How to Select a Protein Powder: 5 Questions to Consider
- Do You Need Protein Powder?
This is the first thing to consider when deciding to purchase a protein powder. As I have written about many times, protein is the most important of the macronutrients and the one which your nutrition should be based around. At least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight is what you should be aiming for on a daily basis. If you can get to that number without taking a protein powder then you’re good, more power to you. Most people find it difficult to get that amount or close to it without supplementing with a protein powder. The convenience and ability to customize your shake to the amount of protein you want make protein powder a good choice for the majority of people.
2. What Type of Protein Powder is the Best?
There are many different types of protein powder available and the choices can get confusing. We are going to skip talking about specific brands and talk about types of protein instead because it is much more important. Whey Protein is the #1 selling protein powder on the market and is easily the most recognizable and often times is used as a synonym for all protein powders. While it is not the only type of protein powder it is among the most effective. Whey is derived from milk but contains very little lactose so it will not be a problem for those who are lactose intolerant except for the people with the most extremely sensitive cases. Whey protein is the fastest digesting protein powder which makes it ideal for post-workout. There are 3 main types of Whey Protein, concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate. Whey Protein Concentrate or WPC is the most popular of the 3 Whey’s and the most inexpensive. WPC contains about 7% fat and trace amounts of lactose. WPC is about 75% protein. Whey Protein Isolate or WPI is a purer form of Whey with no lactose or fat and about 95% protein. WPI contains the amino acid Glutathione which is a powerful antioxidant and somewhat of a miracle cure for a number of illnesses, you will be hearing more about Glutathione in the future. Whey Protein Hydrolysate is the most expensive of the Whey proteins and is differentiated from the other two because it is absorbed even faster than WPC or WPI.
Casein Protein is the #2 most popular type of protein powder and is also derived from milk. Casein protein differs from Whey in that it is a slow digesting protein. While Whey digests very quickly, Casein digests over a much longer period of time, as much as 7 hours in some cases. Casein is often used in meal replacements and as a night time powder because of its slow digestion rate. Egg white protein is also quite popular and falls between Whey and Casein on the digestion time scale. Beef protein is another option albeit a pricier option. Various vegetable and soy based proteins are available however they lack the amino acid profile that animal based proteins boast and soy in particular has been found to be detrimental to testosterone production.
3. What is the Price of Protein Powder ?
Cost is a very important question when it comes to protein powder especially in this day and age. The price of protein depends on the type you’re getting and the amount. Protein is usually sold in the ubiquitous plastic jugs in either 2 lbs or 5 lbs. but other sizes are sold. Ready to drink proteins are widely available in bottles and other types of containers but the cost per gram of those drinks is a lot more than buying powder and should really only be considered if you are really on the go and have no means of mixing powder. Whey Protein Concentrate is for the most part the cheapest protein you can buy and Whey Protein Hydrolysate the most expensive. Most proteins you’ll find are going to cost between $9 and $15 a pound. Two pounds of protein powder will yield roughly 30 servings of 25 grams of protein.
4. What am I Really Getting?
This is another very important thing to consider and a question that the people at GNC will probably not want you to ask. First look at the nutritional label and see how many calories, fat, carbs, and protein there is per serving. Protein should be between 20-25 grams per serving, calories 150 or below, fat less than 5 grams, and the same with carbs, less than 5 grams. Differences can be allowed if you are buying a weight gain formula or a special post-workout formula with added fat and carbs. The next thing to check is the ingredient list. If you are buying Whey Protein Concentrate then WPC should be the first ingredient listed and the only ingredient listed. The same holds true for any protein, if you are buying Whey Protein Isolate, Casein, or Beef protein, those should be the one and only protein listed in the ingredients. Some companies will sell you Whey Protein Isolate but spike it with the cheaper Whey Protein Concentrate. This is particularly prevalent in certain protein mixes that are advertised as blends. These blends will list WPC, WPI, Whey Hydrolysate, Casein, Egg White, and any other protein they can think of in order to allow for the ideal mix of proteins. In theory this is a good idea, in practice however they include the minimal amount of the good stuff and overload it with the cheaper stuff but charge a premium price. They can get away with this by labeling the mix as a proprietary blend and not stating the percentages of protein in the mix.
5. Do You Have Any Recommendations?
Your best bet would be getting some Casein and some Whey Protein Isolate to cover post-workout and daily protein shakes. Shop around and look for the best prices and remember the lessons in #4. Personally I get my protein from Truenutrition.com where I can customize and make any blend of protein I want with whatever percentages I desire. You can also add in specific amino acids, carbs, or fats to your blend. Bodybuilding.com has a huge selection and the fastest shipping I have ever seen, sometimes next day for the cheapest shipping option. Be smart about it and get the protein that suits your specific needs, wants, and goals, and if you have any questions drop me a line.