower in lactose, which may be more tolerable for an individual with lactose intolerance.
Whether you choose a whey concentrate or why isolate is up to you, your needs, goals, and budget!
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Tip #: Choose A Milk Protein
- Milk Proteins: Whey Isolate & Whey Concentrate
- Why? The fact is milk proteins are higher quality than plant proteins based on amino acids profiles. Milk proteins have higher amounts of leucine, isoleucine, and valine . Whey isolate & concentrate are complete proteins but the biggest difference between protein powders produced by Bessie the Cow and Hank the Pea Protein Farmer is this amino acid profile.
What do BCAA’s do?
BCAA’s are the amino acids largely responsible for stimulating muscle protein synthesis . If enough BCAAs arent present in your protein powder, muscle protein synthesis doesnt happen or fades away quickly.
Now, if you’re a vegetarian or lactose intolerant, eat ALL the plant protein you want. Just know that milk-based proteins are a better choice when compared side by side.
Milk protein is a more complete and efficient protein due to the amount of each BCAA that’s present.
My Number 1 Biggest Tip:
Always choose an all-natural protein powder and one that contains no nasty ingredients.
I would ignore all the marketing on the front of the packet, and instead to flip it over and read the ingredient list. You should recognize every single ingredient that is in this list. If there is something you dont recognize then you probably shouldnt be eating it or at the very least, just Google more information on that ingredient or ask your health professional who may know more.
Quite often protein powders contain chemicals that are purely added to bulk it up, to change the texture or to change the taste . All these chemicals affect your gut and can cause digestive problems such as bloating and stomach pain.
How To Pick The Perfect Protein Powder
With so many protein powders on the market, how do you know which one to buy? Here are some simple guidelines to help you pick the perfect protein for your goals!
I like to think we’re living in the golden age of protein. Protein has never been as popular as it is today, and I’m glad people everywhere are finally embracing the power of this mighty macronutrient. Protein is a critical building block that aids in the growth, maintenance, and repair of muscle, and there’s no denying its impact on strength, performance, and body composition.
As a nutritionist, I find it interesting that so many myths about protein have come and gone, including the claim that the Recommended Daily Allowance was perfect for all adults, regardless of how much they trained, and that if you ate more protein than the RDA your kidneys and bones could be in danger. Obviously a lot has changed. In recent years it has become clear that people who exercise regularly need more protein than the RDA, and that higher intakes are quite safe.
However, with so many protein supplements on the market, one of the most common questions I get asked is which one to buy. Below are some guidelines to help you pick the right protein type and product for your personal fitness goals!
Ladder Whey Protein Powder
Its formulated with several strains of probiotics, which are a form of beneficial bacteria that have been shown to support immunity and digestive health .
Its also NSF Certified for Sport, meaning that each batch has been tested for banned substances to ensure safety.
According to reviewers, it mixes very easily and doesnt have a chalky aftertaste like many other protein powders on the market, so it can be a great addition to your post-workout protein shake.
However, its a bit pricier than other supplements and contains a small amount of cane sugar, which may not be ideal for those who prefer to avoid products with added sugar.
The Best Vegan Protein Powder For Women
Below are my three favorite protein powders for women! All three of them are vanilla-flavored though the brands do offer other flavors and I trust the brand.
So, if you want to go for a chocolate variation- do it!
Genuine Health Fermented Vanilla Protein Powder
Ive been using the Genuine Health brand of protein powder for years and absolutely love it!
Why should you opt for a fermented protein powder?
Well, sometimes increasing your protein intake causes some gas, bloating and constipation . At the same time, many plant-based protein powders use grains that can cause bloat also .
Fermented Protein reduces the bloat!
Fermenting breaks down the anti-nutrients that cause bloat and irritation while making the protein more absorbable. Its a huge win.
- 20 grams of protein per serving
- Blends into things really well
- One of the best tasting vegan protein powders (many can be chalky
- Organic, non-GMO, gluten-free
You can purchase or for all my fellow Canadians, Well dot ca has a great selection of Genuine Health Products too!
Consider How Much Taste Matters To You
Its important to choose a protein powder that youre likely to consume consistently. Enjoying the way it tastes is one way to help ensure that. Of course, the best-tasting protein powder option varies from person to person.
Factors you might want to be mindful of when deciding on a protein powder:
Mixability and texture
Mesh count refers to how fine a protein powder is, which can impact how easily it will mix by hand in a shaker bottle. You wont be able to see this information on the label, but sometimes you can tell by looking at the powder or touching it.
Plant-based protein powders tend to have a grittier or chalkier texture, which means they often taste better when blended using an electric blender . Blending with a creamier liquid, such as plant milk, or adding higher-fat items like yogurt and nut butters to your shake can also help smooth out a chalky protein powder.
More highly-processed powders, such as isolates and hydrolysates, are more likely to have a smoother texture.
Some people are especially sensitive to the taste of artificial flavors and non-nutritive sweeteners. If that describes you, look for a protein powder made with nutritive sweeteners and/or natural flavors.
Unflavored protein powder may also be a good option if you dont like artificial flavors, or simply prefer the flavor of whole foods. You can use unflavored protein powder in a variety of ways including:
Flavored protein powders also work in many of these non-shake options.
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