How to Choose Protein Powder that’s Right For You

I’ve had so many questions about whether it’s ok to use protein powder, to do that, I decided to do a Facebook Live to answer this and any other questions you have about protein Tuesday, more at the end of the post on that. 🙂

Getting enough protein is an important part of keeping your energy up, your mood even, and your blood sugar stable. The lion’s share of my patients and clients think they are indeed getting enough protein, but then when they track their food and we look at how much protein they get compared to how much I want them to get they’re shocked, and often resistant. My approach to care is always- let’s try it and see how you feel.

Almost all the time they feel better. Much better.

The rub though is that not everyone wants to eat meat at every meal. And although there are vegetarian sources of protein (and I’m not opposed to vegetarian diets on principle) most of these foods that we think of in this capacity are more fat or carbs than protein. You can find specific examples here.

So, for many of my vegetarian patients and clients, or those who simply want other options, I suggest protein powder.

When I started my practice twenty years ago there were only a few options for protein powder—soy and whey.

Now we have so many different kinds of protein powder that it’s easy to get lost in the weeds trying to figure out what’s what.

Here are my 5 rules for selecting a protein powder:

Rule #1: Don’t buy protein powder with a half naked weight lifter on the bottle.

Rule #2: Avoid protein that has a sweetener that ends in –ol.

Rule #3: Avoid those with a laundry list of ingredients.

Rule #4: Get straight protein powder, no flavors, no sweeteners and mix it with what you choose so you’re in control of the ingredients.

Rule #5: Skip the pre-mixed cans of protein drink; they almost always have too many carbs or some kind of unsavory sweetener.

Now let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks to the different types of protein powder you can buy:

Remember, plain powder is best to be mixed with your own, real, food (my favorite protein smoothie recipe is here—the perfect balance of protein and carbs, just add more spinach, I’m not sure why I made that optional!)

Whey Protein Powder

Pros: Easy to absorb, mixes well, palatable taste and texture.
Cons: It’s dairy and many people do better without dairy (raises hand.)

Soy Protein Powder

Pros: Texture, may help with menopausal symptoms, vegan.

Cons: Hard to digest, not great for kids, funky aftertaste.

Rice Protein Powder

Pros: Hypoallergenic, vegan.

Cons: Rice often contains arsenic, if you get a lot of other rice in your diet it’s probably best not to choose this one.

Egg Protein Powder

Pros: Good texture, very little taste.

Cons: I haven’t been able to find egg protein powder from free ranging chickens and I don’t like the idea of eating eggs from chickens that are commercially raised (due to ethics.)

Pea Protein Powder

Pros: Easy to absorb, mild taste.

Cons: Can be a bit chalky.

Hemp Protein Powder

Pros: Your friends will consider you a legit hippie!

Cons: It’s not as high in protein as some other kinds of powders.

Hydrolyzed Collagen Protein Powder

Pros: Mixes into everything, even cold water, and pretty much disappears. Very mild taste. No texture at all. Please note the photo below is my giant 5 lb bag of hydrolyzed collagen. I don’t mess around.

Cons: Not suitable for vegetarians. If you get the wrong kind, the one that is not hydrolyzed, it will turn your smoothie into snot. You’ve been warned.

Mixed types of Protein Powder.

See above for pros and cons.

All of that said, I do think eating real food is better than drinking a smoothie in most cases (the exception might be right after or before a workout) but still, they are a great way to supplement your diet with protein.

If you have any questions about if and how you should incorporate protein powder into your diet, want to talk recipes, or get my suggestions for the the right protein powder for you, I’m hosting a Facebook Live chat on Tuesday March 14th at 9am PT/noon ET. I’ll be there to answer any questions you have about protein and/or protein powder.

And, per usual, feel free to respond to this email with any questions you’d like to see answered and I’ll include them even if you can’t make it live. You’ll be able to watch it on my Facebook page any time during or after the event. 🙂

Yours in Health,

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