Protein Powder: 3 Things to Consider

Last week, I wrote about 5 Diet Mistakes that a Protein Shake Can Help Solve, and now that you are convinced, let’s talk about 3 things to consider when selecting your protein powder. While it’s convenient to purchase pre-made protein shakes, it is much more cost-efficient to purchase protein powder yourself and create your own. When it comes to choosing a protein powder, remember that not all are created equal. Several factors should be considered when selecting a protein powder such as taste, purpose, nutrition beliefs and when you will be taking the protein shake. Below are some guidelines for helping you make the best purchase.

  • Cost. One of the more general rules of protein powder is “you get what you pay for. Of course, this concept can be applied to many types of purchases, but you may find that the cheaper brands of protein will be of slightly lower quality than the more expensive brands. Keep in mind that we all don’t need the top of the line protein products. For many people, the overall goal is just to increase protein intake and any protein powder will help serve that objective. For example, a Honda Civic and a Lexus LS will both get you to your destination even though there is a great difference in purchase price. If you are just looking for general use of the protein powder, a lesser expensive brand is perfectly appropriate for you. If you are striving for optimal sport performance, then you may want to consider going with a higher quality protein blend.
  • Flavor. This factor is purely personal. From my experience, chocolate and vanilla-flavored protein powders mix the best on their own or with other ingredients. If you are looking to add protein powder to your food such as oatmeal, pancake batter, muffin mix, mashed potatoes, etc. you may want to look for an unflavored variety so that your food isn’t overcome by a chocolate, vanilla or strawberry taste.
  • Type of Protein. Protein powder can be created from several sources such as milk, soy, brown rice and even peas. You may choose a certain type of protein based on your nutritional beliefs or by the purpose of taking the protein supplement. Animal proteins are indeed a higher quality protein compared to plant protein sources. This is mostly due to their digestibility and bioavailability factors. However, this should not deter vegetarians and vegans from using plant-based protein powders as they certainly can still provide benefits to their overall nutritional intake.
    • Whey
      • Considered the best protein source, both for athletic performance and general use.
      • “Quick-acting protein,” meaning it is delivered to muscle cells much faster than other sources. It’s best to consume whey as a recovery protein shake immediately after exercise.
      • Contains the highest amount of leucine which is the amino acid most responsible for stimulating protein synthesis.
      • Whey protein isolate is a purer form of protein while whey protein concentrate retains more fat and lactose and is not as pure.
    • Casein
      • Similar to whey as far as nutritional value.
      • Leucine content is slightly lower than whey protein isolate.
      • “Slow-acting protein,” best taken at night to help with nocturnal protein synthesis.
    • Soy
      • Regarded as one of the better forms of plant-protein sources.
      • Contains the most leucine compared to other plant-protein source varieties.
      • Considered a complete protein compared to other plant-protein sources such as wheat, brown rice, beans and peas which are incomplete proteins since they do not contain all essential amino acids.
      • Consider that soy is often a controversial topic among health professionals regarding its effects on hormone levels.
    • Brown Rice, Pea, Hemp
      • Suitable sources for those following a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.
      • Has a lower digestibility score and contains anti-nutritional factors that can further impede total protein absorption.
      • May be good alternatives for individuals with allergies or hypersensitivities to milk or soy products.

3 Things to Consider When Selecting Protein Powder

5 Diet Mistakes that a Protein Shake Can Help Solve

Protein shakes are quite popular these days. Whether you’re buying commercially made shakes from the grocery store or making your own, there are many benefits to incorporating protein shakes as meal replacements or snacks into your daily habits. In fact, including a protein shake into your meal plan can help prevent some common diet mishaps.

5 Diet Mistakes that a Protein Shake Can Help Solve

  1. Eating too many calories. The summer months serve as the host for county fairs, ball games, concerts and backyard BBQs, to name a few. While I see nothing wrong with the occasional ballpark brat, chronic indulgences in these types of menu items can quickly pack on the pounds during the summer. Having a protein shake can properly nourish your body and help control excessive cravings later on during the day.
  2. Skipping meals. There are many reasons why people skip meals and believe me I have heard them all! Skipping meals and even missing snacks is a sure-fire way to lower one’s metabolism. Ideally, you want to eat every 3-4 hours for a healthy metabolism and good blood sugar control. Having a protein drink for a meal or as a snack replacement is easy and convenient. First of all, it’s much easier and quicker to drink your nutrients than it is to sit down for a meal, especially if you are traveling or unable to take a break at work. I have also found with many of my breakfast-skippers that drinking a protein shake for breakfast was much easier than trying to have a bowl of oatmeal or eggs in the morning.
  3. Not eating enough fruits and veggies. The minimum recommendation for servings of fruits and vegetables is “5 a day”. I actually encourage more than this, but for some people, hitting the five servings can be quite the challenge. Blending fruits and even vegetables into your shakes can help you achieve the “5 a day” goal much easier, especially if you’re the type of person that is not fond of fresh produce. This is also a great tactic for getting your kids to eat an extra serving of fruits and veggies!
  4. Making poor snack choices. When you hear the word “snack”, most people generally think of pretzels, crackers, chips, popcorn, granola bars or sweet treats. In fact, most grocery stores put all these items in the same aisle and label it the “snack foods aisle”. The downfall of these menu items is that they are loaded with starchy sugars and preservatives and do not keep you feeling full for very long. Featuring protein in a snack can help keep you satisfied much longer and help control your portion sizes when you sit down for your next meal.
  5. Not eating enough protein. As a society, we are definitely not deficient in protein; however, we are nowhere near the optimal level of protein intake that we should be for outstanding health benefits. The average adult protein intake is typically about 50-70 grams of protein per day. New research indicates that intake levels at a minimum of 100 grams/day can help better control blood sugar levels, blood pressure and reduce muscle mass loss with the aging process. One scoop of protein powder typically contains 15-20 grams of protein and most commercial protein shakes contain at least 10 grams of protein.

Here is a quick go-to protein shake recipe that can get you started. Tune in next week as I help you decide which protein powder is best for you!

Chocolate Banana Protein Shake
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  1. • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  2. • 1 small banana (~4-5 oz)
  3. • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
  4. • 2 Tbsp of dry peanut butter powder (Hyvee brand)
  5. • 3-5 ice cubes (may need more for preferred consistency of shake
  1. Shake will contain about 255 calories and 25 grams of protein making it perfect for a light meal or a nutrient-packed snack.
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