Protein powders are everywhere, and they are a HUGE market for the fitness population – especially the guys looking to make all the big gainz. However, protein powders can be very beneficial for everyone, even if you aren’t trying to grow 22-inch pythons.
Now let me preface the rest of this post with this; you do not NEED protein powder to get sufficient amount of protein in your diet – however, it can really really really help.
What is protein powder?
Protein powders are essentially any form of animal based or plant based product in which the protein has been separated (mostly) from the rest of the product, and filtered into a powder form. The most popular protein powders are whey protein powders, which are derived from milk when it is separated into the curds (cheese) and the liquid whey. The market for vegan based protein powders is growing, with options like pea, and hemp protein being among the best options for vegans.
Proteins are composed of building blocks called essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are proteins that cannot be manufactured by our bodies and therefore creates a requirement for them in our diet, while non-essential amino acids can be manufactured by our bodies.
All animal-derived forms of protein (meat, milk, or eggs) have a full amino acid profile – containing all essential amino acids. Plant forms of protein are usually limited in one or more essential amino acids, and therefore are usually considered suboptimal and should be varied throughout the day to ensure a full intake of all essential amino acids.
Most protein powders will provide about 20-30 grams of protein per serving.
What protein powder is best?
As with any supplement, this can be a tough thing to figure out. However, let’s start with the bio-availability factors of different options.
Bio-availability: this represents the percentage or scale rating of just how much our bodies can make use of certain protein sources. You need to know that our bodies and digestive systems absorb some protein’s better than others and also certain sources will provide a higher amino acid profile.
These are the protein sources we should be including in our diets. Here is a quick chart to give you an idea of the bio-availability index rating of some protein sources:
|Protein Source||Bio-Availability Index|
|Whey Protein Isolate Blends||100-159|
As you can see, whey, milk, and egg-based sources are kings.
Note: most people with lactose intolerance can still consume quality whey isolate protein powders, as they usually contain less than 1% lactose.
Now let’s look deeper into quality.
As you can see, whey ISOLATE is the best quality protein powder out there. So when it comes to looking at the labels of protein supplements, here is what you need to know.
Look at the INGREDIENTS. If you want the highest quality protein powder, the first and only protein ingredient should be “hydrolyzed whey isolate”
Many cheaper protein powders contain blends, of whey concentrate. Now for most people, these are just fine – as you see from the chart above, whey concentrate is still over 100 on the bioavailability index.
You also should be aware of the rest of the nutrition label. Some protein powders are sold as Mass Gainers or Weight Gainers, and contain high amounts of carbs and fat. If your goal is to just increase your protein intake, avoid these products.
Mass Gainer: (see the 4.5g fat, 54g of carbs?)
Whey Isolate: (<1g fat, <1g carbs)
Ok, I get it about protein powders, but how much do I need?
First, don’t look to your government for your protein recommendations – among other things…
The RDA – recommended daily allowance – is set at 56 grams per day for men and 46 grams per day for women.
This is a terrible, terrible number and goal for anyone. What most won’t tell you is that these numbers are the bare minimum for sedentary people to avoid muscle wasting via negative nitrogen balance. To put it bluntly, you need much more.
The next recommendation you will usually find is .8 grams/kg of bodyweight. This is still much too low for anyone who moves more throughout the day, and especially those who exercises regularly.
Based off of several professional findings and recommendations:
.8-1 gram per pound of bodyweight – for individuals who are 25% body fat or less
200-pound man (15% bodyfat) – the goal is 200 grams of protein
For individuals who are greater than 25% body fat, then aim for .8-1 gram per pound of LEAN body mass.
200-pound man (30% bodyfat) – the goal is 140ish grams of protein
The reason I set a difference for higher bodyfat individuals is usually that the goal is also fat loss, so this helps in creating a caloric deficit – however, every individual is different, and usually, we will work on upping the protein closer to 1 gram/pound of GOAL weight.
Protein obviously helps with muscle repair, but also is very important in providing satiety or fullness – and is CRUCIAL for anyone trying to lose body fat. I cannot stress this enough, so I will even write it again:
Getting enough protein is CRUCIAL for reaching your fat loss goals. (and safe!)
The ONLY time one needs to worry about this level of protein intake is IF you have Chronic Kidney Disease or a similar kidney disfunction.
Do I need Protein Powder?
The first question should be “do I need more protein in my diet?”
After figuring out your current intake, then see if you can increase your intake from whole food sources. After doing this, then look at how far you are from your goal intake. Once you figure this out, THEN you may consider getting a protein supplement and taking it once per day.
How do I use protein powder?
I like to recommend that you use it as a midday snack, usually just mixed with water in a simple blender bottle.
However, protein powders can be used in many different “wheys”.
Simple ideas would be mixed in smoothies, along with fruit, milk, etc. You can get pretty creative with making “super shakes” loaded with veggies, fruits, and a little healthy fats to make a full meal.
You can get really creative and incorporate them into baking as well. Check out this cookbook for some killer ideas.
If you plan on mixing other ingredients with your protein powder, you should use plain vanilla flavored protein.
What protein powder do you recommend?
Finally, we are here. What brands do I recommend?
After years of trying different brands, many of them very good, I have finally settled on what I feel is the best product, price, quality and variety – TrueNutrition.
True Nutrition allows you to customized EVERYTHING. They have over 30 types of protein powders, 50 flavors, and additional add-ons like greens, amino acids, fiber and much more that you can build your own amazing protein blend with.
If you need help getting started, look no further than online coaching. Training and nutrition! Let me help you find the best plan for you – from anywhere in the world.
Like what you read? Want to get even more weekly wisdom, training tips, and nutrition nuggets along with up to date blog posts sent directly to your email? Sign up HERE!