- Whole Foods vs. Protein Powder
- Types of Protein
- Classification of Protein Powders
- How to Choose a Protein Powder
- Matching It to Your Physical Needs
- Best Protein Powder for Athletes
- Best Protein Powder for Weight Loss
- Best Tasting Protein Powder
- Best Low-Carb Protein Powder
- Best Plant-Based Protein Powder
- Don’t Overdo It!
The right amount of protein can make us feel full for a long time and boost our metabolism as well. That is why most people cut down on carbs and increase their protein intake when they want to lose weight. One of the best ways to achieve that is by taking protein powders.
Protein powder is the king of performance nutrients. Many people rely on it to help optimize muscle physiology, strength, and performance. People may use them to improve athletic performance, to gain muscle mass, and to lose weight. Furthermore, protein powders are a convenient and nutritious supplement, especially if you need a pre-workout or post-workout energy boost. Protein powders are incredibly versatile and are perfect for busy people who need a quick but healthy meal or snack.
Whole Foods vs. Protein Powder
Protein powder generally contains fewer nutrients than whole foods. For that reason, protein powder may be convenient, but whole foods pack a bigger nutritional punch.
While you can likely meet your protein needs through a balanced diet, protein powders offer a convenient alternative to increasing your protein intake. You may want to include protein powders in your diet if you are not consuming enough from whole foods or have a higher protein requirement due to your activity level.
Types of Protein
Whey is one of the most commonly used proteins and is best for day-to-day use because it is a “complete” source of protein because it contains all of the essential amino acids and is particularly rich in leucine. It is readily digested, high-quality protein powder derived from milk.
Whey protein helps boost energy and reduce stress levels. It’s best to use after a workout because it contains leucine, which accelerates the muscle-building pathway. Whey protein also speeds up muscle recovery and reduces muscle damage in those who are physically active. Whey protein is thought to improve blood pressure, blood sugar control and cholesterol levels. These weight loss benefits mainly stem from whey protein’s ability to suppress appetite by reducing the levels of the ghrelin hormone, making you feel fuller throughout the day. Whey is also one of the cheapest forms of protein sources.
However, since whey protein is derived from milk, this type of protein is inappropriate for vegans or those with intolerances to lactose.
Egg White Protein
Egg whites are low in calories, making it an excellent choice for people trying to lose weight. Egg white protein powder keeps muscle protein synthesis going for longer than if you consume just whey on its own. Keep in mind, however, that the weight loss benefits of egg whites are subdued compared to whey.
Egg whites are low in cholesterol, unlike the egg yolk – hence making it a better choice for those who hyper-respond to cholesterol.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, it can be a challenge to get an adequate, complete protein. Fortunately, plant-based protein powders are widely available. These powders are also suitable for those with lactose intolerance or sensitivity to dairy proteins. Plant proteins also come with much lower fat content than animal protein and have no cholesterol.
The main disadvantage of plant protein is that it naturally does not taste good. It may, therefore, require a lot of industrial processing and food additives to make plant-based protein taste acceptable – this means that some plant protein powders might trigger inflammation or digestive upset.
The best plant-based protein powders are organic, complete protein, sustainably-sourced, contain quality ingredients, are nutrient-dense, non-GMO, and grain-free.
Classification of Protein Powders
In general, protein powders tend to come in the form of isolate, hydrolysate, and concentrate – this describes how they are manufactured and purified.
Protein concentrates undergo less processing than other types of protein, so they’re an attractive option for those wanting a more natural protein powder. Typically supply 60-80% protein, with the remaining composed of fat and carbs. It is more likely to cause digestive issues because the powder may contain lactose.
Protein isolates undergo an additional filtering process to remove the majority of the fats and carbs, further concentrating the protein. Protein isolate powders contain up to 90% protein. These are more easily digestible, and less allergenic than protein concentrate – bye, bye lactose! They also keep you full for longer.
Protein hydrolysates undergo an additional heating process that breaks the bonds between the amino acids. Hydrolysates tend to enhance the incorporation of dietary amino acid into the skeletal muscle protein, which means it is absorbed more quickly by your body. Hence, hydrolysates may be more useful for supporting muscle repair after an intense workout. It is the purest, most bioavailable, and easily digested form of protein – and the most expensive.
A blended formula would be a powder that contains a combination of some or all of the above, typically concentrate and isolate.
How to Choose a Protein Powder
Not all protein powders are created equal. With a myriad of options, how do you decide which protein powder is best for you?
Opt for unsweetened protein powder
Protein powder on its own doesn’t have the chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry taste that many have become accustomed to. It’s relatively bland and chalky. To improve the taste, many manufacturers use a slew of sweeteners like corn syrup to make their products more palatable. However, this also increases the carbohydrate content. Sweetened protein powders generally contain around 8 grams of carbohydrates per serving, while unsweetened protein powders have only 1 to 2 grams.
Always check your labels for the common sweeteners:
- Acesulfame-potassium (acesulfame-K)
- Brown rice syrup
- Coconut sugar
If you can’t stomach the unsweetened varieties, opt for a protein powder with a low-calorie natural sweetener, like stevia.
High protein per serving
Ideal protein powder will have both high protein content and low total calories. Aim for a powder that provides over 20 grams per serving and keeps calories under 150. Protein to calorie ratio matters!
Consider protein absorption
You should consider how easily digested and absorbed the protein is. Proteins are given a score – protein digestibility corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) – based on the amino acids they provide and how well your body can digest them.
Protein like whey, casein, and egg whites have higher scores than pea and hemp – this means that whey, casein, and egg proteins are more easily digested and absorbed than the plant-based proteins.
Ideally, you want to pick a protein powder that has a higher PDCAAS score. However, you must also consider whether you can tolerate dairy and egg-based products.
Choose products with few ingredients
Stick to protein powders with just one ingredient, such as whey protein isolate. Many protein powders contain high amounts of preservatives, artificial colorings, and other chemical additives.
Ingredients to avoid:
- Sugar and sweeteners
- Artificial colors
- Thickeners or stabilizers (g., xanthan gum, guar gum, and lecithin)
- Proteins from GMO-derived sources
- Inorganic ingredients
- Soy protein
Organic and grass-fed
Since protein powder is in a highly condensed form of protein, it’s essential to get it natural.
Also, ensure that your protein source is grass-fed.
A lot of single-source protein powders don’t contain all nine essential amino acids. Opt for a whole protein powder to make sure you’re getting the full profile of protein that you need.
Ingredients to avoid
- Sugar and sweeteners
- Artificial colors
- Thickeners or stabilizers (g., xanthan gum, guar gum, and lecithin)
- Proteins from GMO-derived sources
- Inorganic ingredients
- Soy protein
Matching It to Your Physical Needs
What are the outcomes you’re looking for?
For muscle growth, opt for a protein powder with a high biological value (i.e., how well the body absorbs and utilize it). Whey and whey isolates are your best options.
Increasing your protein intake:
- promotes feelings of fullness
- boosts metabolism
- maintains muscle mass
To lose weight, choose powders with no added sugars or dextrins (starchy sweeteners). Avoid those with added branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), as they help promote muscle growth and mass gain.
That said, protein powders along won’t help you lose weight. They only make dieting easier. You’ll get best results if you use them alongside a well-balanced, reduced-calorie diet and exercise routine.
Go low-carb with diabetes
The best protein powders will make you feel fuller with fewer calories.
Patients who have diabetes should choose protein powders without added sugar. It’s also best to look for a powder that’s low in carbohydrates (less than 5 grams per serving). Alternatively, choose brands that use natural, no-calorie sweeteners like stevia.
Low-carb protein powder is also suitable for people who are on a ketogenic diet.
Avoid gastrointestinal problems
Patients with lactose intolerance or irritable bowel syndrome should opt for powders that don’t contain lactose sugars, artificial sweeteners, or dextrins.
If you have a gluten hypersensitivity, don’t opt for powders that contain wheat, rye, and barley.
A vegetarian or vegan diet
Don’t choose milk-based protein powder such as whey if you are on a vegetarian or vegan diet. Instead, use 100 percent plant proteins. Nuts, legumes, and seeds are excellent protein sources.
|Best for Athletes||Best for Weight Loss||Best Tasting||Best Low-Carb||Best Plant-Based|
|Recommendation||Legion Whey+||Optimum Nutrition Gold
||SFH Pure Whey
|Protein source||Whey||Whey||Whey||hydrolyzed collagen||Plants|
Best Protein Powder for Athletes
Legion Athletics Whey + Protein Powder
The Legion Athletics protein powder is rich in cold-pressed whey, which is what makes it so unique. When proteins are exposed to heat, they start to denature. But, since this brand used cold-pressed whey, you won’t have to worry about that.
There is a variety of flavors that make this powder quite tasty. It contains a small amount of sugar because the whey isolate is mixed with non-GMO maltodextrin, and there are also natural flavors and cocoa beans too. Despite that, there have been a few complaints from people who aren’t very satisfied with how this product tastes. Still, it contains soy lecithin, which makes it easy to mix with any drink, unlike other powders that form clumps instead.
However, this powder contains xanthan gum, which has the potential to cause flatulence. Because of that, we wouldn’t recommend this product to someone with a sensitive digestive system.
That being said, the Legion Athletics Whey+ is still among the best protein powders on the market because it does not contain artificial additives or sweeteners. Even the cattle used to extract the whey is all grass-fed and not genetically-modified.
What matters most is the effectiveness of this powder. It’s safe to say that its one of the best protein powders you’ll find.
- The cows from which the whey is extracted are grass-fed
- The protein powder is quite useful due to its high whey content
- It has natural sweeteners, eliminating the need to add extra sugar
- The powder mixes well with drinks
- It provides excellent value for money
- It is not a zero-carb/fat formula
- It might not agree with people who have sensitive digestive systems
Best Protein Powder for Weight Loss
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard is truly a gold standard. It contains a high amount of whey, making it extremely useful. But, that’s not all. This brand has ingeniously combined three different types of whey – isolate, protein concentrate, and peptide. Each type has its benefits, and by combining them, you get to experience all of their goodness at the same time.
Moreover, this protein powder is available in several flavors too. Some examples are chocolate, coffee, banana, and even cookies and cream. So, if you’re someone picky about what you eat/drink, you’re going to love this particular brand.
What’s more, it contains lecithin, which makes it easy to mix this powder with any liquid. You could use a protein shaker or blend it, and it won’t take as long as with most other powders. You could also stir it into a dink, but make sure you stir fast – otherwise, the powder might create a chalky texture.
Also, this protein powder won’t affect your digestive system and cause flatulence. That is indeed one of the most common side effects of such products. Luckily, with this brand, you won’t have to worry about that anymore.
It is, without a doubt, one of the best protein powders for weight loss on the market. Many people have witnessed quick results such as improved body mass and energy levels.
- It contains three different types of whey, making it one of the most effective protein powders available.
- Since it comes in a variety of flavors, everyone will find a flavor that they love.
- Mixing this protein powder is easy, and it won’t form clumps in the drink.
- It has a natural sweetness to it, so you could even use it as a dessert after meals.
- Although it is cheaper than most other protein powders, it is still slightly more expensive than others in the same range.
- This powder contains traces of lactose, so it might not be the best choice for someone who is lactose intolerant.
Best Tasting Protein Powder
SFH Pure Whey Protein Powder
If you’re looking for a “no-nonsense” protein powder brand, then SFH Pure Whey is the best one you’ll find. It is on the higher end of the price spectrum, but it contains purely natural ingredients that won’t mess with your digestive system or lead to side effects. Owing to that, we believe the price is highly justifiable.
This protein powder contains only whey concentrate, natural chocolate (for flavor), sunflower lecithin, and stevia. Stevia acts as a natural sweetener, removing the need for sugar, which makes this a great protein powder for those on a low-sugar diet. In contrast, other protein powders contain artificial sweeteners, which make them less healthy than we’d like to believe.
Moreover, it contains a natural chocolate flavor and not any artificial ones that are added for marketing purposes. You might find the lack of variety disappointing, but natural flavors are a healthier alternative to artificial ones.
Even the mixability of this powder is quite impressive. It does not contain soy lecithin. Instead, it has sunflower lecithin, which protects the brain and improves the health of our heart and our blood pressure.
However, we advise consulting an expert before taking this powder because it contains whey concentrate and not whey isolate. Whey concentrate is the reason why most protein powders result in flatulence and other digestive problems. Furthermore, it contains lactose too, making it an odd choice for those who are lactose-intolerant.
That being said, this brand is still among the best ones on the market. One of the main reasons for that is that the whey is extracted from grass-fed cows. The protein that is derived from grass-fed cows is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to improve brain activity.
- This protein powder does not contain any artificial sweeteners or flavors, but it still tastes good nonetheless
- The cows from which the whey is extracted are all grass-fed
- It is slightly more expensive than other protein powders
- It comes only in one flavor – chocolate
- It contains lactose so that it could be a poor choice for lactose-intolerant people
Best Low-Carb Protein Powder
Perfect Keto Protein Powder
Keto is now synonymous with low/no carbohydrates. This term comes from “ketones,” which are chemicals the liver releases when there is a shortage of insulin. So, people who are on a ketogenic diet avoid carbohydrates to the best of their ability.
Perfect Keto is one of the best low-carb protein powders on the market. It comes in three varieties – chocolate flavored, salted caramel, and unflavoured. The unflavoured version has no flavor in it, while the chocolate and salted caramel flavors contain stevia, which is a natural substitute for sugar – another ingredient people on a ketogenic diet avoid. This powder can prove to be beneficial to those who are on a low-sugar diet too.
As for the protein source, it comes from cows, which means this product is off-limits to vegans — the protein used in hydrolyzed collagen powder, as opposed to the standard whey protein. The best part about collagen protein is that its benefits extend beyond weight loss; it can also strengthen skin, nails, and bones. What’s more, it is extracted from grass-fed cows, making it more beneficial than protein that’s derived from grain-fed cows.
All in all, this protein is effective and healthy. Even the packaging looks quite attractive, so you won’t have to worry about ugly jars ruining your kitchen’s vibe.
- Collagen protein strengthens the bones, skin, hair, and nails, in addition to aiding weight loss and increasing muscle mass
- This product is among the few protein powders that cater to the needs of people who are on a ketogenic diet
- Its natural flavors won’t make you sick or nauseous
- It isn’t readily available on the market
- It does not contain digestive enzymes
Best Plant-Based Protein Powder
Orgain Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder
So far, all of our recommendations were animal-based. However, the Orgain organic protein powder is plant-based, making it an ideal option for vegans.
What makes Orgain protein powder every vegan’s favorite protein supplement?
Just like the name suggests, this product contains purely natural and organic ingredients. The protein itself is made out of peas, brown rice, chia seeds, and hemp. What’s more, it comes in five different flavors, including vanilla bean for those of you who don’t like intense flavors like coffee and strawberry.
Interestingly, this protein powder also contains some dietary fiber, which can help to eliminate any possible digestive problems such as flatulence.
Furthermore, this protein powder also contains stevia, as well as a variety of stabilizers and thickeners. All of these ingredients put together will make drinking this powder more enjoyable than you might expect.
In addition to the protein intake, you will also get an extra absorption of iron and calcium, which are beneficial for your blood and bones respectively. That is why we think this product is the best protein powder for women, who tend to lose a lot of blood due to their monthly periods.
The most common way of consuming this powder is to either mix it with milk or water. It has a unique “creamer base,” which makes it a creamy drink even if only mixed with water. However, if you’re used to drinking protein powders with milk, we recommend combining it with almond milk.
The only real downside is that it isn’t entirely free from carbohydrates. Additionally, as we already mentioned, it contains a high amount of sweeteners as well. Therefore, if you’re diabetic or pregnant, we advise you to consult your doctor before opting for this particular protein powder.
- It’s a great source of protein for vegans and women since it contains iron and calcium
- It has natural sweeteners, so you won’t have to add extra sugar
- The formula itself includes dietary fiber, which can tackle any possible digestive side effects
- It contains carbohydrates
Don’t Overdo It!
Protein powders do serve as a smart way to fit protein into your diet when you have a busy lifestyle. However, before purchasing a protein powder, find out if your diet is genuinely lacking in protein. If you already have lots of protein from whole foods, you likely won’t see much difference in your health by adding protein powder.