What To Look For In Protein Powder
Where Do I start?
Is it just me or isn’t deciding on a protein powder one of life’s most stressful experiences? There are shelves upon shelves loaded with 17 different brands- not to mention all of the flavor choices to choose between! And what are all of those people doing anyways when they’re looking at the ingredients list (as if they majored in Physiology and understand exactly how many grams of BCAAS you want)?
I’m sorry, WHAT?!
Can someone please tell me what BCAAS stands for? Beautiful Chicks Always Act Smart?
Let’s take a deep breath and allow me a few minutes of your time so that you too can look like you know what you’re talking about when that cute guy asks you if you need help at GNC! Side note: If you are a man and you are reading this, pretend I didn’t say that! And if you are a man and you work at GNC, I PROMISE I know what I’m talking about!
What is Protein?
Protein is the building block necessary to help grow, rebuild, and maintain all of your body’s cellular structures. Made up of smaller bits we like to call amino acids, protein is a key ingredient for so much more than beautiful muscles, although for the sake of this blog I am going to stick to just that.
The body of a healthy lean man is composed of nearly 62% Water, 16% Fat, and 16 % Protein (the remaining 1% being carbohydrates, and other micronutrients). Though its composition in the body is quite high, we cannot depend on our body to produce all of the amino acids necessary to properly build and regrow each specific tissue. Conclusion = Food/Supplements (of which I am so grateful). This is the difference between Essential and non-essential amino acids. We find protein content in things like brown rice, nuts, pasta, sprouted bread, and even in avocados but this type of protein isn’t the most reliable/more readily available source.
You will find the highest content in animal sources such as beef, bison, eggs, and chicken.
Whether you’re interested in losing weight, gaining weight, or simply maintaining (so that just about covers all of us), keeping a close watch on the amount of protein you are ingesting is both smart and crucial. As a rule of thumb, get 1 gram of protein per your body weight in pounds. If you’re not active, you’re going to need around 0.8g per pound. And if you’re like me and you work out 8 hours a week (or more), try and aim for 1.2-1.4g.
One of the biggest things I want to stress is the need for you to learn your own body! You are going to know what it feels like when your body is looking for more protein. If you listen, your body will talk to you:)
What Should Be In My Protein?
Now, back to protein powder. We want protein sources where the protein and amino acid content are readily available (smart people term = bioavailable). I’m not sure about you but I’m not too fond of wasting my money and since not all protein powders are created equal, let’s figure out how to get you the best bang for your buck.
First things first: quality over quantity. Everyone has their price points, but you want to look for Organic, A2 cows / Grass fed animal protein and non-GMO, Organic plant-based proteins. This ensures you aren’t getting any of the added hormones that work against those your body releases naturally to stimulate muscle production.
The 7 and Under Rule
Next, we have Additives. I only want to pay for what I need. No, I’m not looking to pay for the added FD&C Red #40 when all that I want is protein! Or all of the other additives that will supposedly increase my protein absorption or muscle production. If you want that ingredient, keep that tub separate! We’re looking for proteins that are a) clean and b) pure! So, let’s use this as a rule of thumb: Anything that contains more than 7 ingredients and you can kindly put that tub back on the shelf where it belongs. Can I add a part B to that? If it takes you longer than 5 seconds to pronounce the ingredient name, this may just be another hint that this isn’t the protein powder for you.
At this point you might feel slightly overwhelmed but don’t worry- I’ll link all my top picks for you and if you want to hunt for your own these quick and easy pointers will point you in the right direction.
The Nitty Gritty
If you’re like me and want to get really picky, look for the number of grams of “Leucine”. This is an amino acid that stimulates muscle protein production. For every 20-25g of protein, you want to see 2g of Leucine. Everyone wants their workouts to count, right? So let’s drink shakes that help create big muscles instead of peeing out them dollar bills, Y’all!
Ok, the last thing I will say when looking at the ingredients list is to be sure to check the sugar and fat content. You want to be able to properly monitor the amount of carbs and fat you’re getting around your protein ingestion because both of these macros will drastically affect protein absorption (therefore either hindering or aiding your muscle production).
I will get to the reasons why in another blog!
But until then, just take my word for it! Keep your grams of carbs and fat below 5.
Again if you’re like me and are super anal about sugar, please stay away from aspartame, sugar alcohols (ie. Sorbitol), artificial sugars (ie. Sucralose) and stick with Stevia or something less refined like cane sugar!
We’re almost done! Think of this like a workout, only 2 more reps! You can do it!
There’s More Than One Type?
First, let’s talk about the Casein vs Whey battle. This is quick and easy. Do you want to quickly absorb those amino acids, or do you want a slower sustained release? Hint: Pre- and Post-workout, at breakfast, lunch, or dinner, this is the “Whey” to go! Whey absorbs quickly into your bloodstream, allowing your muscles to get the boost they need to rebuild. It’s a quick, easy, digestible protein sliding right into your bloodstream following your workout. How about bedtime? Find a new Whey, my friends! This is where we want Casein! Slow and steady wins this race (Ok, I’m done with the Whey jokes I swear).
Back to the source!
We’ve all heard the many arguments about Animal vs. Plant Protein. Allow me to simplify it for you…
Do we stick with a milk-based protein powder? Yes! If you aren’t allergic to dairy and have no problems absorbing it, milk protein contains all of the essential amino acids needed for proper restoration. With both Casein and Whey content, this is a wonderful choice – especially when you’re choosing a clean and organic powder.
How about egg-white, hemp, or pea protein powder?
If you’re vegan, vegetarian, or simply allergic to dairy – supplementing is necessary to get your daily requirements for Protein. With that being said, these protein types contain close to, if not all, of the amino acids necessary to rebuild. I would also suggest opting towards a blended plant-based protein. That way you’re getting a good mix of amino acids.
The biggest concern, for any protein source, is that you choose a protein that your body can digest easily. If your protein bloats you, causes you to get light headed, messes with your skin, or gives you the “runs” or really stinky flatulence (pardon my french) – choose again! Specifically for a vegan protein, look for words like “fermented” or “sprouted”, “non-GMO”, “blended”, “complete amino acid mix”, and/or “highly digestible protein mix”. These will ensure the manufacturer took into consideration the increased difficulty in your body breaking down the cellular structure of plants rather than an animal-based protein.
Well friends, this about sums up the informational part of this blog. You did it! And as your reward for finishing strong, I have included a few of my favorite protein powder options to help you in the hunt for the perfect protein for you.
To tasty shakes and big muscles. (Can you tell I’m single?)