Not all protein powders are the same.
Some are certainly better than others.
But with hundreds, maybe even thousands, of options, finding the right protein powder for you (or your customers) can be difficult.
After all, each person has unique goals, physiology and preferences. So there is not a single protein powder that is best for everyone.
However, there can be a best protein powder for You.
And we can help you find it.
In this complete guide to protein powder, you’ll learn the following:
- Why protein is so important
- When it makes sense to include protein powder in your diet
- What to look for in protein powder
- How to choose the right protein powder for You (or help your customer choose what’s right for them)
If you’re looking for a quick answer to a specific question, you can jump straight to the following information:
Okay, let’s dive in.
How much protein do I need?
Before you find the protein powder that’s right for you (or your customer), understand exactly why protein is so important.
The main reason for using protein powder is to help you achieve your protein goals.
(If you are not sure how much you need, read our phone Nutrition calculatorthat will give you a personalized recommendation for protein, carbohydrates, fat and calories.)
Not If you get enough protein, you can:
- Lose muscle mass (which can decrease your metabolism)
- Have skin, hair and nail problems
- Heal more slowly if you get cuts or bruises
- Experience mood swings
- more likely to break bones
To be clear, this is not a problem for the majority of people.
Most people who eat western food on average are not protein inadequate.
The mere minimum protein requirement is estimated at 0.8 grams per kilogram (kg) of body weight or 0.36 grams per pound. In the bare minimum, a 160-pound person needs about 58 grams of protein to prevent protein deficiency.
For reference a palm protein (with Precision Nutrition hand portion method) contains about 20 to 30 grams of protein. With 2 to 3 palm trees of protein – such as chicken breast, tofu, Greek yogurt or legumes – you are done every day.
But eating the bare minimum of protein is different from eating one optimal Amount of protein.
In general, most active people can achieve their optimal protein intake by eating 1 to 2 palm trees of protein with each meal.
Unless you have a specific medical reason to keep your protein intake low. Most people will benefit from eating more protein.
Why? There are many reasons, including:
- Appetite control: A protein-rich diet seems to improve satiety.1.2
- Weight and body composition management: Higher protein intake can help people eat less when trying to lose fat, increase the number of calories burned through digestion (the thermal effects of food), and maintain muscle during fat loss.3rd
- Muscle growth or maintenance: Keeping protein levels high and exercising can help you build and maintain important muscle mass over time, especially as you get older.4.5
- Better strength: Higher amounts of protein in combination with exercise can also contribute to strength gains.6
- Improved immune function: Proteins are the building blocks of antibodies and fulfill various functions in the immune system. People with protein deficiency are more prone to viral and bacterial infections.
- Faster recovery from exercises: Higher protein intakes help repair damaged tissue during exercise after an injury.6
Whole food protein is ideal.
Why is whole foods protein superior? This is mainly because it is packed with other nutrients: vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, zoonutrients, etc., depending on the source. (If you’re not sure which whole foods are good sources of protein, Here is a helpful guide.)
No supplement can exactly mimic these combinations or their synergistic effects. And when food is processed into protein powder, certain nutrients can be stripped and others added – which can sometimes be beneficial and sometimes not.
Protein powder, of course does digest faster than whole foods. This would be an advantage if you tried to quickly flood your muscles with protein after your workout.
This is an approach called Nutrient timing– or eating certain nutrients at strategic times – and it was all the rage in the early 2000s. As research progressed, the benefits of protein shakes immediately after training turned out to be less important than we once thought.
For most people, the most important thing is: The amount of protein you eat regularly throughout the day – not exactly when you eat it.
That doesn’t mean that nutrient timing is completely wrong. There is certainly evidence that timing of proteins (and carbohydrates) is important in some situations.7
But if you’re not a top athlete, or you’re not aiming for extreme fat loss or muscle building, you don’t have to worry about when to get your protein.
Why Use Protein Powder?
Whole protein is best, but it’s not always possible to get all the protein you need from whole foods. Ultimately, there are two important reasons why you should consider adding protein powder to your diet.
Reason # 1: convenience: In some cases, people just don’t have time (or just don’t want to) to sit down and eat a whole meal. This can happen if a person:
- Very busy with the work, Care or other responsibilities
- Strive for a very high protein requirement and has no time / desire to eat so much whole protein
- Transition to a plant-based diet and still figure out their preferred whole foods protein sources
- To attempt Reach protein targets while traveling or with limited food options
Reason # 2: appetite: In other cases, people don’t feel hungry enough to consume the amount of protein they need. This can happen if a person:
- Trying to gain weight and struggles to increase their intake
- Sick and has lost their desire to eat
- The aim is to improve athletic performance and relaxation, but doesn’t feel hungry enough to meet their nutritional needs
These reasons are all completely legitimate.
But you don’t need protein powder to be healthy. It is a complement, no essential food group.
If you want to use it, 20-40 grams of protein per day (usually 1-2 scoops) of protein powder is a reasonable amount. For most people, 80 grams per day (about 3-4 scoops) is a good upper limit for the additional protein intake.
This is not a fixed rule, just a general guideline.
The main reason: it is excessive for most people to consume more than 80 grams of protein powder, as it displaces whole food sources that provide the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that we need.
There are of course some exceptions, for example for people who have difficulty gaining weight.
How to choose a protein powder
If you’ve decided that protein powder is right for you (or your customer), here are some considerations that you can use to evaluate all of your options and choose an appropriate one.
Question 1: What kind of protein is useful for you?
This largely depends on your personal preferences.
In addition to ethical considerations – for example whether you prefer a vegetable or animal source – you may also want to think about food intolerances and sensitivities. (More on that in a minute.)
Factor 1: protein quality
For many people, the quality of the protein source is a top priority. When evaluating quality, there is a lot of talk about complete and incomplete proteins.
Proteins are made up of amino acidsthat are like different colored Legos. They can be put together in different ways to serve different purposes in the body.
In total, your body uses 20 different amino acids.
There are seven of these amino acids non-essential amino acids. This is because your body can create them yourself.
There are also four requires essential amino acidsthat your body can do, but not always. For example, it could be harder for your body to get enough of it when you are sick or after hard exercise.
The other nine amino acids are known as essential amino acids (EAAs). Your body cannot make them, so you need to get them from food.
This is important because EAAs play a key role in building and repairing tissues such as muscles, but also in building hormones, enzymes and neurotransmitters.
Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), a subcategory of EAAs, are particularly important for their role in muscle protein synthesis.
Muscle protein synthesis is the process by which your body repairs and builds muscle after exercise. While muscle protein synthesis is much more complicated than just an amino acid, leucine plays a vital role in triggering the process, making it probably the best known BCAA.
A complete protein contains sufficient amounts of all nine EAAs. Incomplete proteins missing or low in one or more EAAs.
That’s why we took the time to explain all of this: people sometimes fear that if they choose plant-based protein sources, they won’t get all EAAs.
This is because many vegetable proteins contain little or no specific amino acids.
For example, pea protein is low in EAA methionine. However, you can cover all of your protein needs as long as you eat a variety of other vegetable protein sources throughout the day. For example, tofu, Brazil nuts, and white beans are good sources of methionine.
In addition, some vegetable proteins – such as soy protein and a pea-rice mixture – offer a complete EAA profile.
Supplement companies often make blends of different vegetable proteins to ensure that all EAAs are contained in optimal amounts.
Let’s take a closer look at this: protein digestibility
In addition to complete and incomplete proteins, there are several other methods that scientists use to assess protein quality.
The main measures that scientists are studying are digestibility and bioavailability, or how well your body is able to use a certain type of protein. This can vary depending on the amino acid composition of a protein and other factors.
The Protein digestibility corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) is a measure of how much of a particular protein is really digestible. The highest possible score is 1.0. And the higher the score, the higher the protein quality. (Read this if you want to learn more about how PDCAAS is calculated.)
Some prefer a different scale because it may provide a more accurate picture of bioavailability: Digestible essential amino acid score (DIAAS). Similar to PDCAAS, the higher the score, the higher the protein.8th
This is how several common protein powders are stacked according to these standards:
|Whey protein isolate||1.00||1.09|
|Whey protein concentrate||1.00||0.983|
|Milk protein concentrate||1.00||1.18|
|Hydrolyzed collagen and beef protein isolate||0.00||0.00|
|Bone broth protein||0.00||0.00|
|Soy protein concentrate||0.99||0.92|
|Soy protein isolate||0.98||0.90|
|Pea protein concentrate||0.89||0.82|
|Rice protein concentrate||0.37||0.42|
|Hemp protein||0.63||N / A* *|
|Rice / pea mixture||1.00** **.||N / A* *|
* Because DIAAS is a recent measure of protein quality, some values are unknown.
** A 70:30 mixture of pea and rice protein is very similar to whey protein, but the ratios vary depending on the manufacturer.
As you can see, animal proteins (with the exception of collagen and broth protein) tend to have higher values than vegetable proteins.
Similar to choosing protein from incomplete protein sources, this doesn’t mean that a protein powder doesn’t have a bad option just because it doesn’t have a PDCAAS of 1.0 or lower DIAAS. It can still be useful as long as you get a variety of protein sources throughout the day.
Factor 2: vegetable vs. animal protein
Animal protein options can be divided into two categories: milk-based and other animal protein sources.
Milk-based protein powder
The most popular and best studied protein powders are made from milk. They are all complete sources of protein.
whey is usually recommended for post-workout shakes as it is an incredibly high quality protein that is quickly digestible and high in BCAAs. You will often see whey protein in concentrated, isolated and hydrolyzed formulas. (More about what they mean in a moment – or you can jump straight to our section on Protein processing.)
casein is often touted as the best type of protein powder to have at bedtime because it digests more slowly. You can find it mainly in two forms: micellar casein (an isolate) and hydrolyzed casein. Because hydrolyzed casein is more processed and theoretically digested faster, the purpose of choosing a slowly digestible protein is negated.
Milk protein mixtures usually contain both whey and casein and are marketed as the “best of both worlds”. The reason: they provide both quickly and slowly digestible protein.
They are usually shown on the label as milk protein concentrate or milk protein isolate. They may also be listed separately, e.g. B. whey protein isolate and micellar casein.
Some brands also sell mixtures of concentrate and isolate of the same type of protein. For example, you can see both whey concentrate and whey isolate in the ingredients list.
Although this can be marketed as an advantage, it is largely a cost-saving measure by the manufacturer. (Whey isolate is more expensive to produce than concentrate.) There is no data to support the claim that this formulation offers an advantage.
If you choose between whey and casein: select the one you want or choose a mixture.
Both are well researched, which means that they are reliable decisions. Again, your total protein intake throughout the day is most important. For most people, the differences in the rate of digestion or absorption are probably not an important factor.
Of course, if you are allergic to dairy products, these are not good options for you. If you are sensitive or intolerant of certain dairy products, you may find that you can tolerate whey but not casein, or vice versa.
Other animal protein powders
For those who cannot or do not want to use dairy products, there are various other types of animal protein powder.
protein Protein is often a great option for those who prefer an ovo-vegetarian (dairy-free) source of complete protein.
Collagen is currently very popular as a dietary supplement for skin, joints, bones and intestines. Collagen peptides, the most common form of collagen in dietary supplements, are usually derived from bovine skin or fish. Some people also use it to increase their protein intake, and there are some collagen powders that are specifically marketed as protein supplements.
This is somewhat ironic since collagen was considered a “junk” protein until the early 2010s. This is partly because collagen is not a source of complete protein.12 It has also not been studied well as a protein supplement.
Collagen can have several advantages. Type II collagen in particular can support joint health when taken with vitamin C.13 But it is not ideal as a source of protein. The quality varies and there are some concerns about heavy metal contamination. Therefore it is particularly important to search Options tested by third parties.
Meat based Powders are often made from beef, but usually have an amino acid profile similar to collagen. That is, they are generally incomplete, lower quality proteins. On the other hand, some research has shown that beef protein isolate is as effective as muscle whey protein powder for increasing muscle mass.14.15 However, further research is required.
bone broth Protein is made by cooking bones, tendons, and ligaments under high pressure to produce a broth. Then it is concentrated to a powder. Much of the protein in the bone broth comes from collagen. Similar to collagen peptides, it is not a complete source of protein.
Bone broth powder can be helpful to increase protein intake if you don’t have common allergens like dairy and soy. However, it is not ideal for use as a protein powder. This is particularly true because bone broth protein is generally expensive and has not been well studied for use as a protein additive.
Vegetable protein powder
Not all vegetable proteins are complete proteins. We’ll tell you which ones are complete and incomplete, but just a friendly reminder: as long as you eat a varied diet with a mix of different protein sources, you’ll get all the amino acids you need.
soy Protein is effective in promoting muscle growth and it is also a complete protein. In fact, research shows that soy protein supplementation in response to strength training causes gains in strength and muscle mass similar to whey protein.16
It has also been the subject of much controversy, especially when it comes to hormonal health. However, research shows that soy foods and isoflavone (bioactive compounds found in soy) have no effect on testosterone in men.17th
There is also evidence that soy does not increase the risk of breast cancer in women.18th While more research is needed in this area, soy does not appear to have any harmful effects on thyroid health.19th (If you want to delve deeper into soy, here’s what you will find: More info.)
Soy is a fairly common allergen, so this can also play a role in your decision.
pea Protein is highly digestible, hypoallergenic and usually inexpensive. It is rich in the amino acids lysine, arginine and glutamine. As already mentioned, although the EAA methionine level is low, it is not a complete protein.20th
rice Protein is also a good choice for hypoallergenic proteins and is usually relatively inexpensive. It contains little amino acid lysine and is therefore not a complete source of protein.20th
hemp Protein powder is made by grinding hemp seeds, making it a great choice for whole foods. Because of this, it is high in fiber and a source of omega-3 fats. But like rice protein, hemp is low in lysine and therefore an incomplete protein.11
Mixtures are common among vegetable protein powders. They are often used to create a more robust amino acid profile because different protein sources contain different amounts of each amino acid. For example, rice and pea protein are often combined.
Factor 3: processing method and quality
Protein powders are made by various processing methods and come in various forms, including concentrates, isolates, and hydrolyzates.
Let’s take a closer look at the individual processing methods.
Concentrates: Protein is extracted from animal or vegetable foods using high heat and acid or enzymes. Concentrates are the least processed and can contain 35 to 80 weight percent protein.21st A protein percentage of 70 to 80 percent is generally the most common (although this can be lower especially with plant proteins).
The remaining percentage consists of carbohydrates and fats. So if you don’t mind consuming extra calories from non-protein sources, protein concentrate might be a good option for you.
Isolates: Protein isolates go through an additional filtration process that reduces the amount of fat and carbohydrates and leaves 90 weight percent or more protein. This makes them digestible a little faster, although there is no evidence that this leads to improved recovery, muscle growth or fat loss.
Since isolates typically contain a little less fat and carbohydrates than concentrates, they may be a slightly better choice for those who carefully limit their fat or carbohydrate intake or are willing to pay more for potential added benefit, even if not proven is.
Whey, casein and milk protein isolates can also be a little better for people with lactose intolerance, since a lot of the lactose is removed through more processing.
Protein hydrolyzates: In order to manufacture this product, protein is also processed with heat, enzymes or acid, which further breaks down the protein chains into shorter peptides.
The idea is that this additional processing and the resulting shorter chains make protein hydrolyzates even easier to digest and absorb. Therefore, they are usually marketed to people who want to build muscle and drink protein shakes during their workout.
Although this process makes sense in theory, the evidence that hydrolysates are better than isolates for this purpose is far from clear.
However, since hydrolysates are essentially digested due to their processing – they contain even less lactose – they can relieve the GI tract for some people.
However, hydrolyzates have some disadvantages. First, they tend to have a bitter taste, which generally requires a significant amount of sweeteners and / or sugar added to mask.
Second, whey protein concentrates and “non-ionized” isolates retain bioactive microfractions that can improve digestion, mood, and immune function. Whey hydrolysates (and “ionized isolates”) do not contain these bioactive microfractions. (Casein also appears to have some of these bioactive microfractions, but is less well studied in this area.)
Depending on your budget, the price can also be a disadvantage of hydrolysates. The more a protein powder is processed, the more expensive it is normally.
Factor 4: intolerance and sensitivity
If you have a known food intolerance or sensitivity, you should avoid protein powders that contain these ingredients. For example, if you can’t tolerate eggs and dairy products, you’re probably better off with a vegetable protein powder.
If you are prone to digestive problems, better processed options like isolates and hydrolyzates are usually more gentle on the stomach.
It is also not uncommon for indigestion to occur after using a new protein powder. This can happen for various reasons. Use the following checklist to get to the bottom of it.
- ingredients: The protein powder you selected may contain ingredients that you are sensitive to, or it may be processed in a way that does not suit you. For this reason, it’s a good idea to check the ingredient label (we’ll explain how below). You may need to try out a few different options before you find the right protein powder for you.
- Total diet: Your body’s reaction to a protein powder may also depend on what you have eaten that day. For example, many people can tolerate a certain amount of lactose, but as soon as they cross their threshold, symptoms appear. If your protein powder contains lactose, it could push you over the edge.
- amount: It can also be a question of quantity. Men are sometimes instructed to use two scoops of protein powder instead of one. For some people, this can simply be too much at once for their digestive tract to be able to handle it optimally. Others could make 1500 calorie shakes to gain weight. Most people would have a hard time digesting that. So it can be helpful to experiment with smaller amounts.
- speed: Drinking too quickly can swallow excess air, which can irritate your stomach. And if you drink a shake with many different ingredients, your GI tract needs time to process it. Slowerand you may find that it is easier to digest.
Question 2: What other ingredients does the protein powder contain?
While sweeteners, flavors, and thickeners are common in protein powders, some contain more than others.
There are exceptions, but you generally want to look for protein powders with fewer ingredients. However, guidelines such as “Look for foods with fewer than five ingredients” do not necessarily apply to protein powder.
Here you can see the most common ingredients of protein powders and their meaning.
Since the ingredients are listed by weight, the protein source should be the first article listed. Usually it contains the name of the protein source (milk, whey, casein, soy, hemp) and the processing method (concentrate, isolate, hydrolyzate). With protein powders for whole foods, you may see something like “hemp seed powder”.
Flavored protein powders contain a kind of sweetener. Most of the time you will see:
- Nutrient sweetenerssuch as honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, cane sugar, molasses and agave. Based on the sugar content, you can immediately see whether a product contains nutritious or “natural” sweeteners. Ideally, choose a protein powder with less than 5 grams of sugar per serving (especially if your goal is fat loss or better overall health).
- Non-nutritious / high-intensity sweetenerssuch as sucralose, aspartame, saccharin and acesulfame potassium. These are the same sweeteners that are included in diet soda. So you can not tell from the sugar content whether a protein powder contains them. You need to check the ingredient label.
According to the FDA, stevia and monk fruit extracts are not nutritious sweeteners, although they are sometimes listed and marketed as “natural” sweeteners.22 This can be frustrating for consumers, as supplement companies sometimes advertise that their products contain “no artificial sweeteners” but contain monk fruit extract or stevia. Since the FDA does not regulate this term, it is important to review the list of ingredients if you want to avoid all non-nutritious sweeteners.
- Sugar alcoholssuch as sorbitol, maltitol and erythritol. This is another calorie-free option that is made up of sugar and alcohol molecules – though this isn’t the type of alcohol that causes poisoning. Because sugar alcohols act like fiber in the body, people who are sensitive to FODMAPs they can cause indigestion.
- Refined sugarLike sucrose and high fructose corn syrup, they are less common in protein powders. However, if you’re watching your refined sugar intake, it may be worth checking to see if they’re on the ingredient list.
Flavored protein powders also contain flavorings, which are sometimes listed as specific ingredients. Meistens werden sie auf dem Etikett vage als Aromen, künstliche Aromen oder natürliche Aromen dargestellt.
Künstliche Aromen gelten im Allgemeinen als sicher, wenn sie in den vorgesehenen Mengen verzehrt werden, beispielsweise in geringen Mengen, die in Proteinpulvern enthalten sind.23
Die einzige Ausnahme wäre, wenn Sie eine Allergie gegen einen bestimmten Inhaltsstoff haben. Wenn ein natürlicher Geschmack einen oder mehrere der acht Hauptnahrungsmittelallergenemuss es in den Zutaten aufgeführt sein. Wenn Sie jedoch eine Allergie haben, die nicht zu den acht Hauptallergenen gehört, ist es wichtig zu wissen, dass sie nicht auf dem Etikett aufgeführt sein muss.
Proteinpulver enthalten häufig Substanzen, die die Masse für einen dickeren Protein-Shake bereitstellen. Diese umfassen im Allgemeinen Flohsamenschale, Dextrine, Xanthan / Guar-Gummi und Inulin.
Diese sind in kleinen Mengen sicher, so dass manche Menschen Proteinpulver ohne sie bevorzugen, aber Verdickungsmittel auf dem Inhaltsstoffetikett sollten keine Bedenken hervorrufen.
Emulgatoren und Anti-Klumpen-Inhaltsstoffe
Vollwert-Proteinpulver verklumpen normalerweise mehr, wodurch sie weniger ideal zum Mischen von Hand sind. Dies liegt häufig daran, dass ihnen Antiverklumpungsbestandteile und Emulgatoren (die ein cremiges Mundgefühl vermitteln) wie Carrageenan, Lecithine, Carboxymethylcellulose und Siliziumdioxid fehlen.
Ähnlich wie bei Verdickungsmitteln haben sich kleine Mengen dieser Inhaltsstoffe als sicher erwiesen.
Pflanzenöle können auch für eine cremigere Textur hinzugefügt werden. Sie sind sicher, solange sie keine hydrierten oder teilweise hydrierten Öle (auch Transfette genannt) sind. Sie möchten Transfette so weit wie möglich vermeiden, da sie gesundheitsschädliche Auswirkungen haben können, wie z. B. einen Anstieg des LDL-Cholesterins (Low Density Lipoprotein) und einen Rückgang des HDL-Cholesterins (High Density Lipoprotein).
Bestimmte Verdickungsmittel und Antiverklumpungsbestandteile dienen auch als Konservierungsmittel, damit Proteinpulver lagerstabil bleiben.
Einige Proteinpulver enthalten zusätzliche Zusätze wie Kreatin, zusätzliche BCAAs, Omega-3- und 6-Fettsäuren, Verdauungsenzyme und Probiotika.
Diese werden von Vermarktern häufig als Mehrwert angepriesen. Wir wissen jedoch nicht, wie gut diese Nährstoffe zusammen mit Proteinpulver wirken.
Darüber hinaus enthalten die Hersteller diese zusätzlichen Ergänzungsmittel häufig in unzureichenden Mengen. Daher ist es im Allgemeinen besser, eine zusätzliche Ergänzung zu suchen, als sie in Ihrem Proteinpulver zu suchen.
Wenn Sie beispielsweise Kreatin ausprobieren möchten, ist es besser, es als separat formulierte Ergänzung zu verwenden. (Obwohl es in Ordnung wäre, sie zusammen im selben Shake zu konsumieren.)
Reinheit und Qualität: Wie Sie feststellen können, ob ein Proteinpulver „sauber“ und sicher ist
In Labortests wurde gezeigt, dass einige Proteinpulver mit Schwermetallen kontaminiert sind. Angesichts dieser Informationen ist es natürlich fraglich, ob Proteinpulver sicher sind.
Je nachdem, wo Sie leben, können Nahrungsergänzungsmittel eine regulierte Branche sein oder auch nicht. Daher ist es wichtig, die Ergänzungsbestimmungen in Ihrem Land oder Ihrer Region zu verstehen.
Während beispielsweise in Kanada und Europa die Vorschriften viel strenger sind, prüft die Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in den USA nicht die Wirksamkeit, Sicherheit oder Reinheit von Nahrungsergänzungsmitteln.
Dies bedeutet, dass die Angaben auf dem Zutatenetikett möglicherweise nicht mit den Angaben in der Ergänzung übereinstimmen.
Die meisten Supplement-Unternehmen verkaufen nicht absichtlich falsche Supplements (obwohl dies passiert). Die Hauptsorge ist, dass Nahrungsergänzungsmittel mit anderen Substanzen wie Schwermetallen (wie Blei) oder schädlichen Chemikalien kontaminiert sein könnten, und in vielen Fällen würde es niemand wissen – nicht einmal die Unternehmen, die sie herstellen.
It’s also important for competing athletes to know exactly what’s in their supplements, including protein powder, on the off-chance it might contain a banned substance. No protein supplement is worth a disqualification after months of training.
Because of the varying levels of regulation, it’s a good idea to choose third-party tested supplements when possible—particularly if you live somewhere with less pre-market testing.
NSF International does the most comprehensive third-party certification/testing of nutritional supplements for sport. In fact, here at PN, we advise our coaches and clients—even those who aren’t necessarily athletes—to use supplements that have been certified by NSF because of their high standards.
USP is also a reputable third-party tester.
Another organization, LGC Group, runs an independent drug surveillance laboratory providing doping control and banned substance testing for supplements through the Informed-Sport and Informed-Choice programs.
Products that have been tested by these organizations usually clearly state this on their websites and often on their product packaging. These organizations also have databases of approved supplements to choose from.
An important note: Third-party tested protein powders may be more expensive. This is partially because the testing process is quite expensive. At the same time, investing in third-party testing shows that a supplement company is committed to protecting the health and reputation of their customers.
While it’s preferable to opt for a validated supplement, if third-party tested options are outside of your price range, another option is to visit ConsumerLab or LabDoor. These websites are devoted to reviewing purity and label claims for a variety of nutritional supplements on the market today.
Other ingredient concerns
Much like other foods and supplements, protein powders are often marketed with buzzwords like “organic” and “grass-fed.” When choosing a protein supplement, it’s important to understand what these labels truly mean, so you can decide whether or not they’re important to you.
People often prefer organic products to non-organic ones because of concerns about pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, genetic engineering, and chemical fertilizers. (You can read more about organic foods and standards here.)
The most recent evidence suggests there may be potential health benefits with consumption of organic foods. However, it’s still too early to conclude that organic food is safer and or more nutritious than conventional food.24,25
So ultimately, whether or not you choose organic comes down to a matter of personal preference.
If you do opt for an organic protein powder, look for the official organic seal of your country or region.
For certain types of protein, such as whey, casein, and beef isolate, being grass-fed is also seen as a plus. Grass-fed cattle only eat grass and forage, with the exception of milk prior to weaning. Certified grass-fed animals cannot be fed grain or grain byproducts and must have continuous access to pasture.26
Grass-fed meats are often touted for their health benefits, as they contain more omega-3 fatty acids than non-grass-fed meats, so the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is superior. But because there’s very little fat in most protein powders, this benefit doesn’t necessarily translate from whole food to protein powder.
Also, grass-fed products may still be treated with growth hormone and antibiotics, so if that’s a concern, opting for a certified organic protein powder is a better option.
Finally, if the health and treatment of the animals themselves is important to you, choosing a product that comes from a certified humane producer is your best bet. A product being marked grass-fed and/or antibiotic-free doesn’t automatically mean it was produced humanely.
Question #3: How does protein powder fit into your diet?
Lastly, you’ll want to think about how your protein powder fits into the overall context of your diet.
Be mindful of your goal.
Here’s what you might want to consider depending on your goals, and what you’re hoping to get out of your protein shake.
► Weight loss / fat loss: If you’re looking to lose fat, pay attention to the protein-to-calorie ratio of your protein powder. The best protein powder for weight loss will be higher in protein and lower in carbs and fat, since the latter two macronutrients will be more satisfying coming from whole foods.
► Muscle gain: To put on muscle, look for a protein powder with a high protein-to-calorie ratio, as the main goal is to consume adequate overall protein. If you’re struggling to get adequate overall calories, a protein powder that’s also rich in carbohydrates can be helpful around workouts.
► Weight gain: For those who are looking to gain any type of weight—most often this is due to illness that reduces appetite—consider powders that are high in protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Particularly if you won’t be getting much other nutrition, it’s important to get all three.
► Meal replacement: If you plan to use your protein shake as a meal replacement, it’s important to get some other nutrients in there, too. While there are protein powders that come with additional nutrients built-in, we recommend making your own Super Shake instead by incorporating fruit, vegetables, a source of healthy fats, and possibly more. That way, you get all the whole-food benefits of these ingredients.
► Recovery/athletic performance: There are a variety of suggested ratios of carbohydrate and protein intake post-exercise to maximize recovery, but there isn’t much evidence showing any particular ratio is optimal. A protein powder with a 2:1 or 3:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio might be beneficial, but ultimately your total macronutrient and calorie intake for the day is the most important determining factor in athletic recovery.6
If you’re an athlete competing in multiple events in one day, consuming a beverage with 30 to 45 grams of carbs, 15 grams of protein, and electrolytes (sodium and potassium) in 600 mL (20 ounces) water for every hour of activity could help with recovery and performance.
Consider how much taste matters to you.
It’s important to choose a protein powder that you’re likely to consume consistently. Enjoying the way it tastes is one way to help ensure that. Of course, the best-tasting protein powder option varies from person to person.
Factors you might want to be mindful of when deciding on a protein powder:
Mixability and texture
Mesh count refers to how fine a protein powder is, which can impact how easily it will mix by hand in a shaker bottle. You won’t be able to see this information on the label, but sometimes you can tell by looking at the powder or touching it.
Plant-based protein powders tend to have a grittier or chalkier texture, which means they often taste better when blended using an electric blender (rather than a shaker cup). Blending with a creamier liquid, such as plant milk, or adding higher-fat items like yogurt and nut butters to your shake can also help smooth out a chalky protein powder. (For ideas on how to make your protein powder taste better, try these flavorful smoothie recipes.)
More highly-processed powders, such as isolates and hydrolysates, are more likely to have a smoother texture.
Some people are especially sensitive to the taste of artificial flavors and non-nutritive sweeteners. If that describes you, look for a protein powder made with nutritive sweeteners and/or natural flavors.
Unflavored protein powder may also be a good option if you don’t like artificial flavors, or simply prefer the flavor of whole foods. You can use unflavored protein powder in a variety of ways including:
- Blended in Super Shakes with other flavorful ingredients
- Baked into muffins, cookies, and even granola bars
- Stirred into oatmeal, pudding, soups, and pancake batter
Flavored protein powders also work in many of these non-shake options. (Try this recipe for homemade protein bars that can be made with flavored or unflavored protein powder.)
As we already mentioned, you may have to experiment with a few different flavors and brands before finding the right protein powder for you.
Before you commit to a large package, try to get a sample pack of the protein powder. Larger nutrition supplement companies usually offer these.
If the powder you want to try isn’t available in a single-serve pack, you might be able to get a sample from a local supplement shop, if you ask nicely.
Protein powder isn’t a nutrition essential.
But it is a useful tool.
And here at Precision Nutrition, we’re all about picking the right tool for the job.
So if you’re struggling to meet your protein goals—whether because of convenience or appetite—then protein powder may be exactly what you need.
It’s worth noting you may have to do some experimenting before you find the right one. Our advice: pick one and stick with it for two weeks, and treat this time period like an experiment.
Pay attention to how you feel, and note any changes. Do you have more energy than before? Are you experiencing new, weird digestive issues? Are you feeling less hungry in the hours after your workout? Consider how these changes might be getting you closer to—or further away from—your goals.
If the changes are positive, you may have found your winner. If not, try a different flavor, brand or type of protein.
In the end, choosing the best protein powder for You ultimately comes down to asking the right questions, then experimenting with different options.
And that advice? It’s solid not just for picking a protein powder, but pretty much any decision in the world of nutrition.
If you are or want to be a trainer …
Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s rooted in science and personalized for their unique body, preferences, and lifestyle—is both an art and a science.
If you want to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 certification. The next group kicks off shortly.
Worum geht es?
The Precision Nutrition Level 1 certification is das weltweit angesehenste Ernährungserziehungsprogramm. It gives you the knowledge, systems, and tools you need to really understand how food influences a person’s health and fitness. Plus the ability to turn that knowledge into a thriving coaching practice.
Developed over 15 years, and proven with over 100,000 clients and patients, the Level 1 curriculum stands alone as the authority on the science of nutrition and the art of coaching.
Whether you’re already mid-career, or just starting out, the Level 1 Certification is your springboard to a deeper understanding of nutrition, the Authority to coach it, and the Ability to turn what you know into results.
[Ofcourseifyou’re[Ofcourseifyou’re[Ofcourseifyou’re[Ofcourseifyou’realready a student or graduate of the Level 1 certification, check out our Level 2 Certification Master Class. It’s an exclusive, year-long mentorship designed for elite professionals looking to master the art of coaching and be part of the top 1% of health and fitness coaches in the world.]
Interested? Add your name to the presale list. You save up to 30% and secure your place 24 hours before everyone else.
We will be opening our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 certification on Wednesday, October 7th, 2020.
Wenn Sie mehr erfahren möchten, haben wir Folgendes eingerichtet Presale list, which gives you two advantages.
- Pay less than everyone else. We want to reward people who want to improve their skills and who are willing to commit to the training they need. Therefore we offer you a discount of up to 30% on the general price sign up for the presale list.
- Register 24 hours in front of the public and increase your chances of getting a place. Wir öffnen das Zertifizierungsprogramm nur zweimal pro Jahr. Due to the high demand, places in the program are limited and sold out within a few hours in the past. But when you sign up for the presale list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.
If you’re ready for a deeper understanding of nutrition, the Authority to coach it, and the Ability to turn what you know into results… This is your chance to see what the world’s leading professional nutrition coaching system can do for you.
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