If you ask a gym-goer anywhere in the world what their goals are, they’ll likely say that they either want to gain muscle, lose weight, or both (which, for fitness newbies, is actually possible). No matter which of these goals is yours, protein powder is one of the best supplements that can help you reach it.
Are you unsure of which protein powder you should be using? Are you on the fence about whey protein’s benefits or the perks of a plant-based protein source? Are you confused about how to use protein powder for maximum muscle growth?
If you have questions about protein powders that you want answered before you purchase a supplement for yourself, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn everything you need to know from your ultimate protein powder buyers guide.
What Do Protein Powders Do for You?
In a lot of cases, protein powder is one of the first supplements that someone will start incorporating into their routine when they embark on a health and fitness journey. At the same time, though, there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding these supplements, and there are plenty of people who are unsure of whether or not they contain any legitimate benefits.
Protein powder definitely comes with benefits and is an effective supplement for active people to consume. Here are a few of the most noteworthy advantages these products have to offer to gym-goers and fitness enthusiasts of all kinds:
(1) Easier Weight Loss/Maintenance
If your goal is to lose weight, or if you want to maintain your current physique, adding proteins shakes into your routine is a good tactic to consider.
Protein is known as the most satiating macronutrient. In other words, it helps you to feel full. With this in mind, in the context of weight loss or weight maintenance, it makes sense that adding more protein to your diet would be beneficial.
When you consume enough protein, you’ll feel fuller when your meals are over and will be less likely to give in to cravings. This makes it easier for you to stick to your diet while still making sure you’re getting enough protein to prevent muscle breakdown.
As an added bonus, protein can also help you to maintain muscle mass. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism will be. This, in turn, helps you to burn more calories during your workouts.
(2) Faster Muscle Growth
Speaking of muscle breakdown, if the opposite is your primary goal, protein shakes are an excellent addition to your diet. For those who are looking to increase their muscle mass and promote muscle growth, protein powders help you to ensure you’re consuming enough nutrients and calories on a daily basis.
It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to put on some additional mass for a bodybuilding competition or if you’re trying to increase your strength for a powerlifting meet. Either way, protein supplementation can help you to get ready to put your best foot forward when you step onto the stage or onto the platform.
(3) Faster Post-Workout Recovery
Even if you don’t have a specific performance or aesthetic goal you’re trying to reach, you can still benefit from using protein powders after your workouts. Post-workout protein can help to promote muscle growth and recovery so that you can continue making progress and seeing results from your workouts.
(4) Improved Bone Health
As a gym enthusiast, there’s a good chance you’re not just working out to look good or perform well right now. You probably also want to look and feel good as you get older.
In the United States, approximately 10 million Americans (80 percent of which are women) suffer from osteoporosis, a condition that causes your bones to become brittle and prone to fractures. Protein supplementation (especially when it’s combined with adequate calcium and vitamin D intake) can play a key role in preventing osteoporosis and helping to keep the bones strong.
If you want to minimize your risk of developing osteoporosis and being prone to injuries as you age, start making sure you’re getting enough grams of protein into your diet today.
(5) Fill in Diet Gaps
Finally, protein powders help you to fill in gaps in your diet and make sure you’re getting enough of this macronutrient to feel well and thrive.
The minimum number of grams of protein that one must consume to stay alive is 0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. This is a very low number, though, and is truly the absolute minimum for a sedentary individual.
Research shows that most active people need much more protein than this. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, as well as Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine, all recommend shooting for somewhere between 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
Is Protein Powder Really Good for You?
Clearly, there are advantages to incorporating a high-quality protein powder into your diet. The keyword here is “high-quality”. When people start asking questions like “is protein powder really good for you?”, they’re often thinking of articles they’ve seen criticizing certain protein supplements and discussing the potential risks associated with them.
It’s important to note that not all protein powders are created equal. In fact, there are plenty of products being manufactured and sold today that do contain questionable ingredients, such as heavy metals and potential allergens like gluten.
This is not the case with all protein powders, though. When you purchase a well-made, lab-tested powder that contains high-quality, science-backed ingredients, though, you won’t have to worry about negative side effects. You’ll also have an opportunity to experience the benefits mentioned above.
In short, protein powder really is good for you, as long as you’re choosing the right product for your specific needs and goals.
What to Look for in Protein Powders
Not sure which product you should choose to meet your needs and goals? Don’t stress. Next, we’re doing a deep dive into the different types of protein powders, as well as what you should look for when you’re shopping for one to ensure it’s of high quality.
Types of Protein Powder
This is one of the first things to consider when looking into protein powder. There are many different types of protein powder that you might want to use, including the following:
- Whey protein: Whey proteins are some of the most popular options on the market today; lots of people use whey protein for muscle gain and recovery, and because it digests quickly
- Casein protein: Casein protein, like whey, is a protein found in milk that digests slowly and is rich in glutamine, one of the most important amino acids for post-workout recovery
- Pea protein: Pea protein is one of the most popular plant proteins; it’s a complete protein that contains all nine of the essential amino acids that our bodies need to recover from workouts and function properly
- Brown rice protein: Brown rice protein is not a complete protein, but it does contain many beneficial amino acids; it’s often combined with pea protein to create a complete protein source
- Fava bean protein: Fava bean protein is a less common plant protein, but it is a good source of fiber, as well as minerals like manganese and copper
- Soy protein: Soy protein is a plant protein that is often found in vegan protein powders; it’s a complete source of protein, like pea protein, but some athletes are wary of using it because of its phytoestrogenic properties
Ideally, you will purchase a protein powder that is considered a complete source of protein. To fall into this category, your powder needs to contain the following amino acids:
These amino acids (especially leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which are considered branched-chain amino acids) play an important role in muscle protein synthesis. Most types of protein powder sold these days contain them, but it’s still important to check the label to make sure.
In addition to the amino acid breakdown, it’s also important to take note of the other ingredients that the protein powder you’re thinking about buying contains.
Does it contain sugar or other sources of carbohydrates, for example? Does it contain any fillers that might irritate your digestives system, such as gluten?
It’s especially important to look at the ingredients list if your doctor has given you specific medical advice regarding avoiding a particular food. You don’t want to spend your hard-earned money on a protein supplement that makes you sick, do you?
How much protein does your protein supplement contain per serving? At a minimum, it’s best to look for products that contain at least 20 grams per serving, although you may find that you need more, especially if you’re trying to bulk up and increase your muscle mass.
Most protein supplements, both those made from plants and whey protein products, meet the minimum requirement of 20 grams. It’s still a good idea to check, though, so you know exactly what you’re getting with each scoop.
In addition to looking at the protein content of your powder, consider the number of grams of carbohydrates and fat it contains, too.
Plant proteins and whey-casein blends tend to be higher in carbohydrates, while some whey protein isolate products are not. Taking the time to check on this will help you ensure you’re hitting all of your macronutrient goals, not just your protein goal.
It’s great to use protein supplements to hit your goals for protein intake. However, hitting your goals shouldn’t come at a cost. If you consume a subpar powder, you might end up experiencing more drawbacks than benefits.
To avoid running into this issue, make sure you’re buying products that are tested by third-party labs. If an organization pays to have their products tested, that’s a sign that they value quality and want to go the extra mile to ensure they’re providing their customers with a safe and effective supplement.
What’s your budget? How much can you afford to spend on protein?
Some people are under the impression that they need to spend an arm and a leg to meet their protein requirements and build lean mass. That’s definitely not the case, though.
There are plenty of budget-friendly products on the market today that align with your fitness needs and promote muscle recovery but won’t drain your bank account.
What do past and current users have to say about the protein supplement that you’re thinking about buying? Are the reviews, for the most part, positive? Do people say that they would buy this product again?
Take the time to do your research and see what the general consensus of a product is before you invest in it.
Be sure to look at both the star rating people are giving the product and the reasoning behind the rating. This will help you to get a well-rounded view of the supplement so you can make an informed decision.
Alignment with Your Goals
Finally, consider whether or not a particular powder aligns with your specific goals.
For example, if your primary goal is to improve your body composition and encourage optimal muscle protein synthesis, a protein powder that contains a sufficient amount of leucine (at least two grams per serving) is ideal. Whey protein powder often meets this benchmark, as do plant proteins that contain added leucine.
What Is the Best Protein Powder?
There’s no one correct answer to this question. As you can see from the list above, there’s a lot that you need to consider when you’re shopping for protein powder.
Remember, too, that the product that is a good fit for your best friend might not be a good fit for you. That doesn’t necessarily make their protein powder bad and yours good, though. It all comes down to factors like the ingredients used, the types of protein you need or want, and the testing process that the product goes through before it’s available for purchase.
All that being said, the best protein powder for you will be the one that best aligns with your needs and goals. The factors mentioned above are good checkpoints to use as you sift through all the different options on the market and narrow down your search.
If you’re still having a hard time choosing between products or figuring out which goals are best for you, don’t hesitate to reach out to a doctor, a dietitian, or someone else who is qualified to provide medical advice and dietary advice. They can provide more insight and help you ensure you’re investing in the right protein powder.
How to Use Protein Powder
Believe it or not, the existence of a tub of protein powder in your pantry does not automatically make you a healthier or fitter person. If you want to experience the benefits that protein powders have to offer, you also need to make sure you’re monitoring your protein intake and using the product on a regular basis.
Outlined below are some tips that will help you ensure you’re using your preferred supplementary protein source correctly and getting the most bang for your buck:
Time It Right
Folks who run in strength training circles have often been told through the grapevine that they need to consume protein within 30 minutes of their workout to prevent losing muscle.
Often referred to as the “Anabolic Window”, this is largely a myth. If you don’t consume protein within that 30-minute span, you will not automatically start losing muscle.
As long as you’re consuming an adequate amount of protein through the entire day, you likely won’t notice any deficits. That being said, it is helpful to time your protein shake intake based on your schedule so that you don’t get to the end of the day and realize you’re still shy of your goal.
For many people, this looks like making sure they have protein powder in a shaker cup ready to go when they leave the gym. You might also want to add the powder to another meal throughout the day (such as your morning bowl of oatmeal) to ensure you’re getting enough.
Build Your Perfect Shake
If you’re using a high-quality protein supplement, you likely will find that your shakes taste great when they’re made with just protein and water or milk. If you want to enhance the flavor, though, or make your shake more filling, you can add other ingredients to the mix as well.
Lots of people like to incorporate frozen fruit, such as bananas or berries, into their shakes, along with other nutritious foods like flax seeds or chia seeds for extra micronutrients and fiber. If you need to consume more calories throughout the day to put on extra muscle mass, adding a high-calorie, high-fat food like almond butter or peanut butter is also helpful.
For those who are new to protein supplementation, it’s best to ease into adding protein powders to your routine.
Start with just one scoop or maybe even a half of a scoop to ensure you don’t experience any side effects (such as digestive issues). If you don’t notice any negative effects, go ahead and add a whole scoop to your shaker cup, or maybe even two scoops if your goal is to make a more calorie-dense post-workout drink.
The Latest About Protein
The supplement world (and, specifically, the world of protein supplements) is constantly evolving, and it can be hard to keep track of the latest developments. The good news is that ProSupps® has recently introduced some new protein powders that check all of the boxes mentioned above and make a great addition to your routine.
Some of ProSupps®’ latest and greatest protein supplements are discussed below, starting with our newest plant-based product: ProSupps® Plant Perform.
ProSupps® Plant Perform
Plant Perform is ProSupps®’ first 100 percent plant-based protein.
After receiving numerous requests from our Alpha Squad, we got to work creating a vegan powder specifically designed to improve athletic performance and help gym-goers who follow a plant-based diet (as well as those who simply don’t want to consume dairy products) to meet their goals.
Plant Perform features proprietary Flavor Smooth™ technology, which allows you to make creamy, rich protein shakes that taste delicious (there’s none of that chalky flavor that so many vegan protein powders have) and won’t cause any digestive issues (which can sometimes happen with whey protein).
This powder contains 25 grams of protein per serving and features 3 grams of leucine (an amino acid that’s often missing from many plant protein sources). It’s also made from a blend of three different plant proteins to provide maximum nutritional value.
ProSupps® Whey Isolate
For those who prefer a whey protein supplement, ProSupps® Whey Isolate is a great option to consider.
Whey protein is one of the most popular protein sources used by supplement makers, and for good reason. It does a great job of helping gym-goers and athletes to build and maintain lean muscle mass, and it can also benefit those who are hoping to lose body fat without sacrificing muscle.
If you’re working out on a reduced-calorie diet, the amino acids and other nutrients found in whey protein are a must. ProSupps® Whey Isolate protein powder is an especially good choice, as it contains 5g of Branched Chain Amino Acids (or BCCAs) to encourage muscle protein synthesis and improve recovery.
ProSupps® Whey Isolate is also free from added sugar and fillers, contains 25 grams of protein powder serving, and is fortified with the amino acid L-Carnitine to help you manage your weight and achieve your physique goals.
ProSupps® Whey Concentrate
Pick Your Perfect Protein Powder Today
There you have it, your complete protein powder buyer’s guide. Keep this information in mind and you’ll have no trouble finding the perfect protein powder that tastes great and has the perfect ingredient list to help you meet your goals.
It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to lose weight, gain muscle, or just meet your daily protein needs. Either way, there’s a powder out there for you, and this guide will help you find it!