Protein Powder 101: How To Choose The Best Protein Powder For Your Goals
If you’re gearing up to get started with a workout program or perhaps you’ve already been exercising for quite some time but are looking to take your progress to the next level, one thing that you will want to look at is your nutritional status.
Nutrition plays a key role in the progress you see from any exercise you’re doing as it supplies you with the raw materials you need to rebuild and repair muscle tissues.
Even if you aren’t doing intense workouts, proper nutrition is still key to keeping your body healthy and feeling well.
Part of good nutrition is making sure that you get adequate protein in your diet. For most people, this is the real struggle. Unless you enjoy eating multiple chicken breasts or pieces of steak a day, you are likely falling short with your intake.
This is why protein powder comes in so helpful. It’s fast, easy, and ready to go when you are – perfect for getting those protein needs met. The only problem? There are literally hundreds of different protein powder options to choose from. How can you ever find the one that will work best for you?
Let’s walk you through some of the main points that you need to consider when evaluating different protein powders so that you can make an informed decision and pick one up that will support the particular goals you happen to have.
When Do You Plan To Consume Your Protein Powder?
The very first thing that you’ll want to think about is when you plan to consume the protein powder in question. Are you thinking of using it right before or after a workout? Or are you planning on using it before bed?
Different protein powders have different types of amino acids that will behave differently in the body depending on when you take them.
For instance, if you are using the protein powder immediately after a workout session, your primary goal is to get the nutrients into the muscle cells as quickly as possible. This will jumpstart the recovery process.
As such, you want a fast acting protein powder. A whey isolate should be your go-to. This form of protein powder is designed to rapidly digest, ensuring rapid recovery.
On the flip side, if you are taking the protein powder immediately before bed, you’ll want a slower burning protein source as this will help ensure that you get a steady release of amino acids into the bloodstream over the nightly fasting period.
As such, opt for a casein protein powder. This type of protein powder is the slowest digesting protein you can consume, so is perfect for this time.
If you are just drinking the protein powder throughout the day in replacement of a normal snack (or possibly meal in some cases), you’ll be fine just choosing a standard whey protein powder. This will digest at a relatively normal speed, not too fast or too slow either, which is ideal for this time of day.
As an added benefit, regular whey protein powder is very helpful for boosting your immune system thanks to the fact it contains immunoglobulins, which strengthen your ability to fend off invading bacteria or viruses.
Do You Have Any Particular Nutritional Preferences?
The next thing to consider is if you have any particular nutritional preferences. For instance, if you are a vegetarian, consuming whey protein powder likely won’t be an option because whey protein is a form of dairy.
Instead, you’ll want to opt for a hemp or soy protein powder, both of which are friendly for vegetarians.
Or, perhaps you are lactose intolerant. In that case, again, whey may not be the best of options. You could look into an egg or rice protein powder, or go with a hemp protein powder as well.
Do keep in mind though that many whey protein powder variations – especially whey isolates are often lactose free, so you might still be able to find a whey protein to use if that is your issue.
Most protein powders are naturally gluten free, however if you need to be absolutely sure, look for that info on the label. If a brand has gone to the trouble of ensuring no trace amounts of gluten are found in their product, they will usually advertise this factor.
What Is Your Bodyweight Goal?
Another important point to look at is what your bodyweight goal is. Are you looking to lose weight or gain weight? Different protein powders will really have different calorie ranges, so this is an important consideration. If you are looking to lose weight and take a protein powder much higher in calorie level, you could abruptly stop all progress towards your goal.
When looking for a protein for weight gain, you might turn to the weight gain protein powders, which also come with carbs and fats added in. Typically these protein powders are coming in at around 300 to 800 calories per serving, so will quickly get your intake up to where it needs to be for muscle mass gain.
If weight loss is your goal, then you should be looking for a lean protein powder that contains as few grams of fat or carbohydrates as possible. This will keep it as low calorie as possible, which is more conducive to the fat burning process.
One other form of protein powder that you may look into is a meal replacement powder. These too have a more balanced mix of nutrition, containing proteins, carbohydrates, and dietary fats. Usually they will come in around 150-300 calories per serving, so can be used for those who are looking to lose weight or those who may be looking to gain as well as desired.
These can be a good option if you need the protein powder for throughout the day when you otherwise just don’t have time to eat your normal meal or snack that you had planned.
Keep in mind however that the calories in these will add up quickly if you aren’t careful, so make sure that you are including them as part of your total daily intake.
If you plan to serve your protein powder and then eat something with it – say a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts or trail mix, you’ll want to stick to the straight protein powder instead. As you’ll already be taking in carbs and/or fats from the other foods you eat along with the powder, you just don’t need these nutrients to be added.
What Is Your Price Range?
Finally, you’ll also want to consider your price range. Generally speaking you can find protein powders of all varieties – whey isolates, caseins, weight gainers, meal replacement powders, along with hemp and soy protein powders for a cost effective range.
That said, the quality may not always be what you want it to be. While there’s no need to buy the priciest protein powder on the market, you will likely want to spend a little more if you are buying a whey isolate or meal replacement powder. These are two powders where cost can make a difference in terms of the quality that you are getting.
Higher priced whey isolates typically go through a better filtration process and will digest more rapidly and contain fewer additives than those that are lower in cost, so are well worth the extra.
With meal replacement powders, choosing one that is a little higher priced may get you better quality nutrients along with less added sugar or other filler ingredients.
When selecting your protein powder, make sure that you always do have a quick look at the ingredient list to see how many added ingredients are in there. The more pure your protein powder, generally the better.
To get a better idea if a particular protein powder you are thinking about is worth the cost, make sure that you do read around at various reviews online. This can help you decipher the quality of the protein powder, how good it tastes, as well as how easily it mixes with water and shaker cup.
So there you have a closer look at the main factors to consider when selecting your protein powder. Once you pinpoint the overall type of protein powder you want to purchase, you can then look at the various brands making that type, reading reviews and checking their ingredient line-up and nutritional profile.
Also remember that when it comes to cost, you’ll likely pay less per serving buying larger tubs (5 pounds or more) than you will the smaller tubs (2-3 pounds). So while your upfront cost will be greater, you’ll be saving money in the long run.
If you are sure about the protein powder you are about to buy, invest in the larger tub. The expiration on these protein powders is often years into the future, so there should be no worries of using it all.
With proper care and attention, you can choose the best protein powder for you.