Protein is an essential macronutrient, but lots of people don’t get enough of it. If you’re someone who exercises regularly, it’s especially important to get a sufficient amount of protein in your diet.
Whether you’re trying to build muscle or just trying to maintain the muscle mass you already have, a high-quality protein powder can help you make sure you’re consuming a sufficient amount.
Read on for some great tips that will help you choose the best protein powder.
What is Protein?
You know that protein is essential for survival. Here are some other important things to know about this macronutrient:
- Protein is made up of 20 amino acids
- Of these amino acids, 11 are produced naturally in the body
- 9 others must be obtained from food: Histidine, Valine, Isoleucine, Tryptophan, Threonine, Leucine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, and Lysine
Foods that contain the greatest amounts of protein include meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, and legumes like beans and peanuts.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
Although there are many people who don’t get enough protein, there are also those who think that they need to consume a ton of it to see results in the gym.
The ideal amount of protein to consume for performance and muscle gain is somewhere between 1.3 and 1.8 grams per kilogram (.5-.8 grams per pound) of body weight.
Eating more than this doesn’t appear to have any significant benefits. In fact, it may actually cause health issues like dehydration and kidney damage.
Types of Protein Powder
There are many different forms of protein powder on the market. Before you can decide what the best protein powder is for you, it’s important to know what options you have:
Whey protein is one of two proteins found in dairy products. It’s quickly absorbed and is a complete protein. This means it contains all nine of the essential amino acids that the body needs for optimum muscle growth and maintenance.
Casein protein is another type of protein that comes from dairy. It is similar to whey protein, but it is digested more slowly. This slow digestion is good for fullness, but it’s not as ideal for post-workout recovery since it takes longer to be absorbed by the body.
Soy protein is a good option for people who cannot tolerate dairy or who are vegan. It is a plant-based protein that is low in fat (some soy proteins are also fat-free).
Rice protein is another good plant-based option, but it does not contain as many amino acids. It is ideal for people who have lots of food allergies, though. It also contains fiber, complex carbohydrates, and B vitamins.
Pea protein is another good option for people with dairy or soy allergies. Of all the plant-based protein options, pea protein comes closest to being a complete protein.
Hemp protein comes from the cannabis plant. It’s very hypoallergenic and is a good source of B vitamins, vitamin D3, and other minerals. It’s a safe option for vegans, but it is not a complete protein.
How to Choose the Best Protein Powder
When you start looking for the best protein powder for you, it’s important to ask yourself the following questions:
1. What are My Dietary Needs?
If you have food allergies or intolerances, make sure you take those into account when you choose your protein powder. You don’t want to spend a lot of money on a powder, only to find that your body doesn’t tolerate it.
Remember, too, that it’s not healthy to consume multiple protein shakes every single day for an extended period of time.
Protein powder is great to add to your diet if you’re having a hard time getting enough protein from whole foods. But, make sure you’re not relying solely on protein powder to meet your daily intake. It should be used as a supplement in addition to meat, eggs, and legumes.
2. What Claims is This Manufacturer Making?
Before you buy protein powder from a particular company, it’s important to look at their claims and research their credibility.
Look beyond the company’s Instagram marketing and find out what unpaid people are saying about their products. Are they generally satisfied? Or are they complaining about the flavor or quality of the supplements?
Lots of companies hype up their products and make unrealistic claims about what their protein powders will do for you. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
3. Is This a Quality Product?
Some companies overcharge for subpar products. But, lots of others take the opposite approach and offer cheap protein supplements that also won’t give you the results you’re looking for.
If a product is significantly cheaper than other options, you can assume that it’s not the real deal.
4. Is This Protein Powder Full of Questionable Ingredients?
Another way to determine whether or not you’re buying a high-quality product is to take a look at the ingredient list. The list should be relatively short and made up of ingredients that you can pronounce.
It’s especially important to avoid the following ingredients, which can cause inflammation and negatively affect your digestion:
- Artificial sweeteners, especially Splenda, sucralose, aspartame, and xylitol
- Dextrins and/or maltodextrin
- Milk solids and skim milk powders
- Vegetable fats and oils
- Thickeners like xanthan gum
- Fillers like coconut flour and psyllium
Some people can tolerate these kinds of ingredients in small quantities. But, they’re not ideal to consume on a daily basis, which is how most people tend to consume protein powders.
Make sure you also do your research to find out if your protein contains heavy metals like lead, arsenic, and mercury. When consumed in large amounts, heavy metals can increase your risk of cancer and other serious illnesses.
Want to Learn More?
Now that you know how to choose the best protein powder, check out this list to learn about some of this year’s top brands.
Have more questions about living a healthy, active lifestyle?
Don’t forget to read some of our other blog posts to stay up-to-date with the latest information.