In my last post I talked about some warning signs that you might need a protein supplement. I also said I was going to finish my series of posts about protein this weekend but obviously that didn’t happen, so I’m publishing those posts today. I worked Monday through Friday plus the weekend so today is my much needed day off. Although it’s not really gonna be a day off because I’m blogging and teaching piano lessons and creating workout programs lol but oh well such is life with 3 part time jobs.
When I decided I needed a protein supplement, I was excited to try something new. But that excitement quickly faded when I realized how many hundreds of protein supplements are out there. You have protein powders and ready made drinks and people that say all your protein should come from your diet alone and vegetarian-friendly protein and much, much more. Protein has become a mass marketed money-maker and I’m pretty sure it leaves a lot of us confused and unsure of which one to choose. When every company claims to be the best you kinda have to learn to look past their marketing rhetoric and analyze the actual product to see if it’s any good. In today’s post I’m going to break down for you the different types of protein, as well as how to choose the right one for your needs.
Whey protein. This is my personal favorite, and a lot of experts agree that it is the most easily absorbed and efficiently utilized by the body. Whey is a complete protein, meaning it has all 9 essential amino acids. A lot of people avoid whey because it is a milk product, but it actually has a very low lactose content. I used to be allergic to dairy but my doctor said whey protein would be fine for me because even though it’s a milk product, it doesn’t contain enough lactose to be a problem. (Disclaimer: I’m not saying it’s fine for everyone with a dairy allergy, please consult with your doctor if you have any concerns.)
Casein protein. This protein is more slowly digested than whey protein, meaning it won’t give you an immediate fueling boost but is rather released into the bloodstream over a long period of time. That’s why Casein protein is a better post-workout shake than pre-workout, because it will help build muscle as you rest after your workout. If you take it right before your workout it isn’t going to give you much energy right away. Some protein powders have whey and casein protein powders mixed so you can get an immediate boost (whey) and still have the benefits of casein protein as you recover.
Hemp protein. Hemp is a good plant-based alternative protein for those who don’t want to use animal products (like whey). This protein also provides nutrients such as all 9 amino acids, the essential fatty acids, and omega-3 and omega-6 in a beneficial 3:1 ratio. Hemp protein contains fewer grams of protein per scoop than whey but it is a good source of fiber and healthy fats, so depending on your needs and goals hemp seed protein is a great alternative.
There are other forms of protein out there, but those are the main 3 you will find. You can also of course get lots of protein through your diet by eating things like eggs, peanut butter, and lean meat. Since there are so many options and it can be hard to choose one, rest in knowing that there are 3 simple things you can do to make the decision process easier:
(1. Specify your needs. Everyone is different. What do you prioritize in your protein supplement? Does taste matter to you? Animal based or plant based? Do you want it to give you energy and fuel immediately or do you want a sustained release of protein into your bloodstream? Simple questions like these can help you narrow down your list of options by a LOT.
(2. Ask a nutritionist, health coach, or fitness professional for recommendations. There’s no shame in asking someone who knows better than you. Check with your doctor or a nutritionist, or if you’d like I’d be more than happy to do a cheap ($10) consultation with you via live chat on Facebook to help you narrow down your options and figure out exactly what you need.
(3. Read reviews, good and bad. When all else fails, I always read lots of reviews on different products to see what people’s experiences have been with it. When you look up the reviews, however, make sure you aren’t on the brand name’s website. A lot of times they will only post 4 and 5 star reviews because it makes their product look good. Check a non-biased site like Amazon or even Walmart to get more accurate and varied reviews. Read both the good reviews and bad, and watch for a pattern. What is something most reviewers complained about? What is something most of them loved? You’ll always have a couple complainers that are upset about something random, but I usually don’t pay attention to the obnoxious whiners unless there is a common thread of their complaint in other comments as well.
I personally have tried several brands of protein powders, I’ll list them below ranked from my favorite to least favorite. Everyone is different though so the ones I didn’t really like might be fantastic for you and the ones I loved might not fit you as well. But I thought I’d mention them anyway because it could give you a place to start. (Note: the third one in the list is probably the cleanest, healthiest protein I’ve ever come across. The only reason I ranked two before it is for their taste and how good I feel on them. I felt great on the Health Drink too, so the first three could almost be tied.)