How To Choose The Best Protein Powder For Your Body
Reviewed by Emily Gonzalez, ND for Scientific Accuracy
An objective look at protein powders is hard to find.
Johnny Powerlifter says you should have a thousand grams a day. Victor Vegan says youre burdening your kidneys if you have more protein than you get from broccoli. Do you supplement? Do your proteins have the right amino acid profile, or should you combine proteins? Is your protein complete? Are plant or animal sources more bioavailable? Do you reach for the isolate, concentrate, or hydrolysate?
To clear up some of the confusion and to help you choose whats best for your biology, heres an overview of protein supplements, their sources, and their processing methods and quality measures.
Tip #: Avoid Proprietary Blends
- How to spot: Proprietary blends list multiple sources of protein without giving you the dosage of each.
- Why should I avoid? Consuming a protein powder with proprietary blends means you run the risk of using an ineffective and poorly dosed supplement.
What are proprietary blends?
For example, Muscle Mass Gainer 5000 Blast Bulk Addition might list whey isolate, concentrate, and casein on the label. Nothing wrong with this on the surface the problem arises when you dig deeper.
To understand why this is a problem, we first must understand what proprietary blends are.
Proprietary blends, in the simplest sense, are created when supplement companies throw a bunch of ingredients together but fail to tell you the exact dosage of each.
Again, scary part…this is perfectly legal.
Why are proprietary blends bad?
Because while on the surface a protein powder, or any supplement for that matter, might look good based on what ingredients are used, they are worthless if you dont know how much of each ingredient you are getting.
Why does ingredient dosage matter?
Dose matters when it relates to how well, if at all, a supplement works.
If you see a protein powder that lists multiple sources of protein without the exact dosage of each, you might be getting screwed.
For example, a protein powder that has 25 grams of protein derived from concentrate, isolate, and casein could have 24.9999 grams of concentrate with the other two sources sprinkled in.
Top Your Food With Chopped Almonds
Almonds are incredibly healthy.
Theyre high in magnesium, fiber, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, yet low in digestible carbs.
Almonds also contain 6 grams of protein in a 1-ounce serving, which makes them a better source of protein than most nuts .
And although a serving of almonds contains around 170 calories, studies have shown that your body absorbs only about 133 of those calories because some of the fat isnt digested .
So sprinkle a few tablespoons of chopped almonds over yogurt, cottage cheese, salads, or oatmeal to increase your protein intake and add a bit of flavor and crunch.
Almonds are high in several nutrients and can boost the protein content of a meal or snack.
Also Check: What Are The Best Tasting Protein Powders
Navitas Organics Hemp Powder
In addition to offering 13 grams of hemp-based protein, Navitas Organic Hemp Powder is a good source of magnesium, iron, and fiber. It also contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and all nine essential amino acids.The powder is also suitable for people who require gluten-free options and have digestive sensitivities.
Plus, it has an earthy, nutty taste with no chalky aftertaste and can be used as a flour substitute.
The powder also dissolves well, making it a delicious addition to smoothies, yogurt, and baked goods. You can even add it to dips, salads, and soups.
According to the companys website, Navitas Organics products are third-party tested to ensure quality and safety, though the name of the testing organization isnt disclosed.
Just keep in mind that its a bit lower in protein than other products on this list, which may be a drawback for some.
Give Your Diet A Boost With Casein
Casein is a slow digesting protein , so this powder is frequently taken right before bed. You can take it at night when you sleep and you wont have that extremely full feeling in your stomach, says Suggs. This is also an option is youre really trying to bulk up your muscle masssince your body absorbs the protein while you slumber, youll have a jumpstart on your daily protein intake as soon as you wake up the next morning.
Also Check: What Vegetarian Foods Are High In Protein
F Benefits Of Protein
Proper protein intake has numerous benefits for good health. They are:
Eating protein keeps your body in an anabolic state. In terms of muscle building, anabolism refers to the construction, and not destruction, of muscle tissue. The opposite of an anabolic state is a catabolic state. Not eating enough protein can cause muscle tissue to be catabolized.
Growth Hormone Regulation
Proper growth hormones levels are essential for good health. Growth hormone contains 190 amino acids. Eating enough protein insures that your body has the necessary building blocks to construct growth hormone. Growth hormone deficiency slows the metabolism and can lead to lower bone density, muscle loss, and numerous other health problems including a number of psychological issues.
IGF-1 allows muscle cells to properly respond to growth hormone. IGF-1 contains over 70 amino acids. Without proper protein intake, IGF-1 levels can be lowered, making it harder for your body to utilize available growth hormone.
As stated previously, protein requires more energy to process, so inherently it boosts your metabolism. Eating less than ideal amounts of protein also makes it difficult for the body to draw upon fat reserves.
Protein helps lower insulin levels in the blood, which is a factor in proper energy regulation.
If You Want The Most Protein At The Lowest Price This Is The Way To Go
Premier Protein Powder is one of the most popular shake formulas on the market and for good reason. While being ubiquitous in stores might be cause for caution with other health products, this one seems to sell like hotcakes because it truly is an excellent protein powder.
The protein levels are some of the highest youll find anywhere, as theres 30 grams in each serving. Its also easy for your body to absorb and process, ensuring it goes to your muscles instead of getting wasted in the digestive process.
All that protein will help you stay full for quite some time, so this makes a great meal replacement shake as well as a workout enhancer. Given that there are only 150 calories in each serving, you can quickly shave off the pounds by relying on this stuff instead of grabbing a slice of pizza. Its quite tasty, too, so you wont feel like youre punishing yourself every time you pour some into your glass.
The flavor tends to accentuate other ingredients rather than dominate them or mix poorly with them, so if you like tossing some fruit into your smoothie, this is a good choice to do that. It also works equally well when mixed with milk or water.
While the taste is good, the texture leaves something to be desired. It doesnt really clump, but it doesnt thoroughly mix, either youll likely have little flakes of unmixed powder floating on the surface no matter how much you stir or mix it.
What I Liked
What I Didnt Like
Also Check: What Foods Provide Protein Other Than Meat
Considerations When Selecting A Protein Supplement
Strength, conditioning, and nutrition coach at San Francisco CrosSFit. He’s a huge Sci-Fi nerd who loves to lift, eat, travel, and help people build bigger lives through fitness.
Protein is king. Dr. Spencer Nadolsky
Its no secret that protein is essential for recreational and competitive athletes performance and recovery. It is central to building and maintaining muscle tissue, supporting skin, nails, bones, regulating mood, and healing cuts and bruises. Protein supplements are also some of the first that people in my client pool ask about when looking for aid in their fitness journey. Recently, our friends at Precision Nutrition published a comprehensive article on How to Choose a Protein Powder. For those who want to dig really deep, check it out. For those who want a brief rundown, here are three considerations when selecting a protein supplement.
This Is One Sweet Powder For Better And For Worse
Legion Whey+ is most certainly not a vegan option, as its made with milk taken from grass-fed cows. While that may not be ideal for animal lovers, its great for bodybuilders, as it gives them a solid protein base without adding a lot of chemicals and toxins.
All of that milk adds up to 22 grams of protein per serving, which should help you on your quest to getting jacked. There are also 5.6 grams of BCAAs inside, and only about 100 calories. That lets you pile on the muscle without getting flabby along the way.
The reason why they can keep the calorie count low is because they eschew artificial sweeteners and other additives. The ingredients list is short and sweet, with only foods that youve heard of, so youll know exactly what youre putting into your body every time you drink one of these shakes.
On the negative side of the ledger, this is one of the pricer proteins out there . You might expect to get more than 22 grams of protein for how much youll spend on this stuff, especially since there are cheaper options that offer more.
This is also an extremely sweet powder, which may make it easier for some people to get down. However, that sweetness can be overpowering, especially if youre trying to use it for cooking or want to throw some fruit in your smoothie.
What I Liked
- Made using milk from grass-fed cows
- Good combination of protein and BCAAs
- No artificial sweeteners or other additives
What I Didnt Like
Don’t Miss: Are Premier Protein Shakes Gluten Free
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!
Guide To The Main Types Of Protein Powders
What it is: Whey is one of the main proteins found in milk.
Benefits: Whey protein is quickly digested and absorbed, making it a good option immediately after a workout.
Whey is also an excellent source of leucine, a branched-chain amino acid that has been shown to play a major role in the promotion of muscle growth and recovery after exercise.
While some claim that whey protein should be taken within 20 minutes after exercising for optimal muscle growth, the International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends consuming high quality protein, like whey, within 2 hours after your workout.
Not a good fit for: Vegans, those with lactose-intolerance or a dairy allergy.
Also Check: What Are Bcaas In Protein Powder
Why This Tip Is Right :
The article states:
FactCompanies often use artificial sugars or natural zero-calorie ones like stevia in order to keep calories and carbs low. Thats a noble pursuit, but heres the thing: Animal studies report that artificial sweeteners may harm beneficial gut bacteria. While stevia doesnt seem to cause problems, it tastes weird, so its often mixed with xylitol and sorbitol, sugar alcohols that may cause gas and bloating. Go unsweetened.
Companies absolutely use artificial and/or natural sweeteners to make the finished product TASTE GOOD! Have you ever tried drinking an unsweetened protein powder? I liken it to eating a dirty gym sock.
Plus, the amount of sweeteners used in protein powders typically represents less than 1% of the total formula.
And then we have the reference to the ‘animal studies report’. I am going to say this once. Yes, animal studies have value but they do not always translate into what would happen in humans.
So, unless you like the taste of sawdust and broken dreams, go for a sweetened protein powder and realize it’s not as harmful as you’re made to believe.
Fuel Your Workout With Isolates
An isolate protein powder is good before and after working out because your body will digest it faster. It delivers proper nutrition to fuel your workout and help you recover afterward, he says. When you exercise youre breaking down muscle tissue, which is being fueled by that protein powder you had before. Thats why isolates are especially good for toning and building muscles, because the protein is absorbed and useable by the body fairly quickly. Designer Protein has been in the protein powder game for 25 years, and recently debuted a native whey isolate powder that has a whopping 32 grams of protein per scoop, as well as amino acids, to really activate those muscles.
Why Supplement With Protein
According to the Dietary Reference Intake , the minimum protein required to avoid deficiency is about 0.8g/kg of body weight each day. That equates to approximately 56g/day for the average sedentary male and 46g/day for the average sedentary female. Most sedentary people who eat the proverbial average western diet are not deficient in protein. However, there is a difference between minimal intake and optimal protein intake.
Optimal protein intake is highly dependent on the individual, their body type, and their daily activity levels. A common practice by bodybuilders is to try to eat 1g of protein/1lb of body weight each day. This is usually a decent starting point for most people, but I recommend checking out this calculator from Precision Nutrition for a more personalized starting point.
Going with the above starting point of 1g of protein/1lb of body weight, as a 200lb man, I need to aim for about 200g of protein per day. This is a doable number, but its way more than my minimal needs, according to the DRI. Whole foods are the best protein sources, but thats a lot of chicken breasts , steaks, and fish fillets to eat per day. If only there was some solution to getting in that final serving of protein to fit my optimal needs . Enter: the protein supplement.
Include A High Protein Food With Every Meal
When it comes to protein, its not just the total amount you take in every day that matters. Getting enough at each meal is also important.
Several researchers recommend consuming a minimum of 2030 grams of protein at each meal.
Studies show that this amount promotes fullness and preserves muscle mass better than smaller amounts eaten throughout the day .
Examples of foods high in protein include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, and soy products like tofu or tempeh.
You can also select foods from this list of delicious high protein foods to make sure you meet your needs at every meal.
Include a high protein food at each meal to get what you need to feel full and maintain muscle mass.
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The Best Alternative To Protein Powder:
Remember, protein powders arent absolutely necessary for health even if youre active! In general, most of us can get all of the protein we need through whole food sources. Yes, even vegans and vegetarians!
Protein powders can be expensive, too. So I recommend looking to get your protein from food first. And if you still want to use protein powder after that, I hope this post helps you better navigate all of the products available on the market.
What Type Is Best
The type of protein powder you choose depends on your dietary needs, health goals, and personal preferences.
For example, vegans should opt for plant-based sources of protein, such as pea protein or brown rice protein. These can also be suitable for people following a dairy-free diet or those who have trouble digesting dairy or lactose.
Meanwhile, studies show that whey protein can help improve body composition, support growth, and speed post-workout recovery, making it a great choice for athletes (
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How To Choose The Best Protein Powder
The first step in choosing the best protein powder is to read the label. Sounds simple, yet so many get this one wrong. The most important information on the back of the food label is not the nutrition table, but the ingredients list. Why? Because its important to know what youre putting into your body.
Does Protein Burden The Kidneys
When you first become Bulletproof and describe to others the superhuman state youre in, youre going to hear it at least once:
All that protein is so hard on your kidneys.
First off, people fail to realize that youve replaced carbs with a boatload of vegetables and high-performance fats. They assume youre eating piles of burger patties and bacon. Vegetables will keep your digestion happy, which in turn keeps your kidneys happy.
You may be eating more protein than before, and if youre doing it right, its not hurting your kidneys.
Protein isnt the golden key to your goals. Its a piece of the big picture. You need veggies galore for their minerals, polyphenols, and antioxidants. You need the right carbs and fats at the right times. Still, getting protein right can wake up your brain, your metabolism, and your power.
Once you get going, youll find that its not as hard as your pre-Bulletproof self thought. Want a cheat sheet? This infographic can help you plan your whole-life upgrade. Thanks for reading and have an incredible week!
Also Check: How To Get More Plant Based Protein