How to Choose the Right Protein Powder for You

There's no question that humans need protein to function; athletes and fitness buffs even more so. There are a lot of great protein sources you may be eating throughout the day such as lean meats, dairy products, nuts, seeds and some veggies. But if you want to up your protein intake to support your muscles or if you are on-the-go and don’t have time to consume enough protein on a daily basis, protein powders may be a good supplement choice for you.

What Is the Best Protein Powder for You?

Which is the best protein powder out there? It depends on your nutritional needs!

Protein powders are easy carry with you in a gym bag or brief case. Mixing them with liquids makes for on-the-go smoothies that are healthy and delicious; combining them with other nutritious ingredients like your morning oats can transform a quick snack into a protein-packed meal. But not all protein powders are created equally. In fact, some do more harm than good. Here's a guide to help you select the right protein powder for you. 

Best for a Post-Workout Boost

Whey protein powder is my #1 choice for supplementing since I usually consume it for breakfast or after a tough workout. Whey protein is a fast-absorbing protein that supports lean muscle mass. It can be used any time of day but is known as being the best post-workout choice. According to the Whey Protein Institute, “Whey protein is a high-quality protein naturally found in dairy. It is a complete protein containing all of the essential amino acids (“building blocks”) your body needs and is easy to digest. Whey protein is also one of the best sources of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) including leucine, which has been shown to stimulate muscle synthesis.” 

And to that point, you want to feed your muscles protein within two hours after your workout to get the most benefit.

My pick: BiPro Whey Protein. It's unflavored, easy to digest and can be used in baking. It's my kids’ favorite choice too!

Best for Vegetarian/Vegan Diets

Pick a plant-based protein such as rice, pea or hemp. They’re safe for vegetarians and vegans as well as those with allergies to dairy, fish, nuts or eggs. Some say plant-based proteins are an acquired taste, but I haven’t had any problems when mixed with fruit, almond milk and/or juices. Some are a blend of plants, while others are just one source but they deliver protein, vitamins, minerals and often Omega-3 fatty acids.    

My pick: Vega One Vanilla Chai Tea. I mix it with almond milk and ice. I love the flavor and it includes probiotics, digestive enzymes, maca powder and chlorella!

OR

Soy protein powder is derived from soybeans, one of the only types of plant-based foods that is a complete protein source, containing all of the essential amino acids the human body needs but can't produce on its own. It’s often thought of as the most effective plant-derived source for building or maintaining muscle. Yet, the jury is still out on its potential health risks for women with a history of estrogen-related cancers and men with lower testosterone levels. If you fall into that category, be sure to consult your doctor.

If you are consuming a soy protein powder, I personally recommend an organic brand as there is much discussion around the world of genetically-modified soy. In the U.S. and Canada, almost all soy that is not listed as organic on the label has been genetically-modified. You need to make an informed decision as to how you feel about GMO’s and in my personal case, I avoid them. I encourage you to check out www.soyinfo.com and www.cspinet.org to make informed decisions on soy.

My pick: For a non-gmo, organic soy protein powder, my vote is Swanson Soy Powder.

Best for Lactose-Sensitivites

Egg white protein is a high quality lactose-free protein that is exactly what it sounds like: dried egg whites that have been turned into powder. Many athletes eat egg whites every day as they are a great source of protein. Egg white protein can also be used in baking. 

My pick: Jay Robb Egg White Vanilla Protein Powder. The egg white protein raw material is derived from chickens not treated with growth hormones.

Best for Slow-Absorption

Casein protein powder, often labeled the “bedtime” protein, is a slow-digesting protein source. Casein, the main protein in milk, is absorbed more slowly than whey, so it's not quite as efficient at building muscle. However, it leaves you feeling fuller longer, so often a great choice for breakfast or bedtime.

My pick: Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Casein Chocolate Protein. Mix it with water or almond milk for a great bedtime treat.

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