Protein powders, when used correctly and appropriately, can have a great number of health benefits for anyone, not just those trying to build up their muscles – but with so many different types of powder on the market, how do you choose the right one?
There is no ‘one size fits all’ so it’s about knowing exactly why you want to take the powder and what you want to achieve from it – then look to find one which fits the profile you are looking for. Beware that many products are full of additives so always check the label and go for the purest option you can find.
Here are our five tips to think about when choosing your own protein powder
1. Understand why you want to use it
Your required goals will have an influence on the type of protein powder you go for, so if you are trying to use protein shakes to lose weight, for example, you need to look for powders with the highest protein to calorie ratio. You also need to understand they can only help in conjunction with a healthy-eating regime.
If you are looking to bulk up your muscles then you will have a different need and perhaps will go for ready made up protein drinks that you can take to the gym with you, rather than a big tub of powder that can be messy and difficult to use.
2. Does the powder you are using meet your dietary needs?
There are many types of protein powder around, including those based on animals and those based on plants so if you have special dietary needs you might want to bear this in mind when choosing the powder that is right for you.
For example, if you are engaged in a plant-based diet then you will need a protein source to reflect that. If you avoid dairy for example, you won’t be able to go for whey protein so rice, soy and pea-based proteins will be better choices.
However, if you eat dairy then whey protein isolate will be the best option and is one of the most commonly used proteins thanks to its cheap price and wide availability in the shops. You can also try salmon or even beef protein powders but these are much more expensive. Another choice is casein which is similar to whey protein but is absorbed into the body much more slowly.
3. Check the protein levels
One of the most important things you need to look at is the amount of protein per serving - and beware the clever marketers who increase the serving size recommendation so it looks like you are getting more protein at first glance.
You need to go for the powder which genuinely has the highest percentage of protein per serving so that you get the most benefit and the best value for money.
4. Check the additional ingredients
While you might feel like protein powder has to be healthy, be careful as many of them are full of sugar and other additives so always check the label. They will always contain some type of sugar but go for the lowest possible option.
A benefit of plant-based powders is they won’t contain lactose unlike the dairy-based ones, so this is one less source of sugar to worry about. If you are drinking very sugary protein drinks it is likely to cause more harm than good.
The other extra ingredient to look out for, but in a good way this time is protein powder which has added vitamins and minerals built in. These will help to support your body and keep you healthy so given the choice between added vitamins or not, always go with the vitamins.
5. Do your research first
There have been documented cases of brands of protein powder containing heavy metals in the past, although this has been disputed, so do some research on the brand you are thinking about buying, before you commit to drinking it regularly.
Make sure the product you are choosing doesn’t contain steroids or any other nasty extras that are going to harm your health rather than support it. A little research first could potentially save you from health problems later down the line.
Protein powders come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes, flavours and from a whole range of sources so choosing the right one for you can be quite overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to decide what you want to achieve, and to carry out some research into the brands first, before you even set foot in the shop.
If you purchase from a specialist health supplement shop then you can always ask the staff for advice if you have any doubts or concerns and if you do have any medical conditions you should always speak to your doctor before starting to drink protein shakes regularly.