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How To Choose The Right Protein Powder

So, you're caught in a debacle about which protein powder is right for you? Rightfully so. Supplementation is becoming increasingly more important for not just bodybuilders and the gym population but also for the average, health-conscious person looking to enhance his or her well-being.

Protein is important for several facets of everyday health, not just for building muscle and aiding in workout recovery.

With literally thousands of protein powders to choose from, selecting the perfect protein supplement can be utterly confusing and overly-complicated. Historically speaking, it wasn't that long ago when we lived in the protein powder stone-age, a time when protein powder options were not only extremely limited and scarce, but there also wasn't anything to distinguish one from another.

Now, I guess you could say the numerous options and opportunities to select protein powders to your specific needs is an overwhelming convenience.

Here are factors to consider that will ultimately help you decide on the right protein powder.

Determine Your Needs

Exact protein requirements are still debated, with some sports nutritionists recommending upwards of 0.6-0.9 g/pound of body weight for both growing athletes and adults focused on building muscle, to 0.4-0.6 g/pound of body weight for active adults, and 0.5 g/body weight for sedentary adults. 1

Meanwhile, the FDA recommends a standard protein requirement of 50 g a day for those older than 4-years of age, based off a diet of 2,000 calories per day. 2

Despite the discrepancy, one fact agreed upon is protein is important for everyone -from the gym bros clad in their muscle stringers and sweatbands down to the new girl at the gym looking to improve her physique and overall health. Keep in mind, however, everyone’s protein requirements differ depending on several life factors such as age, sex, and physical activity.

Lifestyle Choices and Health Conditions

Preexisting health conditions and lifestyle choices will factor in to what protein is the best option for you.

An optimal protein powder for vegans (who avoid all animal products) is going to be plant-based, rather than dairy and animal. Hemp or pea proteins are great options to consider that offer high amounts of protein while being animal and dairy-free.

If you have allergies to foods (dairy) and health conditions like Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) will also influence your protein choices.

Those that don't handle dairy products well will most likely want to avoid protein powders that are higher in lactose like whey concentrate and milk proteins. These tend to be harder for people to digest and may cause stomach discomfort depending on your level or tolerance. Better protein options to consider are powders that are virtually lactose and cholesterol free like whey isolate, which also happens to be about 90% pure protein by weight. Goat protein is also another good protein powder for those that are lactose-intolerant, and of course plant-based proteins like soy.

Health and Fitness Goals

Your fitness and health goals will also dictate which protein powder is the best choice. With numerous protein powders formulated with customized ingredient formulas, you can pick a protein powder that will enhance your health goals. Here are some examples of fitness goals that will dictate which protein powders to pick:

The amount of protein you take everyday is heavily dependent on your goals.

Putting on Mass

Are you hitting the gym or playing sports and trying to put on a lot of mass? You may look into a niche of protein powders appropriately deemed “mass gainers”, which are typically protein powders formulated with additional carbohydrates and calories to help you pack on mass and support muscle recovery.

As for what type of protein you should consider, whey concentrate is a very popular protein source and also very depending on whether you have allergies to certain foods, whey protein (either concentrate or isolate) is a very common protein source found in many different sport supplements.

To become a mass monster, along with supplementing on a mass gainer, you'll want to focus on getting a surplus of calories from dietary proteins and carbohydrates, too.

Leaning Out & Building Muscle

Are you trying to lean out and build muscle size at the same time, or just trying to sculpt a nice beach body? A protein powder lower in calories and carbohydrates per serving that still offers an optimal protein amount is ideal.

Once again, whey protein tends to be a popular choice among the fitness community for its good protein content and availability. Whey concentrate tends to be the most affordable whey form, with whey protein isolate on the slightly more pricey side because it rid of lactose and cholesterol.

Lose Weight

Want to get rid of that jiggle? Protein has been studied for its ability to improve weight loss by requiring the body to burn additional calories through digestion and also increasing feelings of satiety. 3

Adding a protein powder that is low in calories and carbohydrates to your meals can help curb your appetite and aid you in your weight-loss endeavors, not to mention it’s benefits for helping your muscles recover after a great workout. Whey protein concentrate and soy are most often the types of protein sources found in meal replacement shakes and supplements.

Protein Timing and Use

How and when you plan to use protein powders is yet another factor you will need to consider. Are you looking for a fast digesting protein powder you can supplement with throughout the day? Do you want a slow-digesting protein powder to drink before bed to optimize your protein absorption while you sleep?

Choosing the right protein during the right time can be critical to achieving your goals.

Protein powders digest at different rates, making some optimal immediately after workouts and with meals to boost overall protein content in a timely manner. For a protein that you can supplement with throughout the day, try whey protein concentrate. It is an affordable protein with an excellent amino acid profile. 4 It is one of the most available forms of protein, which means you won't have trouble finding a flavor you like.

If you need a fast-absorbing protein, hydrolyzed whey protein or whey protein hydrolysate –they’re the same thing- is a great way to support your protein intake in a timely fashion. When protein is hydrolyzed, the molecules are broken down to an almost predigested state, making them more readily absorbed.

Casein protein is slower digesting, due to its molecular form. It is often a choice protein powder to supplement with before bed to increase protein intake during rest.

If timing isn't an issue and you are simply looking to increase your daily uptake of protein, blended protein may be your answer. Blended proteins offer the advantages of some protein forms all mixed into one powder.

Don't Discredit Flavor and Price!

After you've determined which protein powder will fit your needs, health goals, and preferences, there are still a couple things left to factor in, and they're a big deal!

Protein containers generally provide anywhere from 20-75 servings. That being said, the flavor of the protein powder is an imperative part of your decision, considering you'll be supplementing with it for an extended period of time. Protein flavor availability is impressive in today’s fitness realm, ranging from the variations of the traditional mouth-watering chocolate and vanilla flavors to tropical fruit flavors. If you are looking for a flavorless protein that you can mix with whatever drink you’d prefer, there is also that option as well.

The popular adage “You get what you pay for,” comes in to play when deciding on protein powders. Protein powders that are more filtered and contain more protein by weight like whey hydrolysate tend to be more expensive than whey protein concentrate, which still provides high amino acid levels but also retains some trace fat and cholesterol.

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Lindsey Mathews
Lindsey Mathews is the owner of Moxie Full Body Fitness, a quarterly fitness boot camp that focuses on weight loss and overall fitness. With a BA in Human Development from Brigham Young University, Lindsey’s boot camps are just as much about building mental and emotional self-confidence as they are about getting in shape.

Lindsey has been interested in physical fitness her entire life and was an active swimmer at her Southern California high school. Having specialized in relay events, she learned the importance of having support from a “team” at a young age, a concept she now actively applies with her boot-campers.

When not directing her series of camps, Lindsey enjoys spending time at home with her husband and three kids. She also enjoys a mixed variety of physical activity including obstacle course races, triathlons and figure competitions.

REFERENCES

  1. Clark, Nancy. Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1997. Print.
  2. United States. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Department of Health and Human Services. Food Guidance. Web. 13 Feb. 2013.Food Labeling Guide.
  3. Thomas L. Halton and Frank B. Hu (2004) The Effects of High Protein Diets on Thermogenesis, Satiety and Weight Loss: A Critical Review J Am Coll Nutr. 23:373-385.
  4. Snyder, B.S. and Haub, M.D.(2007). Whey, casein, and soy proteins. In Judy A. Driskell (Ed.), Sports Nutrition: Fats and Proteins, pp. 143-163, Boca Raton, FL: Taylor and Francis Group.
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2 Comments

sam

March 12, 2015

so anyone have an opinion on the best brand overall for quality and value? i like dymatize and optimum, but myotein is pretty good too. not sure if there’s better brands than those..

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Greg

March 18, 2015

I like BPI quite a bit. eSupplements has great pricing for all of their products as well. The milk and cookies tastes great.

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Rolando

August 9, 2017

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