How To Choose The Right Protein Powder

Protein Powder

Not long ago there were limited choices in the kind of milk we could add to our coffee. In most cases, there was skim, 2%, and whole milk. Now we have the option of almond, soy, organic, lactose-free, and the list goes on and on. The same type of variety can be applied to protein powders for post-workout shakes.

People who use protein powders as part of their regular diet know all too well the wide array offered at any fitness store and most retail markets. For first-time users, the selection can be a bit overwhelming.

If you’re deciding which protein powder is right for you, first determine why you want to add protein powder to your diet. Do you want to build muscle? Ensure you have enough protein in your diet? Or, maybe it’s a combination of the two.

Second, consider any allergies you have or specific tastes you prefer. Protein powder is used by mixing it into a health drink or smoothie. The more you enjoy the taste of the powder, the more likely you will use it on a continuous basis.

Four popular types of proteins are:

  • Whey;
  • Hemp;
  • Pea; and
  • Soy.

Whey is the most commonly used protein. It’s derived from cow’s milk and contains all 9 essential amino acids. This type of protein is used primarily to build muscle. Athletes and fitness enthusiasts use it within about an hour after their workout. Whey is the way to go if you want to increase the amount of your daily protein or maintain muscle. Many brands offer whey powder in several flavors such as chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.

Hemp is a non-dairy protein. As the name indicates, it is made from hemp seeds and provides a lesser amount of protein than other powders. It still maintains a good source of fiber and is often combined with pea protein. This protein is not recommended if the goal is to build muscle, but rather if you want to improve your overall nutritional intake.

Pea protein is plant-based and is a good option for people with digestive sensitivities and vegetarians or vegans who want to avoid soy or dairy. Unlike whey, it’s not a complete protein and is usually paired with hemp or rice to meet the essential amino acid profile.

Soy protein comes from ground soybeans and has a greater amount of amino acids than pea or hemp powders. Of all the plant-based proteins, soy is considered the best for building muscle.  It also helps with the immune system and digestion. People who want to steer clear of dairy for health or dietary restrictions, choose soy. This powder is effective in helping to build muscle and reach the daily recommended protein.

The choice for the “right” protein powder comes down to dietary, health, and fitness needs. Different taste profiles, concerns with digestion, cost, and effectiveness of each product will vary from person to person.

In order to choose the protein powder that will work best for you, it’s best to narrow down your search by identifying requirements you want your powder to have. Then, simply test what’s best.

3 Healthy Breakfasts To Take With You On The Go

Smoothie Bowl

There’s not always enough time for the most important meal of the day, so it often gets neglected. While protein shakes or power bars can work in a pinch, especially post-workout, there are benefits to eating a proper breakfast.

Fortunately, there are endless recipes for quick, easy morning foods to take with you on the way to work, the gym, or when you need to start your day in a hurry. Breakfast is an opportune time to add in protein to keep you satisfied until lunchtime. A cup of coffee on an empty stomach simply won’t cut it.

Here are three healthy breakfasts you can whip up in no time and get your day off to a delicious and healthful start.

Smoothie Bowls

Gone are the days of drinking your breakfast. Smoothie bowls are the latest trend that is both satisfying and scrumptious. Take the same ingredients you’d want to use in your smoothie and add it to a bowl topped with your favorite nuts and berries.

The trick when making a smoothie bowl is to make it a little bit thicker than the average breakfast shake, closer to the consistency of yogurt. A fruity favorite includes: pineapple, banana, coconut water, and honey mixed in the blender. Pour into a bowl and top with blackberries, sliced almonds, or chia seeds for extra texture and crunch.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Toast Toppers

This popular breakfast craze hasn’t died down. In fact, it’s only gotten bigger with people becoming more and more inventive with what they’re choosing to top their toast. Avocado has been the long-standing, popular choice, which makes for a simple breakfast needing no more than a sprinkle of salt or a dash of red pepper flakes.

Other tasty combinations are: peanut butter and banana, hummus and cucumbers, pineapple and cottage cheese, or pear and ricotta. Try different protein-rich foods combined with fresh fruits or vegetables with an agave syrup drizzle or swirl of hot sauce, depending on if you’re in the mood for something sweet or savory for your first meal of the day.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Breakfast Tacos

Homemade breakfast tacos are a good option as a make-ahead meal you can store in the freezer. Take out an individual serving to heat up whenever you’re ready to walk out the door. To create a diet-friendly version, load up on roasted veggies sprinkled with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add in cooked slices of chicken breasts or mashed up black beans for protein. Use whole grain tortillas for added fiber and don’t forget the salsa for an extra spike of flavor.

Prep time: 20-30 minutes (to roast veggies and chicken); 2 minutes to heat fully prepared tacos in the microwave

The fuel we feed our bodies is essential to getting in a good workout and making sure we are consistent in our health goals. Start the day out strong with a filling, good-for-you breakfast and see how much better your body feels when it’s properly nourished.

The Best Arm Workouts You’ve Never Done

If you’re ready to pump up your guns like never before, it’s time to try some arm workouts you’ve never done. These exercises can be integrated into your normal fitness routine, and it’s recommended to do them two to three times per week for optimal results. If it’s mass you’re after, go for a heavier weight and fewer reps. To build muscle tone and endurance, do the opposite — more reps with less weight.

Check out our picks for the best arm workouts you’re probably not doing — but should be!

Reverse Grip Barbell Curls

Reverse Grip Barbell Curls

This exercise is simple, yet effective. Reverse grip barbell curls are performed just like regular barbell curls; the difference is, of course, the reverse grip. Rather than using an underhand grip, go overhand. This exercise can be performed from either a standing or seated position, either way, the forearms will get an excellent workout.

Squat Concentration Curl

Squat Concentration Curl

The squat concentration curl combines two exercises — the squat and the concentration curl. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and squat; thighs should be parallel to the floor. From this position, curl one arm for 60 seconds (if this is too difficult, start with 30 seconds). Repeat the 60 seconds of curls with the other arm, then return to a standing position.

Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extension

Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extension

This exercise is performed on a weight bench. Lie on your back with palms in and arms extended. Lower the dumbbells until they reach face level, then complete the exercise by straightening your arms. For best results, elbows should be kept in a stable position and motion should be slow and fluid.

Parallel Bar Tricep Dip

Parallel Bar Triceps Dip

The parallel bar tricep dip isn’t a popular exercise, but it is one that can make a real difference in arm strength. When done correctly and carefully, the parallel bar tricep dip helps build arm mass and gives the triceps an incredible workout. First, position yourself on the parallel bars, then push your arms up until they’re straight but not locked. From there, lower yourself down. When arms become parallel with the ground, raise yourself back up to complete one rep.

Spider Curl

Spider Curl

The spider curl was made famous by Larry Scott, who has the distinction of being the first Mr. Olympia. The reason it’s called the spider curl is because Scott performed this exercise on a bench with eight legs, however, a vertical preacher bench will work just fine. Lie on your stomach with triceps positioned against the padding and arms kept straight. To complete one rep, raise the barbell to shoulder level then slowly lower arms back down.

Tips for Arm Workouts

Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to arm workouts; keep your movements controlled and resist the temptation to go too fast or to give in to momentum. When combined with a regular cardio workout and a proper muscle-building diet, these exercises can help you achieve the attention-getting arms you’ve always wanted. Practice makes perfect, so don’t get discouraged if you can’t do as many reps or handle as much weight as you’d like. Just put in the work, and you’re sure to see the results!

Seven Best Shoulder Exercises for Strength

It doesn’t matter how often or how effectively you work your arms and chest; you won’t obtain the bulk or strength you’re seeking without also working the shoulders. The shoulders are comprised of three deltoid muscles — the anterior deltoid, the medial deltoid, and the posterior deltoid. It is important to pay equal attention to all three delts; if you neglect one or more it will be noticeable. Try 10 reps of each exercise with a challenging amount of weight; work up to more reps — and more weight — gradually.

Try these seven exercises to strengthen and build your shoulders:

Dumbbell Floor Press

Dumbbell Floor Press

This exercise is similar to the bench press in how it’s performed. One main difference is that it’s done on the floor instead of a bench. This minimizes shoulder strain while maximizing results. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, lower them to the floor then extend arms up. Lower back down for one rep.

Overhead Shrug

Overhead Shrug

This exercise works both the delts and the trapezius muscles, making it an extremely effective shoulder strengthener. The overhead shrug can be performed with a barbell or dumbbells depending on your preference. Press the weight over your head so that your shoulders nearly touch your ears, then shrug your shoulders to lift the weight toward the ceiling.

Military Barbell Press

Military Barbell Press

The military press is great for working out the shoulders and the chest. Hold the barbell at shoulder-height, then press it over your head. Lock your arms while lifting the barbell over your head; return to the starting position to complete one rep.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Another exercise for strong shoulders is the dumbbell shoulder press. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing forward. The dumbbells should be at about ear level. Press the dumbbells up until they nearly reach above your head, then lower to the starting position. Keep your movements slow and fluid to effectively work your muscles.

Dumbbell Front Raise

Dumbbell Front Raise

This shoulder exercise can be performed from either a seated or standing position. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing the floor; to begin, raise one arm until it is parallel with the floor. Lower your arm slowly, then repeat the action with your other arm. If you prefer, you can lift both arms at the same time.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

The dumbbell lateral raise is yet another effective shoulder exercise that can be done either seated or standing. This exercise is quite similar to the dumbbell front raise, except instead of raising the arms to the front, you’ll raise them to the sides. To engage muscles most effectively, raise the arms slightly past the parallel position.

Barbell Rear Delt Row

Barbell Rear Delta Row

The barbell rear delt row is a shoulder exercise that is performed using a weight bench. Kneel on the bench with one knee; the other leg and arm are to the side. Lift the dumbbell up and out until it’s perpendicular with your torso, then lower it down, straightening your arm; this completes one rep.

Ensure that you include targeted shoulder exercises into your fitness routine, and you’ll see lasting improvements to your upper body strength.

The Five Best Chest Workouts for Muscle Increase

Yearning for sculpted, massive, rock-hard pecs? A bigger chest can be achieved with some simple exercises that are both easy to master and strategic. If you’re looking to bulk up, perform fewer reps with heavier weights. Novice lifters should gradually work up to challenging amounts of weight; if you’re an experienced lifter, try lifting close to your limit. Pushing your ability in this way will help you to smash through plateaus and create muscles that get noticed.

Your chest workout should be performed three times per week for maximum results; cardio exercise is recommended five times per week. This winning combination will keep you chiseled and strong while bulking up your muscles where it counts.

Try these five workouts to increase the size of your chest muscles:

Barbell Bench Press

Barbell Bench Press

The barbell bench press is a classic favorite of experienced weightlifters everywhere — because it works. This workout is simple — lie on your back on a flat weight bench and grasp the bars with hands shoulder-width apart. Lower the bars down to your chest, then raise them back up to a starting position to perform one rep. For maximum muscle mass, lift slowly with a level of weight that pushes your ability.

Flat Dumbbell Fly

Flat Dumbbell Press

The flat dumbbell fly is an exercise that effectively engages the muscles of the chest while also working the arms. Ideal for novice and experienced weightlifters, alike, the dumbbell fly is performed on a flat bench. Lie on your back with a dumbbell in each hand. To perform one rep, bring dumbbells to the center of your chest then back to the sides. You’ll definitely feel a stretch when performing this exercise; try as many reps as you can until your muscles are fatigued.

Incline Dumbbell Press

Incline Dumbbell Press

Incline bench weightlifting exercises are great for building muscle mass because the angle helps work the chest more effectively. For a bulkier chest, try the incline dumbbell press. To perform this exercise, lie on your back with a dumbbell in each hand, then lift them at the same time as you would with a traditional bench press. The secret to a good press is using a controlled, careful movement.  Don’t try to lift too quickly — the slower, the better.

Bar Dip

Bar Dip

The bar dip is an exercise that doesn’t use any weight — other than your own body weight, of course. When performing the dip, use a wide grip and go as low as possible for maximum results. Lift yourself halfway back up, then repeat. When doing this exercise, simply do as many as you can until your muscles are exhausted and you can do no more.

Push-Up

Push Up

Don’t discount the push-up — this exercise may seem old-fashioned but it is one of the best chest-building workouts you can do. Push-ups work your chest and arms, and they’re super-convenient because you can do them virtually anywhere – with zero equipment. Try 100 push-ups for amazing results; if you can’t do that many, do as many as you can and work up to 100 gradually.