Best Protein Powder Buyer’s Guide
Proteins are the building blocks of our body, and are essential for good health. You’ve probably seen people consuming a protein shake after a workout, and might wonder if it’s worth doing. These protein drinks, or shakes are mixed primarily with protein powder. Protein powder is a supplemental protein that provides an extra source of muscle building ingredients to a person’s diet.
Before protein powder, athletes and body builders had to rely on large meals with big portions of meat to meet their protein needs. Now, you can get ample protein in your diet to meet your fitness goals without the hassle of having to make a large meal.
Our Best Protein Powders According To Your Goals
What Is Protein Powder Used For?
During a workout, lifting weights and stretching beyond your normal range creates micro tears in the muscle. Your muscles feel weak afterward, indicating muscle exhaustion and your body begins to repair those tissues. Protein supplies the amino acids that are necessary to rebuild and reinforce those tissues so you become stronger.
Protein powders may be marketed towards gym goers and avid exercisers, but they also provide an extra, quick source of protein for people who are looking to improve their diet or lose weight.
What is Casein Protein?
Casein protein, unlike Whey in all its forms, is digested slowly over time. This provides a consistent source of protein over a few hours. This why you’ll notice that when people purchase Casein protein powders, they will usually consume them before they go to bed. This helps your muscles repair as you sleep.
Protein Powders According To Types Of Protein
Whey based protein is perhaps the most popular, and affordable powder on the market. Whey is the liquid byproduct leftover from cheesemaking. Globular proteins are then isolated from Whey itself, resulting in whey concentrate. Further processing and removal of extra carbohydrate, lactose, and fat result in whey isolate.
Since whey protein is made from dairy, it is not ideal for those who are lactose intolerant or have any other dairy related allergies or sensitivities. It is important to consult a dietitian or nutritionist if you have any of these problems before purchasing any variety of whey protein.
Whey Concentrate is one of the most popular protein supplements, primarily because of its affordable price. It also comes packed with carbohydrates for quick energy consumption making it ideal for people doing high intensity or cardiovascular workouts.
As stated above, whey isolate undergoes further processing to remove fat and carbohydrate, leaving the remaining substance a more concentrated source of protein. Because of the cost of further processing and a majority of it being protein, whey isolates tend to be more expensive than whey concentrate. However, isolates are a helpful supplement for people looking to control their carbohydrate and overall calorie intake. As you may have guessed, they are commonly used by people trying to lose weight.
Choosing Between Them
There are a variety of protein powders on the market and choosing the right one for your personal goals can be daunting. There are powders created for different purposes, such as weight loss, or muscle gain. There are also different subtypes of the same protein such as whey that further confuse the consumer. Choosing the right protein powder for your goals might require a bit of research.
In this guide, we will explore some of the best protein powder supplements on the market. We will explore carbohydrate, protein, fiber, and fat content as well to help you make an educated purchase. Cost per serving is another aspect to take into consideration as protein powders can be expensive depending on the type and brand.
Comparing and Contrasting Powders
Carbohydrates are nutrients that also produce energy for the body. They are quickly broken down by the body for use and are a great fuel for exercise. Protein takes longer to digest and utilize than carbohydrates.
- A powder with a high carb content is most likely going to be consumed before or during a workout in order to provide energy to the body.
- A powder with a low carb content is probably going to be consumed after a workout, as it will likely contain more protein per serving to rebuild muscles over time.
You can also eat foods high in carbs before you work-out to provide you with short-term energy. Following a workout, a source of protein and carbohydrate will help your body recover adequately. Whey, casein, and plant proteins can all be used to help you rebuild and repair muscles in time for your next workout.
We’ve expanded upon a number of different powders with different benefits and ingredients, but in the end, it comes down to personal choice. The powders that are more expensive are going to have a higher protein concentration than your average brand. If a powder is going to help you with your goals, there are some variables to consider.
- A higher concentration of protein will have a lower carb and fat content, making it ideal for weight loss, or people who aren’t concerned about high cost.
A lower concentration of protein will have a slightly higher carb and fat content. If bulking up is your goal, a little extra carbohydrate and fat is not a big deal and can actually provide extra fuel for your workouts.
Fiber is not digestible by our bodies per-se, but is instead digested by bacteria found within our large intestines to a small degree. Fiber helps your digestive system work optimally. It is important to get plenty of fiber in your diet to make sure you are balancing out the amount of protein you are ingesting. A healthy diet, rich in fiber-containing foods such as whole grains, legumes, fruit and vegetables, is important for overall health and will support you in your fitness goals.
While most brands try to lower overall fat content, this does not mean that fat is something that should be completely avoided. Fat is a nutrient that our bodies need for cell signaling, hormone production, and optimal health. However, fat is digested slowly and can make people feel sluggish when working out. Because most powders are used before, during, or right after exercise, most powders keep their fat content to a minimum to help the consumer feel their best.
Checking your powder’s protein concentration is actually easier than it sounds. Simply look at the nutrition labels. The percentage of protein is the number of grams a serving of the powder will give you divided by the overall grams of powder per serving.
The higher the concentration, the more protein you are getting for your money (and the less carbohydrate, fat, or other fillers will be contained)
A powder with a low percentage of protein and a fat or carb content that exceeds 5g is likely less than ideal.
Disclaimer: Dietary supplements are NOT regulated by the FDA for strength, composition or purity. Taking supplements of any kind is always done at your own risk.
1. MuscleTech Performance Series Nitro-Tech
MuscleTech, specifically the Nitro-Tech series, receives high marks because of the added ingredients to their formula at an affordable price. These ingredients discussed are added to help promote protein absorption and utilization within the cells.
Nitro-Tech (as manufactured by MuscleTech) uses whey isolate, one of the best forms of whey in terms of absorption, but also the most expensive.
- A 4lb tub of Nitro-Tech provides 30g of protein in a single scoop while keeping carbs, sugars, and fats to minimum.
- Each serving also contains about 3g of creatine and leucine, which are used to fuel muscles and improve muscle recovery. You can buy these ingredients separately, but this brand of protein lumps them all together to make it more convenient to you.
Approximate cost per serving (2lb tub)—($1.46)
2. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Casein
Optimum Nutrition once again tops our list for top notch protein, but this time for Casein. Gold Standard features another, Casein-focused product specifically for when you sleep.
Since it is not a heavily advertised product like other Whey protein powders, Gold Standard Casein features a lower price than normal. Casein alone won’t help you bulk up like a whey-based protein powder but it can contribute to adequate recovery, helping you gain muscle in the long run.
Gold Standard Casein also includes 5 grams of BCAA’s and amino acids vital to the production and transport of protein in muscle tissue. Take this as an added bonus courtesy of Optimum Nutrition!
Approximate cost per serving (2lb tub)—($.96)
3. Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Gold Standard
Gold Standard is one of the most popular products found on the market. It is rated so high because of its large concentration of Whey Isolates. This product contains one of the highest percentages of protein per serving among the current powders.
Gold Standards also contains an extra dose of the three branched chain amino acids (BCAA) in their product. These amino acids are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They help the body build muscle tissue and are labeled “essential” because the body must obtain them from food. These amino acids help in the synthesis of protein, transporting it to different parts of your body, and producing energy.
Approximate cost per serving (2lb tub)-($1.03)
4. BPI Sports: Best Protein
BPI Sports’ appropriately named “Best Protein” may seem like an odd choice to be placed in the weight loss category. However, the reason that Best Protein fits in this category is actually pretty simple.
What makes Best Protein such a game changer when it comes to weight loss? As with all powders, the trick is going to be how you use it. Best Protein has a low carb and fat content. This means that it is a higher concentration of protein without additional calories.
Approximate cost per serving (2lb tub)—($1.14)
5. BiPro Whey Isolate
BiPro sets itself apart from most powder brands as it is whey isolate based but also lactose-free. BiPro is a National Science Foundation (NSF) certified brand for athletes. This means that the NSF has tested BiPro’s ingredients for performance-enhancing substances and ingredients that might appear in other brands.
This is a huge factor if you’re training to be a professional athlete or getting ready for a competition. If drug testing is required, you will want to make sure that you aren’t violating any rules before the competition starts.
Approximate cost per serving (2lb tub)—($1.10)