It seems like there are a million different protein powders out there these days. (And multilevel marketing companies to back them.) In this post, which I promise to keep as concise as possible, I’d like to help you decide which option is best for you!
Protein drinks can be used as meal replacement, workout recovery, or diet supplementation. Personally, I enjoy them for breakfast in the Summer months, when bacon and eggs sound less-appetizing. On the days where I work out for longer than 60-90 minutes, I will use them as a workout recovery as well. For someone trying to gain weight, you can consume them in addition to a well-balanced diet. For someone trying to lose weight, or body fat, you can eat them in lieu of a heartier meal.
Here are some common protein powder types on out there on today’s market:
1. Whey Protein. This is one of the more common available types. The advantage of whey protein is that it is usually fairly inexpensive by comparison. It has broad-spectrum amino acids, and is readily absorbed by the body. If you choose to fuel with whey, be sure to buy organic, to ensure that the cows that produce the whey are never treated with rBGH/rBST. A quality whey protein will usually provide around 15 grams of protein per serving. If the package lists more than that, it is probably synthetic. (Which means it cannot all be absorbed by your body. Eliminating synthetics can also be hard on your kidneys and other organs.) Look for whey with no additives, then mix in your own flavors/fruits/vegetables. Whey Protein should be low-carbohydrate, so if yours isn’t, it probably has added sugars. I like Standard Process’ Whey Pro.
One disadvantage of whey is that it is dairy-based. This means it can be mucous-producing, or inflammatory It also is not ideal for lactose-sensitive individuals.
2. Hemp Protein. Hemp Protein is a nice choice because it is high-fiber, low-carbohydrate. It is one of the lowest-allergen protein options out there. For those who haven’t tried hemp before, it is greenish in color and has a somewhat earthy flavor to it. It does have slightly lower bio availability in terms of amino acids, so it may be less-readily absorbable. This is my protein choice most of the time. I like to mix in an array of vegetables and fruits to boost the nutrition, and it goes well in most any juicing that I do. I like to order mine from a brand called Nutiva.
3. Casein Protein. This protein doesn’t absorb as well as whey, although they are similar in other ways. It can be problematic for people because of allergen issues, more so than traditional whey. In general, I would steer clear of this one and purchase a good whey instead.
4. Egg White Protein. This is one of the most bio available, or easily-absorbed protein sources out there. This makes it an ideal choice for athletes who need to refuel the muscles in specific time frames to receive maximum benefit from their workouts. Be careful with egg white protein with small children, or if it is new to you, since eggs are a common allergen. Since my son and I both have egg sensitivities, we skip this one. But it is an excellent choice for those who tolerate eggs well.
5. Rice Protein. These protein powders are made by isolating the protein from the grain. They fall somewhere in the middle in terms of bio availability. Since rice is one of the least offensive grains, rice protein isn’t high-allergen. That said, it cannot be digested as readily as some other animal-based protein sources can.
6. Soy Protein. Soy is used extensively, and soy protein is no different. I avoid this type of protein at all costs, for a number of reasons. For one, it can contain antinutrients that are hard on the digestive tract. Soy in general is not healthy for humans unless it has been fermented to help break down these antinutrients. There are other issues with soy as well. It is often genetically modified, and has been shown to affect hormone levels in sensitive individuals.
7. Plant Blend. Warriorblend protein is my favorite of these. It is available on Amazon, or various other sources as well. It is entirely plant-based (pea, hemp, & cranberry blend), but because it is low-allergen, we use this most often for my son. It is great for individuals with food sensitivities, and more palatable than hemp protein alone.
In general, I prefer to sit down to a meal when I have the means and the time. But protein shakes are an excellent way to fill in the gaps in your diet for both your protein needs, and other nutrition as well. My shake this morning included bok choy, red cabbage, kale, lemon juice, ginger, strawberries, and hemp protein. Throw it all in the blender, and start your day the right way!
Yours in Health,