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:
- Pea; and
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.