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Choose the Best Protein Powder for You

When you look around you’ll see protein powder options are endless. So how do you know what type is best for your personal health goals?

Whole foods vs. protein powder

You can meet your body’s daily protein requirements whether you drink shakes or eat only whole foods. However, they don’t offer equal nutrition. What you may find surprising is that shakes generally contain fewer nutrients than whole foods. For that reason, shakes may help you lose weight, but whole foods can offer a bigger nutritional punch.

Protein types and uses

Whey protein is one of the most commonly used proteins and is best for day-to-day use. It contains all of the essential amino acids and is easily digested. It helps boost energy and can reduce stress levels.

Whey isolates and concentrates are best to use after a workout.

Soy protein is another common choice. It helps reduce high cholesterol and can ease symptoms of menopause for some women. It can also help with osteoporosis by helping build bone mass.

Other types of protein include:

Egg protein, released more slowly than whey, can be taken throughout the day.
Milk proteins help support immune function and enhance muscle growth.
Brown Rice protein, which is 100% plant-based, is a good choice for vegetarians or for people who don’t consume dairy products. It’s also gluten-free.
Pea protein is highly digestible, hypo-allergenic and economical.
Hemp protein is also 100% plant-based. It’s a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Matching a powder to your needs

Here are some general guidelines, based on the outcomes you’re looking for:

  • Build muscle — For muscle growth, choose a protein powder with a high biological value (a value that measures how well the body can absorb and utilize a protein). Whey protein and whey isolates are your best options.
  • Lose weight — For weight loss, choose shakes with no added sugars or dextrins/maltodextrins (sweeteners made from starch). Don’t choose those with added branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), as they help promote muscle growth and weight gain.
  • Stay vegetarian or vegan — If you’re vegetarian or vegan, don’t choose milk-based protein shakes (like whey, milk proteins); instead use 100% plant proteins-soy, pea, hemp.
  • Go low-sugar with diabetes — Patients who have diabetes should choose protein shakes without added sugar (don’t choose protein powders with sugar listed as one of the first three ingredients). It’s also best to look for a shake that’s low in carbohydrates ( 5-15 grams per serving).
  • Limit protein for kidney disease — People with kidney disease can’t tolerate a lot of protein at one time. Stick with powders that have a lower-range protein content (10 to 15 grams per serving).
  • Avoid gastrointestinal problems — Patients with irritable bowel syndrome or lactose intolerance should choose powders that don’t contain lactose sugars, artificial sweeteners or dextrins/maltodextrins. If you have a gluten allergy or sensitivity, don’t choose powders that contain gluten.
    Stick to your budget — To save money, buy tubs of protein powder instead of ready-to-drink protein shakes, which are more expensive because they’re convenient.

Boost the taste of your shakes

To improve the taste of the protein shakes you make, mix your protein powders with milk or a milk alternative (as opposed to water) to produce a creamier milkshake-like texture.

 

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