Your Go-To Guide for Protein Powder
Protein powder is the evergreen supplement:
It’s been popular, is popular, and still will be popular for many years to come.
Do any search for supplements on the web and you’ll certainly come across protein powder.
What is it that makes this supplement so great?
Should everyone take it regardless of his or her goals?
Are all protein powders created equally?
And of course is protein powder necessary or is it mostly hype?
Stay tuned because today I’ll be answering all of your protein powder questions.
Let’s get started.
Is Protein Powder Really That Great?
Without a doubt, protein powder is one of the hottest and most talked about supplements on the market.
Here’s the deal:
Just because something is popular doesn’t mean that it’s good.
In fact, protein powder isn’t necessary at all to get results.
Adequate protein intake however is a requirement for reaching your goals.
Needless to say, if you can get enough protein from whole food sources, then the supplement really isn’t essential.
This is one reason why I feel protein powder is overhyped. There’s nothing magical about it—it’s still just protein.
You won’t build more muscle by getting your protein from a bottle as opposed to whole foods; the end result will be the same.
Be that as it may, I’m still a big fan of protein powder for one simple reason— convenience.
Could I get enough protein from whole food sources?
Sure I could.
But it’s a heck of a lot easier to just use protein powder to help me get there instead.
I don’t have to spend a bunch of time cooking and eating chicken breasts all day.
I can simply throw two scoops of protein powder in a shake and bam I’ll be well on my way.
If you’re always busy or find yourself with little time to eat, then protein powder is a great option for this reason alone.
One of the biggest perceived drawbacks to the supplement is cost.
The reality is that protein powder is about the same price gram for gram as other high quality meats such as: chicken, turkey, venison, etc.
Plus, when you factor in how much time you’ll be saving, protein powder becomes even cheaper.
Here’s the deal:
I think that protein powder is a solid supplement regardless of what your goals are.
However, for certain people, it’ll make more sense than for others. Let’s take a closer look and see if protein powder is the right fit for your goals.
Is Protein Powder Good for Fat Loss?
Let’s say your main goal is fat loss. How necessary is protein for you?
The magazines would have you believe that you need lots of protein to prevent muscle loss.
In reality, your body doesn’t resort to using muscle (i.e. protein) for energy as quickly as supplement companies want you to think.
Only when your body has no other resources available, will it turn to muscle.
In fact, this misconception is holding a lot of people back.
The fear of muscle loss will cause them to suffer from “protein guilt.”
This happens when you eat more protein (and in turn more calories) because you think that you need more to complete your meal.
Remember eating more protein isn’t your goal—fat loss is.
Therefore, stay focused on that goal and only do the things that’ll help you lose weight, which means getting and staying in a caloric deficit.
This isn’t to say that protein doesn’t matter at all—far from it.
Protein is still going to be important for individuals looking to lose weight, just like fat and carbs.
Protein will help keep you full, help maintain/build muscle and strength, and much more.
When you start to approach lower levels of body fat (10% and under) the importance of protein will increase even more.
It’ll become more crucial for maintaining muscle mass. Of course until you reach that point, don’t worry about it.
As far as amounts are concerned, I recommend 35-40% of your total caloric intake comes from protein.
Remember though worry more about being in a caloric deficit than obsessing over how much protein you’re eating on a daily basis.
Protein Powder and Building Muscle
As you can probably already guess protein is crucial for building muscle.
Without an adequate amount of protein, you really will be leaving muscle on the table so to speak.
Muscle growth occurs outside of the gym when you’re resting/recovering from your workout.
In order for the growth to happen though, protein synthesis (generation of new proteins) must be greater than the rate of protein breakdown.
With dietary protein, you are essentially giving your body the raw materials it needs to build muscle—similar to how an architect needs bricks, wood, and other supplies to build a house.
So yes you do need protein, but it doesn’t have to be from the powder at all. Protein from whole food sources will get the job done.
Again it might be hard to consistently meet all of your protein needs from whole foods alone.
If you find this to be the case, then investing in some protein powder would be a good option just to ensure that you aren’t missing out.
As for how much protein to eat, I recommend the same for fat loss percent wise—around 35-40%.
The only difference is that you’ll be eating more (because you’re trying to add mass) so therefore you’ll be eating more protein overall.
You certainly don’t need to eat crazy high amounts of protein to get the job done.
This is because more protein doesn’t equal more muscle.
Beyond a certain point, eating more protein won’t provide you with any additional muscle.
Thankfully, you won’t have to be downing protein shakes all day to hit some absurd amount of protein to 2 grams per pound of bodyweight.
Someone in the realm of 1-1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight will be plenty.
Which Type of Protein is Best?
Believe it or not, there’s actually quite a few different kinds of protein out there.
In this section, I’ll discuss the different kinds and which one will suit your needs the best.
Let’s start with the most common one of them all—whey protein.
This is the most common type of protein powder on the market today.
You can find it pretty cheap for $10 a pound or upwards of $20 a pound (more on this later) depending on the kind you get.
There are 3 main kinds of whey protein—concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate.
Concentrate: This is the cheapest of the 3 kinds of whey. It contains mostly protein, but it also contains some fat and carbs as well. Look at the label of a concentrate protein and you’ll notice the total grams outweigh the grams in protein. The remaining difference is lactose and fat. A good concentrate should be made up of at least 80% protein.
Isolate: This type of protein is more expensive than concentrate, but cheaper than hydrolysate. It’s processed more to help remove additional fat and lactose, and it’s 90+% pure protein. This is a good option to go with if you’re lactose intolerant.
Hydrolysate: Most expensive protein of the 3. It’s a predigested protein and it’s free from milk product allergens.
Cheap Whey Protein Vs. Expensive. Does it Matter?
Now you might be wondering if more expensive protein is really worth your money.
I say yes it certainly is—not all protein powders are created equally.
For years I bought cheap protein; usually it was around $18-$20 for a 2-pound jug.
I just looked on the label and saw how much protein it contained per serving—boy did I think I was getting a good deal.
Fortunately, I now know to look a little bit more closely at the label. Here are the different things you want to look out for:
#1: Check the First Ingredient
The first ingredient of your protein should be—wait for it—protein. Duh right?
Well believe it or not, some proteins are filled with more maltodextrin and other fillers than protein.
You might commonly find this to be an issue with “mass gainer” or “weight gainer” proteins.
If you notice anything other than protein coming first on the ingredient label, pass on it.
Note: You might commonly see something like protein blend on the label instead of just protein. This is perfectly ok and it’s just a mix of different kinds of protein.
#2: Watch Out for “Proprietary Blends”
A proprietary blend is a fancy way of saying, “we don’t want you to know what’s really in this powder.”
Generally, the blend is a bunch of fillers to help keep the cost of the protein low.
Funny thing is that it’s marketed as some amazing add on, but it’s really not.
#3: Overall Weight to Protein Weight Ratio
No protein powder is going to be 100% pure protein.
With this being the case, you still want at least 80% of the total weight per serving to be from protein.
Here’s how you check this.
Step 1: Look at total calories per serving.
Step 2: Look at total protein per serving and multiply that number by 4.
Step 3: Divide the protein number (96) by total calories (120)
Step 4: Convert calculated number to percent.
This means that 80% of the total calories from this powder are from protein and it would be a good investment.
#4: Amino Acid Spiking
This is something that you won’t be able to notice on the label.
Some companies will spike their formulas with cheap amino acids so they’ll test at higher amounts of protein than they actually contain.
The label will say one thing, but in actuality it’s less. I’d advise doing proper research on any brand before buying to make sure they are trustworthy.
Casein is another type of milk protein that digests slower than whey protein.
Due to its slower release it’s not optimal for post workout shakes.
However it is a good option to take before going to bed so that you’ll have a steady stream of protein throughout the night.
Getting casein protein to take before bed for muscle growth is ideal, but definitely not required by any means.
If you have to choose between casein and whey go with the whey protein.
Soy protein is a great plant based protein that’ll provide you with all of your essential amino acids.
One common grip against soy protein is the fact that most soybeans in the U.S. are genetically modified.
Of course more research needs to be done on genetically modified foods, but it’s certainly something to consider.
Egg protein consists of denatured egg whites.
Like casein, it’s a very slow digesting protein—so it’s a great option to take before going to bed.
If you’re lactose intolerant, this is a better option to go with over casein and vice versa if you’re allergic to egg.
Yes there’s actually such a thing as rice protein.
In addition to protein, you also get a good source of complex carbs and vitamins.
The major downside is that it isn’t a complete protein and it therefore won’t meet all of your dietary needs.
The Protein Powder I Personally Use
I personally only use whey protein because I like to keep things simple.
It’s the most common type of protein out there and it’ll fit the needs of most individuals.
I could invest in some casein protein, but I just don’t feel like it’s necessary for my needs.
I use Optimum Nutrition 100% Gold Standard Whey Protein.
It’s a trusted brand and I like it for one simple reason—what you see is what you get.
There are no proprietary blends or anything confusing like that.
And when they say you’re getting 24 grams of protein per severing you can believe that’s accurate.
I’ve tried many of the flavors and my personal favorite is banana.
But you can never go wrong with the standard vanilla or their double rich chocolate.
The Final Word on Protein Powder
Protein powder is a great supplement to help ensure you’re meeting your dietary protein needs.
If you don’t have room in your budget then don’t sweat it—you can still get plenty of protein from whole food sources.
Remember though protein powder is just protein and it won’t take the place of hard work and proper training.
Now I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comment section down below.
Do you take protein powder and what for?
What kind do you use?