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Protein is a macronutrient needed for crucial body functions such as growth and repair, boosting immune function, and transporting nutrients. They’re made up of 20 different amino acids, 9 of which cannot be produced by the body. These nine essential amino acids have to be obtained via protein-rich foods such as fish, eggs, and nuts.
The average recommended protein intake for healthy adults is 0.8 g per kg of body weight. The average for those who practice intense training can be anywhere between 1-1.6 g/kg, and 2g/kg is considered safe for long-term consumption .
But what if it’s not always possible to eat protein rich foods? Protein powders can help whenever you need a quick boost of pure protein.
What Is Protein Powder?
Protein powders are supplements that contain concentrated protein made from a variety of sources such as rice, milk, egg, hemp, and soy. Protein powders may also include some additional ingredients such as thickeners, and some even have added sugar and artificial flavorings.
Each protein powder is made using different extraction techniques and processes depending on their type.
Our Top Protein Powder Guides
Protein Powder Benefits
Here are some ways protein powder can boost your health & well-being.
Muscle growth & recovery
Protein powder taken after a workout session can help build muscles. E.g., one study found that whey protein supplementation resulted in more lean muscle mass than soy and isocaloric carbohydrate in non-trained participants .
May help with weight loss
Consuming protein powder has been found to increase fat loss while preserving muscle mass in obese participants .
May enhance belly fat loss
Protein powder can help speed up belly fat loss. A 2015 study found that whey protein helped increase abdominal fat loss and lean muscle mass .
May reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that can increase the risk of heart disease. Whey protein may help reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome .
7 Best Types of Protein Powders
Whey is the liquid part of the milk that separates after the coagulation process during cheese making. Have you ever wondered what the translucent water in a cup of plain yogurt might be? That’s whey protein.
Best for: Improving physical performance and building muscles.
Average macros per serving (Whey concentrate):
Calories: 119 carbs: 2 g fat: 1 g protein: 23 g
Average macros per serving (Whey isolate):
Calories: 110 carbs: 1 g fat: 0.5 g protein: 25 g
What are the 3 types of whey protein?
Whey protein consists of three different types: whey protein concentrate (WPC), whey protein isolate (WPI), and whey protein hydrolysate (WPH).
Whey protein concentrate has very low levels of fat and carbohydrates and contains anywhere from 30 to 90 % protein.
Whey protein isolate has no fat or lactose and usually contains a minimum of 90 % protein. This form of whey protein is generally most popular among athletes such as bodybuilders or those who have lactose intolerance.
Whey protein hydrolysate has undergone predigestion through the process of partial hydrolysis, making it easier to digest than concentrate and isolate.
Egg protein powder is made from egg whites, and it’s suitable for those with dairy allergies who may still want an animal-based protein supplement.
It’s a high-quality protein; however, it may not increase satiety as other protein powders do due to the yolk (fat) being removed. Egg white protein is a rich source of BCAA (branched chain amino acids) that plays a crucial role in muscle growth and repair.
Best for: Taking throughout the day because it releases protein slowly than whey.
Average macros per serving:
Calories: 113 carbs: 1 g fat: 0 g protein: 25 g
Hemp protein is a high-quality plant-based protein powder made from hemp seeds. It’s rich in essential amino acids, fiber, healthy fat, and minerals. It’s suitable for vegans and those who are allergic to dairy. Many people love the earthy taste of hemp seed protein powder and enjoy it in their shakes and smoothies. Other than being an excellent source of protein, hemp seeds also have many other health benefits.
E.g., it’s packed with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. One study found that the antioxidant capacity of hemp seed protein hydrolysate helped reduce oxidative stress in rats with high blood pressure .
Best for: Those who want to up their omega-3 intake along with protein.
Average macros per serving:
Calories: 110 carbs: 6 g fat: 3 g protein: 14 g
Soy is another popular plant-based protein powder enjoyed by vegans, vegetarians, and those allergic to dairy foods. The US FDA recommends 25 g/d of soy protein, and most brands contain anywhere between 15-30 g per serving . Although it’s a complete protein and can help build muscles, it’s not as effective as whey protein.
Best for: Popular vegan alternative for whey.
Average macros per serving:
Calories: 110 carbs: 1 g fat: 1 g protein: 25 g
Casein Protein Powder
Casein is also a milk protein that digests slowly, releasing small and steady doses of protein for several hours. Like whey, casein is also a complete protein, and it’s what gives the white color of milk. The slow release of amino acids by casein provides better nitrogen retention and use by the body . Casein is not suitable to be taken after a workout and is better taken at night to optimize the growth and recovery period during sleep.
Best for: Perfect to take during the night for anyone wanting to make use of the slow and steady protein release of casein. It’s an excellent supplement for muscle builders and those who practice high-intensity training.
Average macros per serving:
Calories: 110 carbs: 1 g fat: 0 g protein: 27 g
Brown Rice Protein Powder
Brown rice protein is not just good for muscle building, but it’s also an excellent source of antioxidants and other nutrients. It has many health benefits, such as aiding in weight loss and improving liver damage .
Best for: It’s gluten-free and perfect for vegetarians and those allergic to dairy.
Average macros per serving:
Calories: 100 carbs: 1 g fat: 1 g protein: 25 g
Pea Protein Powder
Pea protein powder is made from yellow peas. It’s a rich source of essential amino acids and iron. One study found that pea protein and whey protein produced similar performance and adaptation results after eight weeks of high-intensity interval training .
Best for: Anyone looking for a plant-based protein powder that’s easy to digest and hypo-allergenic.
Average macros per serving:
Calories: 80 carbs: 1 g fat: 1.5 g protein: 15 g
How To Choose The Best Protein Powder For You
If improving your body composition, and muscle building is your primary goal, you might want to go for whey concentrate or whey isolate for best results. Go for soy if you’re a vegan and pea protein is excellent if you’re allergic to nut and dairy-based protein powders.
Research the ingredients before buying your protein powder because a lot of them can contain added sugar, hidden carbs, and other additives that you don’t want. A good quality protein powder will be packed with BCAA (branched chain amino acids) such as leucine.
What is the Best Protein Powder for Building Lean Muscle?
There are several things you should look for in a potential protein powder in order to build lean muscle effectively. First, you should select a protein powder which supplies enough protein per serving to maximize muscle growth. Second, you should make sure that the protein powder you choose is a complete protein source and provides all nine essential amino acids. Finally, the protein powder you choose should contain a high concentration of protein by weight.
In most cases, whey protein, especially whey isolate, is best for building lean muscle since it provides all nine essential amino acids and contains a high amount of protein per serving. Although there are some plant-based protein sources which supply a high amount of protein and BCAAs, most plant-based proteins are incomplete protein sources and offer less protein per serving when compared to whey protein.
What is the Best Protein Powder for Weight Loss?
When searching for a protein powder for weight loss it’s best to use a product which contains a high amount of protein per serving, negligible amounts of carbohydrates and fats, and promotes a feeling of fullness. It’s also crucial to select a product which does not contain a large amount of artificial sweeteners or sugar since both may lead to appetite stimulation, cravings, and energy crashes.
Protein powders which have been shown to aid weight loss the most effectively include whey and casein. However, those who do not consume animal-based protein sources should use protein powders that are fortified with fiber to help control hunger. This type of product can usually be found in mixed plant-based protein powders that contain at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. Pea and rice protein powders, especially when combined, have been shown to help people control their appetites better than other non-animal protein sources.
What is the Best Protein Powder for Meal Replacement?
Those who are looking for a protein powder to use for meal replacement should find a product which contains a healthy balance of all three macronutrients and also provides enough calories to effectively replace a meal. In most cases, any type of protein powder can be used for meal replacement as long as it’s mixed with other ingredients that help raise the number of calories and macronutrients in provides.
However, some protein powders are designed to be calorically dense and provide all three macronutrients without having to add extra ingredients. Protein powders most commonly found in this category include whey or casein mass-gainer products or plant-based protein sources that come mixed with vegetable and fruit powders.
Make sure to look for products that are labeled with terms such as “all-in-one”, “mass-gainer”, or “meal replacement” to ensure that the protein powder contains both fat and carbohydrates in addition to protein.
What is the Best Type of Protein Powder?
The best type of protein powder is one that provides an adequate amount of protein and essential amino acids, contains no artificial sweeteners or sugar, and helps you to achieve your specific goals or adhere to your dietary preferences.
Those who consume animal products should use a protein powder that is obtained from a high-quality animal source with minimal processing and additives. An example of this would be a grass-fed whey protein powder or an organic, free-range egg white protein powder.
Those who do not consume animal-products should select a protein powder that will provide them will all nine essential amino acids and a high amount of protein per serving. In most cases, those who are vegetarian or vegan will need to select a protein powder which contains a mixture of protein sources in order to make sure that they consume a high enough amount of each essential amino acid. A complete protein plant-based powder may include a combination of ingredients such as brown rice, pea, hemp and soy.
When Should You Drink Protein Shakes?
In order to maximize protein synthesis, protein shakes should be consumed 30 to 60 minutes prior to training and immediately after training. Protein shakes may also be used throughout the day to replace meals or right before bed to enhance recovery during the night.
You should make sure to consume protein at each meal to maximize recovery, promote muscle growth, and to curb hunger. Although different people have conflicting ideas over the right time to consume protein, you can use protein powder at any time throughout the day to help with your health and fitness goals.
Types of Protein Powder Brands
Now that you know more about the different types of protein powders and their benefits, you probably want to find the best protein powder brand possible. The following brands offer a variety of protein powder products which can help anyone, regardless of their diet, in reaching their health and fitness goals.
Performance Lab offers one of the cleanest and most effective protein powders in the world. Its protein powder is made from organic brown rice protein concentrate and is the only rice protein patented for enhancing athletic performance.
Performance Lab offers its protein powder in chocolate, vanilla, and cinnamon which are all naturally sweetened with organic yacon root, monk fruit and stevia. This protein powder is also enhanced with Bacillus coagulans which enables its leucine to be absorbed 30% faster when compared to whey.
Ladder offers both a high-quality whey protein powder as well as a plant-based protein powder. Both products provide an optimal amount of EAAs and BCAAs that are required for muscle repair, fat loss, and sports performance.
Whey Protein by Ladder contains 26 grams of protein, 14 grams of essential amino acids, 7 grams of BCAAs, and 2 billion CFU of probiotics. This product is composed of whey protein isolates instead of concentrate which provides the highest percentage of pure protein possible and less than 1% lactose.
Plant Protein by Ladder is a vegan protein powder that is designed for anyone who is sensitive to or avoiding dairy. This product contains 21 grams of protein, 9 grams of essential amino acids, 4.5 grams of BCAAs, and 2 billion CFU of probiotics.
Both protein powder products come in chocolate and vanilla and can be taken with 8-12 ounces of water, milk, or a milk alternative.
- Protein powders are supplements containing concentrated doses of protein, and there are several types, including whey, whey isolate, hemp, and soy protein powder.
- Protein powder should be treated as a supplement and not a replacement for dietary protein. So try your best to get most of your protein from foods such as fish, meat, eggs, cheese, and nuts.
- Whey concentrate and whey isolate are the most popular and effective protein powders for muscle building. However, there are other options, such as soy, hemp, and brown rice protein powder to suit your preferences.