Choosing a Protein Powder
I work with a wide range of clients, from NFL athletes to bodybuilders to regular people just looking to lose weight. When I do their nutritional program, protein intake becomes a major part of their diet.
For ease and time constrains, protein powder is a perfect way to get in extra protein for their daily needs. So what is the question I get asked the most? What’s the best protein powder and what should I buy? There really is no “holy grail” of protein powders but some are better than others.
So what should you look for?
1.) If it’s a protein shake what we are looking for is protein, right? If your shake has a fair amount of fat and/or carbohydrates it’s not exactly what we are looking for. Those tend to be more for a meal replacement shake. For this I prefer a high quality low-carb, low fat protein powder.
2.) What is the serving size and how much of the serving size is derived from protein. If a serving size is 29g and that scoop is only 18g of protein there’s a lot of other “stuff” making up those extra 11g. Try to find a more optimal relationship between the grams of serving size vs grams of protein in the serving size.
3.) What type of protein? Whey, whey isolate, hydrolyzed, casein, micellar casein, egg protein, soy protein, beef protein, hemp protein, rice protein etc. Is one “better” than the other? For most people we are just looking to increase their protein intake to support the resistance exercise program they are engaging in. A lot of studies exist on whey protein and there’s a good deal on casein as well, so if you are big into research you can find your pros and cons on them. Personally, for myself and my clients, I prefer whey isolate or hydrolyzed whey. Others don’t like the processes that isolate or hydrolyzed protein goes through, in that case they want a more “undenatured” protein, I will list sources later.
4.) Are there artificial sweeteners? GMO’s? (genetically modified organisms like GMO soybean oil). Whether or not this matters to you will come down to your personal beliefs on these types of things. I personally believe that things like sucralose are OK in moderation. Others believe that whey shouldn’t need any types of sweeteners and should have its own natural milky sort of taste. I’ll discuss options for both.
5.) Does it taste good? This matters for the more “regular” person because if it doesn’t taste good they are less likely to use it. For these people you have to find ways for them to implement protein powder on a consistent basis. I’ll discuss some ways to make your protein more enjoyable.
6.) The amino acid profile. Often times when you see a more expensive protein powder it has a much more extensive amino acid profile or it has some other “supplements” in it (creatine, digestive enzymes, etc). Personally, I like there to be a pretty decent amount of leucine in the product due to its role in stimulating mTOR.
7.) Digestibility. Any protein powder or food is only as good as its ability to be digested and absorbed. How do YOU digest it? How do YOU respond to it? You must find out how you feel after certain products to assess how you personally respond to it. Do you need gluten free? Do you need lactose free? I list some options below.
Best Tasting Protein Powders
1.) Protizyme Protein – Protizyme makes a great tasting protein, available in Chocolate Cake, Peanut Butter Cookie, Strawberry cake and Vanilla cake. It is gluten free, has no aspartame, no lacatose and is low in fat and carbohydrates. It’s one of the best tasting powders I have ever had and the majority of my clients absolutely love it. Those with digestive issues seem to tolerate it well. The downside is that it’s a tad bit expensive. I’ve found that mixing it with other protein powders still gives you the great taste and makes it last a bit longer.
2.) True Nutrition – True nutrition let’s you “build” your own protein mix. You can choose between all their types of protein, from egg to beef to whey etc. You can also add the type of sweetener you want used, stevia is an option. They offer a ton of different flavors, the best I’ve tried were Peanut Butter Cup and Chocolate Coconut. I am still waiting to try the peanut butter and jelly.
3.) Dymatize Protein – Dymatize has a whole line of powders and all of them taste great. The gourmet one is a little higher in carbs than I like but for some people taste is king. They offer banana nut, berry blast, café mocha, chocolate, vanilla etc.
My Favorite Protein Powders
1.) Optimum Nutrition Hydro Whey
Hydro whey has a great taste, very low carb (1g) and 30g of protein per scoop. It has a very nice amino acid complex and mixes well too. The selling point behind hydrolyzed whey is that its a partially digested protein where the protein is broken down into smaller peptides (di and tri peptides) which is supposed to help the protein be absorbed quicker. This protein is rather expensive but it’s one of the best powders I have used. It’s the only protein product I have used where I actually felt and saw a difference between others powders.
2.) Dymatize Iso–100
Dymatize sells an isolate and a hydrolyzed product, this hydrolyzed version is very low calories (100 calories, 0 fat, <1g carbohydrates, no sugar) and 24g protein per scoop. The taste is really good and they offer a variety of flavors (cookies and cream, vanilla, chocolate, pina colada). It mixes and digests very easily.
3.) Protizyme (Shown above)
They make this list because the flavor is just incredible. I will mix 2 scoops in a bowl with a little bit of water and a scoop of peanut butter, place in the freezer for 30 minutes and you have a protein packed chocolate cake ice cream.
Zero Carbohydrate Protein Powder
Isopure pretty much dominates the 0 carb powder market in my opinion. It’s low calorie and has 25g of protein per scoop. No lactose and has a nice list of flavors too. I used to mix the strawberry cream isopure in with oatmeal and a packet of splenda and it was incredible. For those dieting who are very conscious of carb intake or prepping for a bodybuilding show this powder is often a go-to.
More “Natural” Powders
1.) Biofresh Protein from Protein Factory
2.) About Time
3.) Warrior Whey
These sources all offer an alternative to the artificially sweetened choices that you typically see in the stores. These are “undenatured” and “pure”.