What’s the Best Type of Protein Powder?

Confused about what type of protein powder you should buy? Wondering which type is best? With all of the options available today it can be a confusing choice.

But before we dive into your options, let’s talk about why you’d even want to use protein powder in the first place.

Why Supplement with Protein Powder?

In general, most people have a hard time getting enough protein in their diets. The general recommendation for someone who strength trains is .6-1g/lb body weight (meaning the recommended amount for someone who weighs 150lb would be 102-150g protein).(1,2,3)

This is much higher than the normal recommendation from the USDA, but keep in mind that their guidelines are not for someone who is strength training and trying to increase muscle mass. Their RDA (recommended daily allowance) defines the minimum amount an average person should consume, not the optimal. Eating any less than this amount for a sustained period could have negative health consequences.

What we do know through the research is that additional protein is needed for those who want to increase their strength or muscle mass.

I’m not going to go into too much detail in this article on the specifics of how much protein you should consume or the specific reasons why it’s important for someone who strength trains to get more. I’ll save that for a future article. For now, let’s focus on the differences between the main protein powders available.

It’s not all about chicken and tilapia.

Sometimes you don’t feel like eating yet another chicken boob. Let’s face it, they get old.

And when it’s first thing in the morning meat doesn’t always sound that appetizing.

That’s where protein powder comes in. Instead of having to stuff yourself full of meat, fish, eggs, etc. you can supplement with protein powder. Not only is it cheap, convenient and easy to transport, but it tastes a hell of a lot better than cold chicken in the morning (unless that’s your thing?).

For those who like to get creative in the kitchen, there are lots of fun recipes involving protein powder. Think protein ice cream, cheesecake, cookies, etc.

So, what type of protein powder should you buy? Let’s take a closer look at your options.

What are the different types of protein powders & what’s the difference?

Whey

  • complete protein source, provides all essential amino acids
  • quickest digesting of all the proteins
  • great source for post-workout
  • most popular type of protein powder (easily found at any store that sells protein)
  • many brand & flavor options
  • derived from milk (not a great option for those who are lactose intolerant)
  • blends easily
    (recommended brand: Protizyme (peanut butter cookie) )

Casein

  • slowest digesting protein
  • usually not recommended as a post-workout source of protein since it’s digested slower
  • complete protein source, provides all essential amino acids
  • derived from milk (the same process used to derive Whey)
  • doesn’t blend easily (not a great thing if you’re using it for protein shakes, but great for other options like protein pudding & ice cream since it helps thicken)
  • higher calcium content than Whey but no additional nutritional benefits
    (recommended brand: Optimum Nutrition 100% Casein Protein)

Protein Blends

  • contains multiple protein sources that digest at different times (ex. whey, casein & egg white protein)
  • complete protein source, provides all essential amino acids
  • great overall option
  • great taste and easy to blend
    (recommended brand: Trutein – Premium Protein Blend)

Soy

  • derived from the soybean
  • cheap
  • doesn’t contain dairy making is a decent substitute for those who are lactose intolerant
  • on par with other protein sources, but no additional health benefits
  • offers a decent amino acid profile
  • doesn’t always taste as good

Dairy Free, Vegan, and other alternative options (hemp, pea, beef, etc.)

In addition to the main types of protein powders above, you’ll find options like hemp, pea/rice, and even beef protein power (yes, really) which are decent substitutes if you have an allergy or dietary restrictions.

Hemp protein: There isn’t a lot of research out at the moment to support hemp protein as a complete protein source due to its insufficient lysine and leucine content.

Pea/Rice Protein: Rice & pea proteins are incomplete protein sources on their own, but when combined form a complete protein source. This would be my go-to option for vegetarians, vegans, and those who are lactose intolerant.(recommended brand: Orgain Organic Plant Based Protein Powder)

Beef Protein: Skip the powder and eat the real thing. You’ll save a lot of money (beef isn’t cheap to dehydrate) and it will taste a hell of a lot better.

What’s the bottom line?

While whole foods should always make up the majority of your diet, a serving or two of protein powder can make it easier to increase your daily protein intake.

Overall, people get way too hung up on what type of the protein powder to buy. The main things I look for are a good nutrient profile and taste.

Many of the popular brands you’ll find at the big chain shops like GNC are loaded with sugar (i.e. lots of carbs). Stick to something with less than 5g carbs per 25g protein unless you’re intentionally looking for something higher in carbs.

The next most important thing is taste. Protein Powder has come a long way since it first came out on the market. These days there are a ton of options that taste great. You shouldn’t have to choke down a shake every day that tastes like chalky Pepto-Bismol.

Unless you can’t consume dairy or you’re vegan, I’d recommend sticking to whey or a protein blend. They are both great options and the best overall combination of nutrition and taste. If you do have special dietary needs, one of the alternative options listed will work.

And that’s about it. Find a protein that fits the items above and get to the gym! Don’t overcomplicate it. 😉

 

Thanks for reading,

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References:
1. Phillips, SM, and LJ Van Loon. “Dietary Protein for Athletes: From Requirements to Optimum Adaptation.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2016.

2. Hoffman, Jay R., Nicholas Ratamess A., Jie Kang, Michael Falvo J., and Avery Faigenbaum D. “Effect of Protein Intake on Strength, Body Composition and Endocrine Changes in Strength/Power Athletes.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. BioMed Central, 13 Dec. 2006. Web. 23 Sept. 2016.

3. Aragon, Alan. “The Myth of 1 G/lb: Optimal Protein Intake for Bodybuilders.” Bayesian Bodybuilding. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2016.

About Melissa

Melissa Wilson is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through NSCA and received her Bachelor’s degree from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo. In addition to in-person training, Melissa is the founder of ProShape Fitness -- a healthy living company, which specializes in online fitness and nutrition coaching for individuals who want to get back into shape and adopt healthier lifestyle habits.

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