The debate rages on about if carbohydrates and fats are a friends or foe. However it seems no matter the expert, the diet, or the fitness routine, protein is always a positive (in moderation). Protein is key to your body performing well and building muscle. While most people get enough protein through their diet, the more active you are the more protein your body will need to help strengthen and repair your muscles. Supplementing your diet with a protein powder may be a good choice depending on how active you are.
But where do you start? There are seemingly hundreds of brands and variations. So which one should you shake up?
“I recommend choosing a protein powder with the cleanest and fewest ingredients,” says Jill Kaufusi, certified personal trainer and owner of @TheStationFitStudio. “Not all protein powders are created equal. Some on the market contain ingredients we should not be putting in our bodies and we're working too hard to get healthier and stronger to let that happen!”
We broke down what you need to know about protein so you can choose the right one for you.
Whey protein powder is by far the most popular and widely available. It’s digested and processed faster than other proteins making it ideal for pre or post workout and has been known to help increase muscle growth and aid in fat loss. Whey protein is a dairy based protein and is known as a “complete” protein meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids.
Great For: Building and maintaining muscle growth.
“I like my protein powder to taste great, mix easily with no clumps with no unpleasant aftertaste,” says Vysal of @salvoeun_fitness. “I use Ghost products. They’re 100% whey, all the flavors are amazing, and it’s only 130 calories per scoop with 25g of protein.”
Derived from the solids in milk, casein protein isn’t quite as efficient at building muscle, however it takes longer to digest and process so it’s great for meal replacement or adding to meals.
Great For: Mixing with whey proteins or as a meal replacement.
Egg White Protein
Egg white protein is made from dried egg whites (not surprising, right?). It’s processed faster than casein protein but not as fast as whey.
Great For: Muscle building or meal replacement for those that are allergic to dairy or Paleo dieters that still want a complete protein supplement.
Soy protein is made from soybeans and is metabolized similarly to egg white protein. One difference is that soy proteins typically contain higher levels of of the amino acids glutamine and arginine which can aid in digestion and immune health. Keep in mind that the verdict is still out on the health risks of consuming soy consistently.
Great For: Those looking to build muscle with a plant-based protein.
Pea protein is the most easily digestible plant protein out there so it’s perfect for those with digestive issues. It lacks 2 essential amino acids so it’s best to pair it with another plant protein source like hemp or rice.
Great for: Those looking to build muscle using a plant-based protein but have a sensitive stomach.
"For those who have a dairy intolerance or are eating a plant-based diet, IdealRaw makes an organic plant-based protein powder that I think tastes better and blends up smoother than most vegan protein powders," says Kaufusi.
You’ve got options (maybe too many) when it comes to protein powders so try them out and see how they work for you. Remember that your main source of protein should be coming from your food, but if you’re looking to supplement with a little more to promote healthy muscle growth a protein powder might be the right choice.