Protein powders have been essential in staying on track with my fitness goals. As a hairstylist, I have a very limited amount of time to grab something to eat between appointments, so it’s either going to be a lot of random snacking, ordering fast food delivery, or bringing something from home. Protein drinks and powders help me to stay satisfied through the day, and are a lot faster for me to put together in the morning and keep better than a sandwich in the fridge. But how do you choose the best ones? Here are some keys to look for.
Choose your Protein
There are a lot of options out there. Soy, Whey, Pea or Rice, and Beef Isolate are some of the main bases for protein shakes. I like whey, but my boyfriend is allergic to both whey and soy and prefers a beef derivative.
For today, I’ll focus on whey. There are a few different types, and it’s important to know the difference between them.
- Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) offers anywhere from 25-89% protein. The rest consists of lactose, minerals, and fats, and because of this, is not an option for people who have lactose allergies.
- Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) is the purest form of whey protein, and usually contains 90-95% protein. They’re a good option for those with lactose allergies, and are low in carbs and sugars as well. Cost can be higher than products containing WPC because of their higher quality of protein.
Whey proteins are also easy to digest and help boost energy levels.
See those BCAA’s
BCAAs, or Branched-Chain Amino Acids, are three amino acids essential for maintenance and growth. If you’re consuming a protein supplement to help gain muscle and speed up recovery, Make sure the protein powder you choose contains two parts leucine and one part isoleucine. These aminos are the best for fat loss, muscle growth and fatigue. However, if you are looking for weight loss, BCAA’s may increase weight gain with muscle gain, so be aware.
Check the Carbs
For a while, I was not checking the carbs in my powders, and using a popular MLM health brand that my mom had given me. I couldn’t seem to figure out why I wasn’t seeing results. Once I did research and began learning the differences in ingredients, and switching to higher quality ingredients, I noticed I felt full longer and didn’t crash.
That being said, carbs are useful in absorbing amino acids and building muscle. If you need extra carbs for your macros (a whole other topic!) you can add milk or almond milk to your shake to boost those carbs.
Ingredients to Look Out For
Some low carb and low calorie powders will be filled with artificial sweeteners, which may be harmful to gut bacteria. There are also new studies showing that artificial sweeteners are linked to increased chance of stroke and dementia. Probiotics added to protein powders are mostly hype; high quality probiotics typically need to be kept refrigerated to maintain their efficacy.
The Bottom Line
Check your labels, check reviews, and ask around!