Protein is the most important macronutrient because you simply can’t survive without it, much less thrive. Protein helps with growth, maintains lean muscle mass and helps you stay satisfied after meals. Every cell in the body contains protein.
Many foods that are high in protein, like meat, take time to prepare. Protein powder can provide a concentrated source of protein that is simple and quick to add to your diet. But, with so many options on the market, how do you find the best protein powder for you? Do you know how to choose protein powder to meet your goals and needs?
Why Protein Powder?
Here are four reasons to add protein powder to your routine:
- It’s convenient. Just whip up a drink in seconds and enjoy.
- It’s absorbed quickly, meaning you get a big dose of protein right after your workout.
- It’s absorbed easily by the body, meaning the body can utilize all the protein it contains.
- It provides your body with a steady stream of critical amino acids.
Basically, using protein powder means you can ensure that your body has what it needs to repair any damage and stay healthy.
What to Look For in Protein Powder
Here are a few things to consider when looking for the best protein powder for you:
- What are your goals? – Are you trying to bulk up, or is your goal just to get more protein? Some protein powders are loaded with additional carbs and calories, so they’ll help you put on weight while fueling your muscles. If your goal is just to get more protein into your diet without too many extra calories and you’re not looking to gain weight, look for a plain protein powder instead.
- Number of ingredients – The best protein powders have limited ingredients; there is no reason to have a ton of added special nutrients or sugar. The more ingredients there are, the more complicated it gets to determine if the protein is high quality.
- Source of protein — There are a number of types of protein that can be used to make protein powder. Whey comes from milk and it is one of the best-tasting, highest quality and most economical of the protein powders. Casein protein also comes from milk, but it takes longer to digest than whey protein. Other options include eggs, soy, pea and brown rice protein powder. The type of protein that is best for you will depend on your personal preferences and goals.
These are just a few tips for how to choose protein powder and things to consider when looking for the best protein powder for you. But, what about what to avoid in protein powder?
What to Avoid in Protein Powder
Here are a few tips for what to avoid when shopping for a protein powder:
- Too much sugar — Some protein powders contain a large amount of sugar in order to make them taste good. Always check the sugar content on the label. Choose an option with 10 grams or less of added sugar per serving. Or opt for a protein powder without added sweeteners, which increases its versatility. If you must have a sweetener, look for natural options like xylitol, stevia and honey.
- Artificial flavors — Protein powders come in a variety of flavors. Those that use artificial flavors might be cheaper, but they may not be the healthiest option. Instead consider a powder that is flavored with natural cacao or vanilla.
- Carrageenan – This is a thickener made from seaweed that has been found to increase inflammation, lead to digestive problems and might be a possible carcinogen. It is best to avoid this ingredient completely.
- Vegetable oils — Certain oils, like soybean, canola or sunflower oil, are added to protein powders to enhance flavor or to thicken the product. Many of these have been linked to inflammation and are extracted by using chemical solvents.
To choose the best protein powder for you, look closely at the label and avoid these specific ingredients.
How to Choose Protein Powder
You have taken our list and are ready to go shopping. Before you have tried a product, start by buying small quantities. Until you find the products that you definitely like, you don’t want to buy in bulk. Or consider asking a friend if you can sample their favorite protein powder before you commit to a major purchase.
Second, start with your goals first. The secret to taking protein powder is all about using it wisely so that it matches your health goal. Fast-acting protein powders, like whey, give you a quick source of energy and a flood of amino acids for muscle repair. While the slower-acting protein powders, like casein, may help you stay fuller longer. Knowing why you want to take a protein powder will help you select the type of protein that is right for you.
Finally, pick a protein powder that has a flavor you actually like. No matter how “healthy” a protein powder might be, if you are choking it down then it is not the best protein powder for you.