Although this blog is about protein powder, it’s important we get this out of the whey: you absolutely do not need a protein supplement to maximise your health, fat loss, muscle or strength gains. You should always aim to meet your nutritional goals through food, as ultimately that will give you the best results.
But if you’re struggling to hit your protein requirements (and you’ve come and had a chat to me) a protein powder can be a useful tool to add a bit of extra protein into your diet.
The trouble is, there seems to be a new supplement brand coming out every day, so how are you supposed to know what’s hot, and what’s not? Here’s a quick break down on the types of protein powders available, and how to make sure your choice is a good one.
Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)
Whey is one of the proteins in milk and is leftover during the cheese making process. Instead of throwing it away, they filter it and sell it to us as a supplement. Thanks food industry. The leftover whey is heavily filtered to remove almost all of the fat and lactose, leaving you with the closest thing to ‘pure’ whey protein as possible.
Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC)
Same as above, but it goes through less filtration which means it’s a little higher in lactose and fat than WPI. This also generally means it’s cheaper, so it’s a great option if you’re looking to save a bit of cash.
Casein is the other protein in milk and is marketed as a ‘slow release’ protein as it takes a very long time for us to digest. To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend this too often as it’s only really useful in specific situations. There’s some talk that it might help with muscle growth/recovery if you have it before bed, but the evidence isn’t very strong on that front.
Vegan Protein Powder
These can be many and varied, but mostly come in the form of brown rice, pea, soy or a combination of all three. If you’re looking for a vegan protein powder option, always get one with a mix of these as this makes it a ‘complete protein’, meaning we’re not missing any of the essential amino acids. This may cause it to break my rule about ingredients below as vegan protein powders generally have a longer list of ingredients. Our favourite Vegan Protein Powder is Happy Way.
First off, sneak a peek at the ingredients list, and check that the first ingredient is protein. If it’s not, throw it away. The second ingredient will be some kind of flavouring (you don’t want unflavoured protein powder, trust me). If you’re going down the natural protein powder route, that will be something like cacao, vanilla bean, or some kind of other fruit/plant extract. The third ingredient may be another flavouring, or something to sweeten it, whether that be stevia or sucralose. Finally, every protein powder I’ve seen includes a very tiny amount of soy lecithin, to help the powder mix well when you shake it. And really, that’s all a good protein powder needs. Some brands like to add a whole host of other things but if you’re following a balanced diet it’s nothing more than good marketing.
If your protein powder follows the rules above, this next step should already be taken care of, but it’s important to double check the amount of protein per serve. A regular scoop of protein is most commonly 30g, and at least 23g of this should be protein. If it’s not, move on.
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