So, you need more protein in your diet, and you’ve realized that supplements are the easiest way to get more protein. Great!
At this point you’ve probably walked into a GNC or searched around on Amazon… then felt completely overwhelmed by your choices.
Whey concentrate? Rice protein? Casein? How do you choose a protein powder? Which one is the best?
If you’ve done some initial reading on protein powders — and are still confused — you’re not alone. Read on to see an easy way to choose which protein supplement is right for you.
How to Choose a Protein Powder
I won’t get into the nitty gritty nutritional profiles of each type of protein because we’ll be here all day and other sites do that much better that I can.
Instead, to help you choose the type of protein you need — we’ll follow a general rule of decision making:
When faced with overwhelming choice: simplify your options by choosing based on your constraints.
For most people, that’s money — for some, it’s dietary things like being vegan or following a paleo diet.
Below, I’ve listed several statements below that most of you will be able to identify with, helping you pick once and for all which type of protein supplement you need.
“I just want the cheapest protein”
Get Whey Concentrate. For most people, this is the way to go. It’s vegetarian-friendly as well. If you’re just starting out and don’t have any dietary issues – get yourself a tub of whey concentrate!
Whey concentrate is the most popular type of protein powder on the market. Due to the amount of choices available, this also means that it’s the cheapest one on this list. With whey concentrate, you should definitely be able to find a bunch of flavors that you really enjoy, making it easy to up your protein intake.
Get Whey Isolate. This is whey concentrate’s leaner and more refined brother; and in the process of refinement, it becomes friendly for the lactose-intolerant. It has less carbs than whey concentrate and is the first choice when people begin cutting weight or need to keep calories in check.
Get Soy Protein. This protein supplement is typically the first choice for vegans. It’s a complete protein with comparable macro stats to whey isolate. Keep in mind that people have varying degrees of sensitivity to soy, because of its highly processed nature. So if you’re starting out with soy protein, consider buying a smaller tub or sample pack to see how your body reacts to it.
“I’m vegan and have soy allergies“
Get a blended Rice/Pea Protein. Rice Protein and Pea Protein are incomplete protein sources on their own, but become a complete protein when combined.
“I’m vegan and I have a sensitive stomach”
Get Rice Protein. Rice protein is hypo-allergenic — unlikely to cause allergic reactions or upset stomachs — and easily digested by most people. It’s also gluten-free. Do note that rice protein is not a “complete protein” (i.e. it doesn’t have all the amino acids to form a complete protein) so make sure you’re getting protein from a variety of sources and don’t rely on it as your primary source.
“I’m on Paleo / Keto / need super low-carb“
Get Egg Protein. A complete protein source with a great macro profile: egg protein supplements are usually based solely off egg whites. It’s all protein and nearly zero carbs. This is another choice for lactose-intolerant people.
The catch is that it’s usually one of the most expensive proteins and can be hard to find a flavor that you like. So be ready to shell out some cash at the beginning. During my research, quite a few people remarked that egg protein produces the deadliest farts out of this entire list!
“I need a slow-digesting protein”
Get Casein Protein. Why would someone want a slow-digesting protein? Slow-digesting proteins provide your body a steady supply of protein over a longer period of time (contrast this with whey, which is absorbed quickly). Helpful for giving your body a steady supply of protein throughout the day or while you’re sleeping — casein is commonly used as a nighttime protein shake.
Casein also can be useful as a whey substitute for recipes as there is a lot of flavor variety but casein’s texture reacts differently to heat.
Make a choice, just don’t rely on it too much
I mentioned “complete proteins” a bit above, which really deserves a full post explaining why that’s important. Just know that ideally, you should be getting all your protein from food sources and not supplements.
Furthermore, everyone has different reactions to protein powders. Some people get acne; some people get bloated and gassy; some people get diarrhea. Build them into your diet gradually.
Once you find a protein powder that you like, check out some of our high-protein recipes!
Pretty soon you’ll be buying tubs and tubs of your favorite flavors.