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What Are Protein Powders
Protein powders come in various forms. The three common ones are whey, soy, and casein protein. âWhey is the most commonly used, because itâs a water-soluble milk protein,â says Peter Horvath, PhD, associate professor in the department of exercise and nutrition sciences at the State University of New York at Buffalo. âItâs also a complete protein, so itâs got all those advantages.â People who are vegan may prefer soy protein, although Horvath notes that its taste is sometimes considered to be more unpleasant, and it doesnât dissolve as well in water.
Protein powders also come with widely varying price tags. âFor the casual athlete who doesnât have a specific need at a certain time of their training, the cost is not that important,â says Horvath. âSo if youâre going to use them, you can get pretty much the same benefit out of the less expensive, more commercially available proteins.
In very specific circumstances, protein powders can be useful. âTheyâre an easy and convenient source of complete, high-quality protein,â says Carole Conn, PhD, associate professor of nutrition at the University of New Mexico. But remember: Most people, even athletes, can also get everything they offer by eating sources of lean protein like meat, fish, chicken, and dairy products.
âAll of those are valid reasons for trying to get more protein into your diet, and protein powders are one way to do that,â says Lewin.
You May Be Displacing Other Important Nutrients
“For most healthy individuals, the 20-30 grams of protein in a shake is not really a huge concern to consume every day. However, it becomes a concern when a number of daily protein shakes start to displace other important nutrients in the diet like healthy fats and fiber-rich, healthy carbs,” says registered dietitian Abbey Sharp, RD, blogger and YouTuber at Abbey’s Kitchen.
Garrett Swisher, RD, an Indiana University Health Clinical Dietician shares the same concern: “More protein does not really offer any kind of extra benefits. Focusing on too much protein can offset the intake of other important foods and the nutrients they contain like fruit and vegetables,” he says. “It’s generally never a good idea to focus on one food/nutrient if you are neglecting other elements of a healthy diet.
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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.
Is Protein Powder Bad For You Nutritionists Weigh In
Take a walk down the supplement aisle at the grocery store and youll find protein powders galore: everything from whey to casein to collagen to pea to hemp to egg white. As more and more options crop up, perhaps youve wondered which protein powder is best for you, or whether its even good for you at all.
Along with carbohydrates and fats, protein is one of the main three macronutrients, which our bodies use in relatively large amounts for daily functioning. Protein, in particular, is necessary for building muscle mass, repairing tissue, immune function and other bodily processes. It also keeps you feeling full.
To make the powdered supplements, protein is extracted from a given animal- or plant-based food source through various processes.
But are protein powders OK to consume? And do we actually need them? We talked to registered dietitian nutritionists to find out.
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Are Protein Shakes Good For You
Protein shakes are a quick and efficient way to get a large dose of protein before or after a workout. If youre a highly active individual, you need more protein than a sedentary person, and protein shakes are a good option at any time of the day.
Protein shakes can also be a good option for someone who is active and trying to lose weight, since some food sources of protein, like red meat, are high in calories and fat.
Protein shakes are regarded as safe for healthy individuals. Since protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, it makes you feel more satisfied for longer and can prevent overeating.
Purchasing A Safe Protein Powder
It might feel overwhelming to choose a protein powder from the many available options online or at the health food store. Here are a few things you can do to make it easier:
- Look for third-party testing. Check product labels for certifications from reputable third-party organizations such as NSF Internationals Certified for Sport, USP, Informed Choice, ConsumerLab, and the Banned Substances Control Group.
- Read the label. If youre looking to avoid a certain ingredient, be sure to read the label carefully. In addition to the ingredients list, a label may give information about a product, such as whether its vegan or gluten-free.
- Look at the serving size. The best protein powders will contain 2030 grams of protein per scoop.
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You May Get A Sugar High
“Lots of protein powders have tons of flavorings, sugar, and additives to make them taste better. When possible, try to find a protein powder that is minimally flavored otherwise, all that sugar can add up to something similar to a soda!” says Kostro Miller. This is particularly concerning for those who buy protein powders as supplements in protein smoothies, as they will already have a good amount of carbs and natural sugar from fruit.
“Overall, I’d say it’s best to avoid protein powder if you can opt for another way to spike your smoothie with protein. You can try adding more yogurt, seeds and nuts for this purpose. Even tofu can help add more protein to a smoothie without compromising the taste, which is one of my favorite tricks for making creamier smoothies,” recommends Velikova.
The Problems With Protein Powder
The Risk Of Contamination
Protein powders fall into the category of supplements and there isnt much regulation around supplements. Companies still need to make sure their products are safe, of course, but much of the responsibility is theirs. There isnt much independent testing, so you cant be entirely sure that your protein powder is what the label says.
Some companies try to cut corners by using cheaper ingredients or by adding fillers.
For example, whey protein isolate is much more expensive than whey protein concentrate, as the isolate version is more refined and contains more protein. A shady brand might advertise a product as being 100% whey protein isolate, while actually using a mixture of the two types of whey.
Theres also the risk of toxins in your protein powder. These may come from the soil or from how the powder is processed.
Even when protein powders contain exactly what they claim to and nothing more, many contain concerning ingredients. This includes artificial sweeteners, thickening ingredients, artificial colors and flavors, GMOs, and more.
While the ingredients may be technically considered safe, there are plenty of concerns about them. Many people avoid artificial ingredients as much as possible. Even if you dont think the ingredients are dangerous, theres little doubt that whole foods and natural ingredients are a healthier alternative.
The Sugar Content
Too Much Protein?
You May Displace Nutritional Food
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Protein Shake Mistake #: Your Timing Is All Wrong
Before? During? A lot of men are wrongly led to believe by the Bro Science community that, as long as the protein is in your system, then you’re sorted. However, when it comes to supps working out when to take them can be just as important as what you’re taking.
When is the best time for a shake? Within an hour after your workout, says Parasiliti. Because theyre more receptive, this is the time to feed your muscles the fuel they need to repair and recover, leading to faster growth. If youre looking to prime yourself before a workout then dont rely on powder, according to Baptie. This rustic spinach and pepper omelette, for instance, will give you the fuel for a full muscle-building session.
Are Protein Shakes Healthy
If youve ever dabbled in the health world, youve heard about protein shakes. Theyre intended to help speed your recovery time after a workout, build muscle, and even lose weight. With so many health promises, you might find yourself loading those big jugs of protein powder into your cart at the grocery or health foods store. Have you ever stopped to wonder if those giant jugs of protein powder are actually healthy for you?
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Naked Whey Protein Powder
Naked Whey Protein Powder is a low carb option marketed to people who want to lose weight and increase muscle tone.
The unflavored version is free of added sugar and contains just one ingredient: whey protein concentrate.
This protein powder gets high marks for its formulation, with reviewers on Amazon noting that its easy to mix and has a mild flavor that works well when combined with other ingredients.
Additionally, its certified by Informed Choice, meaning its free of banned substances and safe for athletes.
It also has a creamy consistency and can be added to milk, yogurt, or smoothies for a quick and easy dessert or snack.
Naked Whey is also available in chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry flavors, all of which are sweetened with organic coconut sugar.
Just keep in mind that this powder may not be a good option for those who have difficulty digesting dairy or prefer to eat organic.
SFH Pure Whey Protein is noted for its amazing taste, ease of absorption, and ingredient content.
Sourced from grass-fed, free-range cows in New Zealand, this minimally processed whey concentrate doesnt contain soy, gluten, or artificial ingredients.
Because its low in carbs and free of added sugar, it may be a good choice for people on a low carb or ketogenic diet who are looking for an easy way to boost their protein intake.
When Im Eating Food
If youre only consuming muscle meat instead of the whole animal, you might be missing out on the health benefits of collagen protein, such as its impact on skin, joints, and body composition. While collagen is not meant to replace your whey or vegan protein staples, it is a great bonus to add to your routine.
As a plus, collagen blends easily into hot liquids, so it can be used to transform your coffee or tea into a more satisfying and nutritious start to your day.
|Skin, Hair & Joint Health Support|
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How We Choose The Best Protein Powders
Our team of fitness editors, athletes, and nutrition advisors helped select the candidates for the best protein powders for every goal based on nutritional quality, taste, value, and customer feedback.
To choose our top picks, we took it a step further and used the following criteria:
- Customer Ratings and Reviews: Our customers take their protein very seriously, and they let us know through their purchases, ratings, and feedback. Every protein on this list has thousands of enthusiastic reviews and top ratings backing it up.
- Formula: Sure, the amount of protein in a serving of a powder matters. But more important is how it’s produced, the macronutrient profile, and the track record of the manufacturer. It’s important to trust your protein!
- Flavor: If a protein doesn’t taste good, you probably aren’t going to stick with it regardless of how “good for you” it might be. Life’s too short to drink bad-tasting or chalky protein.
- Value: The lowest priced protein isn’t always the best value! All of our best proteins factor in the price per serving.
Do You Need A Protein Shake
Not everyone needs the extra protein that a protein shake can add to your diet. But protein shakes can help if you are not getting enough protein in your diet. You might benefit from drinking protein shakes if:
- You are starting a new workout regime or increasing the time or difficulty of your workout. Youll need that extra protein to build muscle.
- You are still growing. Teenagers more likely need protein than the average adult.
- You are recovering from an injury.
- You eat a vegan or vegan or vegetarian diet. A plant-based protein powder can help you pack more protein into your diet.
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You May Be Forgetting About Whole Food Sources Of Protein
“Protein powder is a good supplement however, it should not replace whole food protein sources like meats, poultry legumes, and nuts/seeds,” says registered dietitian Alana Kessler, MS, RDN the founder of Be Well by Alana Kessler.
“There are some instances of powders containing heavy metals which over time can have a titration effect leading to health problems. BPA and pesticides have also been uncovered in some powders,” Kessler tells us. “Consider the manufacturer and look for chemical-free powders,” she adds.
“A nonprofit group called the Clean Label Project released a report about toxins in protein powders. The researchers evaluated 134 products for 130 types of toxins and found that many protein powders contained heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury, bisphenol-A , pesticides, or other contaminants with links to cancer and other health conditions,” says Nieves. According to the report, “some toxins were present in significant quantities. For example, one protein powder contained 25 times the allowed limit of BPA.”
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Use It As A Supplement Not A Replacement
Though protein powder can be a great addition to your diet, you dont need to consume it to be healthy.
Whole, protein-rich foods contain vitamins and minerals that are important for health. Whats more, they take longer to digest than protein powder, so they may make you feel full longer.
On the other hand, protein powder is considered predigested and will leave your stomach more quickly after you consume it than whole foods do .
Instead, use protein powder to supplement your balanced diet at times when you may not be able to meet your protein needs.
When shopping for a protein powder, look at the label to ensure the product has been third-party tested and doesnt contain any unwanted ingredients. Ideally, use protein powder in addition to a nutritious diet, not as a replacement for one.
Why Use A Protein Powder Isnt That Processed
We always encourage a real-food-first mentality. No protein supplement on the market can replace the nourishment and nutrient support provided from well-sourced, high-quality meat, eggs, dairy, poultry, and fish.
That being said, it takes a lot of planning, forethought, and effort for active individuals to get enough protein in through food alone due to todays on-the-go lifestyle. Were all juggling multiple responsibilities, working to manage time effectively, and are unlikely to have the mental bandwidth or physical capacity to source, plan, and meal prep every ounce of protein we need to eat.
Do we want to be eating quality protein at each meal? Yes.
Can we also use protein powder to enhance our nutrition plan? Yes.
A good quality protein powder is a convenient option for those looking for portability and variety. Plus, if youre someone who is watching calories, using a flexible dieting approach, or aiming for specific macronutrient targets, it also provides a no-frills, easy way to add protein to your day without adding too many extra carbohydrates or fat.
From a practical standpoint, Ive also found that clients who introduce a daily protein shake habit seem to stay on track with the rest of their nutrition plan. Anecdotally, by drinking in the morning it can set a healthy tone for the day and help keep nutrition top-of-mind.
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