Protein is a mighty macronutrient that deserves all the love it gets! Why? Well, it's a critical building block that helps with muscle growth, muscle recovery, maintaining muscle mass, and has a huge impact on anyone training to build muscle or fat loss. The thing is... Those who exercise regularly (especially at high intensity) will generally require a higher amount of protein to be consumed than a sedentary person. The body needs more macronutrients, like protein, to keep up with everything being burned during exercise. With high protein intake needs, it can be harder for you to reach your daily protein intake through whole foods. That's when protein supplements come in, specifically, the highly loved protein powder.
Protein powder can be a real lifesaver... But it comes down to which one you pick. The right tub of protein powder will have the right nutrients and macros you need to achieve your fitness goals. The wrong tub has a lot of stuff that your body does not need. So just how you want to make sure you're eating high-quality protein from natural sources, you want to make sure to choose the best quality protein powder. However, with so many of them in the market, it can be difficult to find the best one that matches your lifestyle and goals. Lucky for you, we're sharing our three simple tips that will help yo find the best protein powder for your goals!
Do some self-reflection
Everyone has different intentions for protein supplementation - To fulfill a nutrient deficiency, to help with weight loss, to help with muscle building. Whatever the case is, they are important to consider! So take some time to ask yourself these questions...
What is your main goal for taking it? Meaning your fitness goals! There are different types of protein powder, and it's pretty crucial to know your goals to find the best type for you. That's because they go through different processes and have different compositions, and some are better suited for certain benefits that protein powders have to offer than others.
What will you be using it for? Another thing to consider is what you will be using it for, or, more specifically, when will you be taking it. Protein powders are commonly taken post-workout, but they can also be used as a meal replacement and made into a hefty morning, lunch, or dinner protein shake. So knowing what you'll be using it for and when you'll most likely be taking it is useful to know because certain types of protein powder have a slower digestion rate than others. So the type you choose not only relies on your goals but also what exactly is it being used for.
Do you plan to mix it with anything or just water? This is somewhat important because protein powders often come in huge tubs, so you want to make sure you choose a flavor that pairs well with what you intend to primarily mix it with. For example, if you're going to use it for protein shakes and add other mix-ins like fruits or veggies then you'll want to find a simple flavor that mixes well with those things.
Answer these questions before investing in any protein powder! The answers will guide you to finding the right type of protein powder, which brings us to the second tip...
Familiarize yourself with the different types
Not all protein powders are created equal. As we briefly mentioned earlier, they vary in composition, meaning they go through different processes, contain different ingredients, and either include or don't include certain nutrients that affect the protein powder's role in your body. With that being said let's talk about the most popular types of protein powder and what they're best for...
- Whey Protein Powder
Whey protein is the most popular, and most commonly used protein. It's a milk-derived protein powder that contains all essential amino acids (EAAs) making it a complete protein. It actually has the highest branched-chain amino acid content (BCAA), the highest being leucine which plays a direct role in increasing muscle protein synthesis (helps with muscle gain). It's also absorbed and digested easily making it ideal for post-workout, or any time of day!
There are three types of whey protein: Whey Isolate, Whey Concentrate, and Whey Hydrolysate. The way they are processed is what makes these three different. Whey isolate has most of the fats and carbs removed making it have a higher and highly concentrated protein content. This is ideal for those that want to increase in muscle size and strength, and for those that want to lose weight since it's mostly protein, it helps keep you full longer and it's relatively low on carbs and fats. Whey protein concentrate contains an average of 70-80% protein, with the remainder being carbs and fats. Whey hydrolysate is not as popular as the other two, but the main difference is that it's pre-digested so it's rapidly absorbed in the gut, much faster than isolate or concentrate.
Between the three, whey isolate seems to be the better choice for post-workout and for those who have a goal of weight loss and/or muscle building. That's because it contains the most protein, highest in leucine, and contains little fat and carbs which is ideal for those wanting to achieve certain fitness goals. Whey concentrate and hydrolysate are good as well, just not the most effective type for those specific goals.
- Casein Protein Powder
Casein, similar to whey, is a milk protein and contains all nine essential amino acids. The difference being that it's a slow-digesting protein, it can take more than six hours to be fully digested and absorbed. It's not really ideal for post-workout, but it does give a sustained delivery of amino acids to the muscles making it better to take in the evenings before bed or in between meals. Although casein does not have as much leucine as whey, it is a food source of the BCAA glutamine, which helps reduce muscle protein breakdown.
So, who would benefit most from taking casein? It's best for those who tend to fall short on meeting their protein intake for the day and need a boost in the evening, or also for those who want to use it as a meal replacement since it can be used for morning or lunch protein shakes. The slow absorption rate helps with recovery and reduces muscle breakdown, on top of increasing overall protein intake for optimal muscle growth.
- Plant Protein Powder
Also known as vegan protein powders, are made from plant protein sources. The most popular and common being: Soy Protein, Rice Protein, and Pea Protein.
Soy protein powder is produced from the plant-based protein soybeans. It's a great alternative to whey protein because it contains all essential amino acids making it a complete protein. It's also low in fat and carbohydrates, making it ideal for those wanting to gain muscle or lose weight.
Pea protein powder is made from yellow split peas, a high-fiber legume. It's hypoallergenic, rich in BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, valine), and has a 98% digestion rate. This means that the body is able to process and use the majority of amino acids present.
Rice protein powder is made from brown rice, which in fact, contains all EAAs, but it's low in leucine and has very little lysine so some don't consider it a complete protein. But it is high in fiber (keeps you full) and other nutrients like B-vitamins that are beneficial for your health.
Plant proteins are best for those who follow a vegan or dairy-free diet, but when it comes to achieving fitness goals opt for soy or pea protein powders!
If you want more information on a specific type to see if it's right for you take a look at our breakdown of different types of protein powder.
Pay close attention to the ingredients list
Once you know the type that best suits you, it’s time to look at the actual ingredients. Always look at the nutrition label and the ingredients list for everything - groceries and supplements. No matter what your fitness goals are you want to make sure that the ingredients list on your tub of protein powder is clean. Meaning it should be mostly protein, so it should be #1 on the ingredients list, and very little fillers and additives, carbs, and fats.
So, what exactly should you look out for?
- Amino acids, specifically EAAs and BCAAs. You want to make sure that the protein powder you're getting is a complete protein in order to reap the most benefits.
- At least 20 grams of protein per scoop. You're getting a protein powder to make sure you get enough protein for the day so ensure that the one you choose has enough protein per scoop! Typically 20-30 grams is ideal, and keep it under 5 grams of carbs if you have certain goals in mind.
- Short ingredients list. The shorter the list the better! Make sure the type of protein is listed at the top of the list, and that it's followed by very few ingredients that sound familiar to you. As an extra tip - avoid carrageenan, or any added sugars and artificial sweeteners.
Instead of mindlessly buying a tub of protein powder that might not benefit you at all, use these tips to help you match a protein powder to your lifestyle and goals. Remember, it all comes down to these three things: ask yourself the important questions, know the different types, and pay attention to the nutrition label and ingredients list.
At 373 Lab we pride ourselves on creating supplements that will enhance your training performance and recovery by creating formula blends with fewer fillers, and more high-quality ingredients. Our protein powder is a whey isolate protein with high protein content and minimum lactose level. During our whey filtration process, membrane filtration was used, this method filters the whey without using any harsh chemicals. We also use simple, and only the most important, ingredients you need - no unnecessary thickeners, no soy lecithin, no carrageenan - plus an added enzyme blend to help with digestion. All to give you a clean (and delicious) 25 grams of protein per scoop.