If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me this….
It’s a loaded question. Many factors determine what type of protein one should buy, how much they should consume, etc.
First, ask yourself three questions:
1. Why do I want protein?
2. How am I going to use it?
3. Do I know what it will help me with?
Thanks to recent marketing tactics, some people think eating protein is akin to a magical “skinny” pill. Now, I do love that people feel they should eat more of it, but, should they? How much? Marketers turned “protein” as a buzz word, just like “gluten free” tags on health food items. Sure, that granola may have “protein” but what about the sugar in it? What about the carbs and fat?
In my opinion, adding protein into one’s diet, specifically in supplement form, should be done in one of three ways:
1. as a post workout snack
2. with a meal or in a meal (not just by itself)
3. as a snack, paired with some other carb or fat
Simply eating protein without a purpose is like doing a bunch of jumping jacks for no reason, or doing bicep curls all day.
Use protein as a tool in your diet. If you are not getting enough protein daily, drinking some in a shake is great idea. If you are trying to put on muscle, definitely add more protein into your diet and consume it after a lifting session to help the body repair the muscles.
If your goal is to gain muscle mass, some people try and aim to intake one gram of protein per one pound of bodyweight on the scale. Use this as a guideline with caution and do your own research. Different ratios work differently depending on the person– more on this later.
There are many ways to add protein in, but before we go there, let’s talk about HOW to pick the right one.
1. Pick the one with fewest ingredients (in my opinion).
I rotate between raw protein powders from Whole Foods, Jay Robb Protein powder in whey or egg white form (seven ingredients, at GNC), or Tripact which has added green super foods at GNC.
2. Pick one that does not contain things you are allergic to.
If you are GF, make sure your protein is too. Also, there are ways to get lactose free protein powders, vegan powders, soy protein, etc.
3. If you are trying to add more mass (and want the “top-of-the-line” product, that is very processed), try an Isolate.
Any type of whey isolate is the “purest” form; thus it will have no carbs, sugar or fat. However, with this pure form, to make a good taste, manufacturers have to add flavors more often then not, which will also be processed. Body builders rely on this stuff. Remember what your goal is… if it is sustainable nutrition long term, drinking expensive isolates every day may not be the right decision for you.
4. Consider how you will consume it.
I have always only used whey concentrate protein in a shake which I blend at home. This means I use water, spinach, kale, a fruit or a fat (sometimes both), and almond milk WITH the protein. Until recently, when I found Tripact, (which tastes amazing and has green super foods added), I never drank protein and water together plain in a shaker. It did not fill me up enough and I did not like the taste.
If you are going to drink it in a meal like I do for breakfast or dinner, get one with few ingredients and don’t over think it– any whey concentrate vanilla or chocolate flavor will work, just shoot for one with 20g of protein per serving at least.
If you are drinking it on its own, you may need to test try a few. Ask for samples, buy individual packets, and return it if necessary.
5. Avoid protein powders:
with high amounts of sugar (stay below 7g)
with sucralose (research shows this artificial sweetener is not good for you)
with fake coloring
with more than 12-15 ingredients max
6. use what will work best for your goal
If you want more protein in a general sense, you can do what I do an add it into your breakfast shake or oatmeal. If you want a lot of supplemental protein perhaps to build mass, taking it in an isolate form as a snack in addition to other meals and your regular snack, that’s another thing.
It matters what type you choose, too, based on your goal. For example, some of body builders consume casein protein in addition to concentrates and isolates for its specific benefits. To me, casein protein tastes like whole milk does–heavy. Typically body builders take it at night because it is slow digesting. I used to choke down casein powder mixed with PB2 and truvia as my “desert.” Some research shows that casein helps with muscle retention and more fat loss. If anything I think it is good to mix it up if you enjoy it.
If you are dairy free, try egg white protein powders, or the raw powders, they work well if you are trying to increase your protein intake.
Think about why you really want to buy protein as a supplement first, and then explore what might be the best option! These things take time!