You’ve started to work out more and have become way more focused on your weight loss goals. You’ve cleaned up your diet, cut out sugar and processed foods and have really been focusing on increasing your intake of vegetables daily. But the one area where you are still lacking is your protein intake. With the increase in exercise and desire to lose weight successfully, consuming adequate protein is an important step. But with all the powders on the market, it can be daunting to walk into a store and decide, and even more so, it can be difficult to even know what you are looking for.
Here’s what you need to know about protein powders and how to choose the right one:
- Whey or Casein Powder – Perhaps one of the most common protein types, why protein comes from dairy. Dairy proteins are made up of two parts: whey and casein. Manufacturers will separate the two proteins and sell them separately, thereby creating both whey and casein powders on the market. The trick with whey powder is that it can be highly processed. There is a lot of processing required to remove the protein from the milk and then separate the two kinds, and depending on the quality of the protein you are purchasing, there can be a lot of further processing as well. If you are choosing to use whey powder, choose options that are organic, and as minimally processed as possible. Usually the list of ingredients is a good indicator of this, as more ingredients means more processing. Also be aware if you have dairy or lactose allergies, as this powder likely isn’t right for you. If you are able to tolerate dairy, whey powder is very rich in protein and is efficient in that your body is able to extract and use a larger percentage of the protein that is in the powder.
- Whey protein isolate powder – This is an even further processed form of whey powder than that of whey concentrate listed above, as it is an isolated form of whey. Sometimes touted as better because it is a more concentrated form of protein, it also requires more processing and manufacturing to get it to that stage, meaning you lose more nutrients in the process. Source your whey protein isolates from a repeatable brand or company and know what you are paying for. It is also worth noting, that if you are lactose intolerant, and prefer to use whey over plant based proteins, isolates contain less lactose and may be tolerable for people with allergies.
- Plant-based Powder – If you are looking for a dairy free protein alternative, plant-based protein powders are the way to go. And the good news is, there are several different types, so if one kind doesn’t work for you, try another. Some of the most common include pea protein, brown rice protein, hemp protein and nut and seed based proteins such as pumpkin and flax. Often, plant based protein options will also include things such as added greens, spirulina or sea algae, all of which are additional sources of protein, providing a high protein content for a small amount of product. When you are choosing plant based proteins, opt for organic, (so as to avoid GMO), and with as few added ingredients as possible.
- All-in-One Powders – Designed essentially as a smoothie or shake, where you don’t have to add anything else, all-in-one powders are often used as meal replacements and contain more carbohydrates and additional ingredients such as greens or fruit extracts, than typical protein powders. These are great for when you are working out and know you won’t be able to eat right away, but be careful of what additional ingredients are added to make it into an all-in-one. If it is simply fillers, extra sugar or a big boost of carbohydrates, it may not be that beneficial to your weight loss goals. Likewise, don’t get in the habit of using these in place of real food, or real, homemade smoothies. Eating your food in powdered form does not have near the nutritional content as does blending whole foods into your own all in one nutritional smoothie!
- Pre vs. Post workout powders – It’s easy to get overwhelmed when it comes to choosing protein because some are called pre-workout, some are called post-workout, some are called performance, some are called build up, lean out etc. etc. If you are body-building or working on gaining a lot of muscle, yes, it may be important for you to consider these different proteins at different times during training. However if you are simply looking for a protein to help fill you up, boost your recovery after workouts and ensure adequate protein intake, don’t get bogged down by all these different types. Steer clear of any that are adverstied for certain benefits and simply buy protein with natural ingredients, no additives and minimal processing.