September 8, 2021
Every time I post a new recipe that uses protein powder, I notice you have some questions about the kind I use! It took me a loonnng time to find the brands I actually feel good about and enjoy. So, I thought this was a good opportunity to put together a little guide about why you might use protein powder and what to look for when you choose one to try.
Before we get started, I want you to know that protein powder isn’t necessary for most people. For me, it’s just a convenient way to boost my protein intake! My workouts have been very strength-focused for the past few months, so my protein needs are a little higher than they have been in the past. Protein powder helps me hit my goals, especially when I’m super busy.
So if protein powder isn’t on your radar or in your budget right now, that’s TOTALLY okay. High quality food sources will always be my first choice for protein. But if you are interested in trying a protein powder, hopefully this little guide helps you navigate all the options out there 😉
Soooo let’s talk about protein!
Should I Use Protein Powder?
There’s a lot of hype around high protein diets. That’s because protein is so important for muscle building, keeping your appetite steady, bone health, and more. It’s not just for bodybuilders!
But like I said before, protein powder isn’t a necessity for most people. Same goes for protein bars, protein water, protein chips (yes those are real), etc.
The truth is, most of us already meet our needs with food. However, taking a protein supplement is generally safe too. It all depends on your goals and what works for you!
So what are some reasons you might use a protein supplement?
Convenience – Protein powder is super convenient for a lot of reasons. First, it’s easy to travel with. You can literally mix a scoop into some water and you have a high-protein shake whenever you need it.
A lot of people like to use protein powder when they’re tracking macros. Protein is straightforward. One scoop has the same macros every time. This convenience keeps you on track if you have certain targets.
Post-workout – Protein is important after a workout, especially if you’re working on strength and building muscle. A supplement gives you quick protein that is easy to drink if you’re not super hungry after a workout.
To give certain meals a protein boost – The biggest reason I use protein powder is because it helps keep my protein intake consistent throughout the day. Another plus is that it keeps me energized and satisfied between meals! I struggle the most with breakfast, so that’s probably when I use protein powder the most – like in a smoothie or oatmeal! Oh, and PANCAKES, but I love making them with protein powder to have as a snack 🙂
There are other reasons that protein powder works for some people, but these are just the ones that come to mind for me!
How do you know how much protein you need?
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends getting 10 to 35 percent of your calories from protein. The more active you are, the higher the protein goal in that range.
Or, you can calculate your protein needs with your weight and activity level using a guide like this one.
Obviously, these guidelines are super general and my advice is to use them to get a rough idea of how much protein you need, and if you’re meeting those needs with food alone. The best way to figure out how much protein you need is by talking with a dietitian and/or doctor!
Different Types Of Protein Powder
Do you ever browse the supplements and end up totally overwhelmed because there are so many options? Like WHOA what are all of these and which one is for me?!
And then consider the fact that protein is NOT cheap and you def don’t want to waste your money on something not for you. It’s a lot. Here’s a simple rundown of different types of protein that might help you out.
Whey – This is the most common type of protein powder you’ll see! It’s one of the best sources of high-quality protein and branched-chain amino acids known to help with muscle growth. It’s usually budget-friendly and easy for most people to digest, but it does come from dairy which is a problem for some!
Casein – Also made from milk, but digested more slowly. Some people prefer this type of protein to help with weight loss.
Egg protein – A good option if you need to avoid dairy. It’s made from egg whites so it’s easier for some people to digest, but it’s low in fat compared to casein or whey. So, it might not keep you full as long!
Here are some plant-based protein options!
Pea protein – Probably the most common type of plant-based protein. It’s made from yellow split peas and it usually has most of the 9 essential amino acids. It’s also really high in fiber.
Rice protein – Another common type you’ll see. It’s soy and gluten-free, but not typically considered a complete protein (it doesn’t have all of the essential amino acids). However, this isn’t really a big deal if the rest of your diet has good protein variety!
Hemp protein – Hemp everything is popular right now, and protein is following the trend. This plant-based protein is easy to digest but again, not considered a complete protein. It’s also a good source of healthy fats!
BONUS: Collagen – Collagen (not plant-based) is usually taken more as a beauty or joint supplement rather than a protein supplement, but I wanted to include it here because collagen is a type of protein!
Avoid These Ingredients When You Pick A Protein Powder
Before you decide on a protein powder, make sure you take a quick look at the ingredient label! Some supplements, especially protein powders, are packed with ingredients that are just nottttt necessary. Some are added for flavor or as preservatives, and some are added as fillers (this usually happens with cheaper supplements).
Here’s what you want to avoid:
Hydrogenated oils – Some brands add these oils to give their protein powder a creamier texture. You know I normally have no problem with fat, but these fats are almost always trans fat. And we should all be avoiding trans fat to keep our cardiovascular systems healthy!
Added sugar or artificial sweeteners – Some protein powders taste too good to be true, and that’s often because they’re packed with added sugar or artificial sweeteners. A product with a lot of added sugar can interfere with your goal if it’s weight loss or building lean muscle. Artificial sweeteners can cause bloating and diarrhea for some people.
Dyes and fillers – These are usually added to cheaper brands to bulk up the product. Avoid ingredients like thickeners, gums, milk solids, and dextrins.
Heavy metals and toxins– Yup, sometimes these find their way into protein powders. I’m talking mercury, lead, and arsenic – NO THANKS. They get into products through poor manufacturing and/or farming practices. Look for brands that are third-party tested to avoid these and other unwanted ingredients.
Good things to look for!
A simple ingredient list
Added vitamins and minerals
Casein or whey sourced from grass-fed cows
Plant-based protein made from non-GMO sources
Natural sweeteners, like monk fruit
*Another important note – no fitness supplements, including protein powders, are regulated by the FDA. So it’s super important to go with a reputable brand that you trust!
Key Tips For Picking The Best Protein Powder
Okay, so the most important things to look for when you pick a protein powder are:
- The type that fits your goals
- A short list of high quality ingredients
- A reputable, trustworthy brand (ideally one that undergoes third party testing!)
At the end of the day, the best protein for me will be different than the best one for you. I mean, the best one for me might even change next week, depending on my goals! But juuuust in case you were wondering, lately my go-to has been Orgain Vegan Protein Powder. It tastes pretty good and works well in many of my recipes!
The best thing you can do is learn how to distinguish true quality from really good (sometimes deceitful) marketing, and make a choice based on your needs, preference, and budget.
Do you have any more questions? What is your fave protein powder? Share below – I wanna know!