Last week I talked about why protein is important and some different ways to get it. If you missed it, read about it here. It's a pretty quick read and gives you a good basic understanding of what protein does for you.
Personally, I advocate getting your protein from real food: lean meats, fish and poultry (if you choose), beans and legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and occasional fermented non-GMO soy products (like tofu or tempeh). Again, read last week's post for a go-to list of protein-rich foods.
But sometimes you are in a rush and don't have time to eat "real food..."
I get it. I'm guilty, too.
Enter protein powder.
A good, high-quality protein powder will supply your body with nutrients, keep you more satiated and full, and allow you to move on with your busy lifestyle.
Again, I don't recommend using protein powder as your main source of protein, but it is a very convenient, portable way to supplement your protein intake, especially if you are training hard or trying to gain muscle mass, or if you're in a hurry.
I usually add a scoop to my green smoothies, and sometimes I mix it into muffins, energy bites and other recipes.
With thousands of protein powder supplements out there on the market, how do you know which to buy? What should you look for?
My friends over at Reviews.com wrote a fabulous post about The Best Protein Powder. It's a great read and well worth your time, so be sure to read it here.
It made me run to my pantry and see if my protein "passed." (Ingredient-wise, they passed, however one is made by a smaller company, so it is not third-party verified...)
It's up to you what kind of protein you use, whether that is whey, casein, bone broth, collagen, egg white, plant-based, etc. Choose one that you can tolerate, digest, and absorb. That may take a bit of trial and error.
But no matter what, you should ALWAYS check the label.
Steer clear of artificial sweeteners and food colorings. Your body won't recognize those ingredients and will use vital resources to package them up and store them or get rid of them. They are not nutrients and have no place in your body.
Keep the junk out!
On the flip side, some healthy extras could include greens, probiotics, and digestive enzymes. Those ingredients are absolutely acceptable but not necessary.
Now that you know what to watch out for, how do you decide what kind to use?
Well, that all depends on your preferences, budget and goals.
Whey is the most popular choice because it is absorbed quickly, which is great after a workout to boost muscle repair (and gains), it is relatively cheap to produce, it's a complete protein, it mixes easily and can be flavored easily. There are some pretty yummy flavors out there, but be sure to watch out for other additives, sweeteners, and fillers.
Casein is absorbed more slowly, so it's a great choice if you're going to have a protein shake before bed. Like whey, it has all the essential amino acids, so it is a great choice for aiding muscle growth and repair. Because it is absorbed much more slowly than whey protein, many people find casein works best when combined with whey protein or used at night time, rather than right after a workout.
Egg white protein is a great option for people with dairy allergies and intolerances. It is digested at a medium rate, so it is a great option for recovery after a workout. Like whey and casein, it is a complete protein.
Bone broth protein powder is somewhat of a new kid on the block. It can supply you with a lot of nutrients (like collagen, glycine, chondroitin, and glucosamine) and the digestive and anti-inflammatory benefits of bone broth without the hassle of actually making bone broth. However, it does not have a good balance of amino acids, so it is not a great choice for building muscle. It can also be quite expensive.
Plant proteins such as rice, pea, hemp, cranberry, sacha inchi, etc. are on the rise and can be found almost anywhere. They are a great option for vegan/plant-based eaters or anyone wanting to boost their protein intake while minimizing animal products. Quinoa, hemp, and soy are complete proteins while other plant proteins need to be combined to make a complete protein. That's why most plant-based powders are blends of different protein sources.
Just do not expect these plant based powders to taste as "pure" as their animal-based counterparts! They definitely have a taste, some more than others, and it may take some getting used to. They also mix up much thicker, so you'll need to adjust your recipe if you use them in your baking. On the other hand, they are great for thickening runny oatmeal or turning your overnight oats into a thick, pudding-like dessert, or for mixing into a "pudding" with a bit of non-dairy milk.
Again, be sure to read the Reviews.com post HERE for their taste-test winners.
They've taken the guess-work out of finding which protein powders taste good without all the artificial, harmful garbage that you want to keep out of your body.
Of course, you can always try your own taste-test experiment. Many brands offer single serve packets. It's a great way to try lots of products without committing to a huge bucket.
Do you use protein powder? What do you use and what's your favorite way to use it? Comment below!
To your health,