Choosing a protein powder will depend upon your nutrition and workout plan and the results you are intending to achieve.
Getting enough protein in your diet is very important as protein contributes to fat loss, boosting your immune system, increasing bone density and improving your health overall. For most women, simply choosing a standard whey protein powder will be sufficient for your needs, but let’s take a closer look at your options.
What’s Your Goal? Weight Loss or Weight Gain
For this article, we are going to assume you would like to lose weight. Having a protein shake after your workout is great for replenishing and repairing your body to build long, lean muscles which will burn more fat off your body. A post-workout shake should be high protein, low carb. Aim for about 90-130 calories, usually 20-25 grams of protein and less than 3 grams of carbohydrates.
However, you may want to substitute a meal with a protein shake. In this case, you want to nourish your body with a full meal replacement shake that includes protein and carbohydrate sources. You can buy protein powders that are meal replacement shakes, generally 200-250 calories (and often full of unnatural ingredients) or you can make your own by adding fruit, yogurt, peanut butter, greens and a wide variety of other whole foods. That brings me to my next point.
Shaker or Blender
Will you be drinking your protein shakes on the go? Nothing but a scoop of powder, add water and shake? Or, do you plan to be at home, in the presence of your super blender? On the go, for convenience and a really good way to mix the powder, pick up a blender bottle. They’re about $10 and completely worth avoiding the taste of un-mixed dry protein powder.
If you have a blender and the time to use it, there is an endless variety of protein shakes that you can whip up at home, these are better known as smoothies. (yum!) Check out great smoothie recipes on our blog or just get creative on your own. Remember that the more you add, the higher your shakes calorie content. These meal replacements shakes are great for breakfast smoothies!
Type of Protein Powder
Shopping online or in a natural food store like Whole Foods or Sprouts, you’ll find a large variety of different types of protein powders. However, the most often used are Whey, Casein, Egg, and vegetarian/vegan types like Soy, Rice, Hemp and Pea. By far, Whey is the most popular form of protein powder and usually the least expensive. The other protein powders can be very useful particularly if you have particular food allergies, or if you are lactose or soy intolerant.
Whey Protein Powder
Whey protein is a nutritionally complete, high quality protein source with higher amounts of branched chained amino acids. Branched chain amino acids are an important source of energy during exercise. Whey is a quick digesting protein, this means it will start breaking down in your body almost immediately. Whey protein is great for after your workout, but it will not satiate you for very long.
Casein Protein Powder
Casein protein, in contrast to whey, is a much slower digesting protein source that can help sustain the body’s protein needs over a longer period of time. This would be more beneficial when you are using your protein shake as a snack to keep you full between meals. Casein is better when made as a whey/casein blend. That way you get the benefits of both proteins high quality branch chained amino acids from the whey protein and longer lasting satiety from the casein.
Egg Protein Powder
Egg protein is a perfect protein source since it has a complete profile of essential amino acids and branched chain amino acids. It’s sometimes harder to digest than whey and can leave you with that awful bloated feeling, cramps or worse (gas).
Vegan / Vegetarian Protein Powders
Soy protein is very popular in the vegetarian and vegan circles. Derived from soybeans, soy powders make for an ideal alternative for those who do not consume animal products, such as whey. While soy protein is high in branch chain amino acids, it is still viewed as a lower quality whey alternative because the body cannot absorb it as well.
There are a lot of non-soy options out there for the vegans and vegetarians. These protein powders are a great alternative for those with any allergies to gluten, yeast, milk, eggs, soy, nuts, and shellfish. Rice, hemp and pea protein powders are all complete proteins with good nutrient profiles. However, we find the taste is lacking compared to soy or whey. Also, they don’t mix well by stirring, so we recommend using a blender.
This is really what it’s all about. You want a protein powder that tastes good! Otherwise, you’re not going to use it and it will be of no benefit to you. Protein powders have come a long way and many brands make a variety of flavors that taste delicious. The best way to find the right one for you, of course, is to sample a few. Friends may have a container of protein powder sitting around, so sneak a serving for taste-testing. Whole Foods sells single serving samples, too. Based on what we look for in a quality protein powder, here are some recommendations:
Prograde Protein is by far one of the highest quality protein powders, with no artificial ingredients and amazing flavor! This is one of our favorites, but you won’t find it in stores. You can find Prograde online here.
Other well-known and good quality brands are EAS and Optimum Nutrition. You can find these online and at stores like the Vitamin Shoppe.
Finally, always remember to read labels, as not all products are created equally. Use the above guidelines to choose a powder that best suits your individual needs.
More Ways To Enjoy Protein In Your Diet
Try these easy recipes loaded with protein and flavor!