Selecting the Best Protein Powders

A wide variety of proteins are available for consumption. Nutrition and health needs drive the decision each individual makes when choosing essential proteins. There are several factors to consider before making a decision on which protein power meets your need.

How to Choose a Protein Powder

Protein is a necessary component of the human diet. It is used in almost every biological process in the human body. There are many benefits to consuming adequate protein levels, including satiety and muscle recovery. Protein has also been shown to lower body mass, lower cholesterol and regulate glucose. However, there are many different proteins to choose from and they all have different properties that affect the body in different ways. One way to incorporate protein in the diet is through protein powders. The market is saturated with protein powders so it is important to know the differences between protein powders and choose what will best fit a person’s needs.


Determine the Main Reason for Using Protein Powder

Before adding protein powder to the diet, you should know why you are adding it. Knowing what the main reason is for the protein powder will allow you to choose a protein or a combination of proteins that will achieve the desired effect.

1. Add protein powder for muscle gain. Protein powders are a good way to aid in the recovery of muscle and the building of new muscle. If you are working out in order to build muscle, it is a good idea to add protein powder to your diet.

2. Add protein powder for weight loss. Protein increases the feeling of satiety and fullness, which may help curb overeating. It is also important for maintaining current muscle mass when doing exercise.

3. Add protein powder for overall health. Studies have shown some proteins to aid in delivering bioactives throughout the body and to lower cholesterol. Adding a protein powder to a healthy diet could help with lowering cholesterol, blood pressure or body mass quicker than just eating a healthy diet alone.

4. Add protein powder as a dietary supplement. There are many reasons to add protein powder as a dietary supplement.
-Vegetarians often lack appropriate amounts of protein and require supplementation.
-Persons who have had a gastric bypass need extra protein due to decreased nutrient absorption in the gut.
-People with certain diseases or ailments, such as celiac disease or crohn’s disease may need the extra protein during flare-ups due to reduced absorption in the intestine.

protein powderKnow the Amount of Protein Needed

Protein is not stored in the body and must be consumed daily. For this reason, it is recommended that people get all the essential amino acids needed by the body on a daily basis. Most people in western society do not need extra protein because the western diet is rich in protein. This doesn’t mean that using protein powders is bad for your health, but that you will need to plan your diet carefully, including the protein powders as a source of nutrition. The research is still emerging on the amount of protein needed for everyone. However, there are current recommendations for protein based on scientific evidence that everyone can use.

1. Eat 0.8 g of protein for every 1 kg (2.2 lbs) of body weight. This means that a 200 lb person would need approximately 72 g of protein a day. This is what the Institute of Medicine recommends for a healthy adult.

2. Eat 15% of daily calories from protein. Protein provides 4 calories per gram. So for a 2,000 calorie diet, you would eat 75 g of protein daily.

3. Increase daily calories of protein up to 25%. The extra protein calories should replace refined carbohydrates. For a healthy adult, this increase should not negatively affect the kidneys. By increasing the amount of calories from protein, you will achieve the heart healthy affects of the protein.

4. Limit protein intake to 0.8 to 1 g per 1 kg (2.2 lbs) of body weight per day if you have any health conditions that could affect your kidneys. The American Diabetes Association makes this recommendation for people with kidney disease or diabetes.

Choosing an Animal-Based Protein Powder

Animal-based proteins are complete proteins. They are gluten free and widely available. They also tend to be cheaper than plant based protein powders. Learn the advantages and disadvantages of the most widely available animal-based protein powders.

Egg Protein1. Pick an egg protein if high bioavailable protein is most important to you. Body builders looking to bulk up quickly might choose egg powder unless they have egg white allergies. It is also the best source of protein and has a PDCAAS rating (scale on which protein content is rated) of 1.00, which is the highest rating it could have. As far as proteins are concerned, egg is the protein all other proteins are measured against. It contains all the essential amino acids and a few non-essential amino acids as well. Depending on the quality of egg protein powder, it could be higher in cholesterol than other protein powders. There is little research to show egg protein having positive effects on heart health. It does help increase satiety and help with muscle recovery.

milk protein2. Consume milk protein powder if you are trying to lose weight and improve health by exercising regularly. It is the most nutritious of the animal protein powders and contains many proteins. These proteins range from enzymes to whey protein. It also has a PDCAAS rating of 1.00. Milk protein has been shown to lower body mass and blood pressure in studies. It aids in muscle recovery, but is also very effective in stimulating the synthesis of new muscle protein. It is extremely soluble and will help deliver nutrients throughout the body. Studies have shown that milk protein is one of the best proteins for post exercise recovery and weight loss. One drawback to milk protein may be lactose. For people with lactose intolerance or sensitivity, milk protein powder can cause aggravation in the gastrointestinal tract.

3. Add whey protein powder to your diet if you are using protein powder to aid in post-workout recovery. It is made from milk and very effective at delivering nutrients in soluble form throughout the body. It is also better than milk protein alone at synthesizing new muscle protein. Whey protein is extremely soluble and absorbed easily by the body. It will absorb quickly as well, which makes it good for post workout. Also, due to its ability to act as carrier for other nutrients, whey protein is a good supplement to take with meals. It can be found at most health food stores and is reasonably priced.

Choosing a Plant Based Protein Powder

The plant proteins available as protein powders are generally complete proteins. Some are gluten free and all can be considered vegan. They have lower protein content than animal sources, but still have many benefits. Plant protein powders usually require more processing and tend to be more expensive than animal protein powders. Learn the advantages and disadvantages to the most widely available plant based protein powders.

soy protein1. Choose a soy protein powder if you are looking to improve overall health. It is the most popular and well researched. Soy protein comes very close to animal protein in protein content and quality. It has a PDCAAS value of 0.92 to 0.99. Studies have shown that soy protein lowers LDL cholesterol and affects fat metabolism. It also promotes satiety. There have been limited studies showing soy protein having positive effects on cognitive function. Soy contains phtyoestrogen, a plant sterol that can mimic the hormone estrogen. Due to this many people have believed that soy products could aggravate breast cancer. New studies have shown that the opposite may be true and soy protein could actually have an effect in shrinking tumor sizes. Soy protein has also been shown to stimulate new muscle synthesis and be effective in post workout recovery. Soy protein is widely available and reasonable priced.

hemp proteins2. Have hemp protein if you are looking for a high quality vegan protein that is also high in fiber. It is a close second to soy protein in protein quality. The research on hemp protein is young, but has shown promising results. Hemp protein is high in fiber and may have antioxidant properties. It also contains essential fatty acids. Hemp protein is usually sold in blends with other proteins and is not widely available.

3. Buy a flaxseed powder if you need to increase protein and omega 3 fatty acids. Flaxseed is not a protein powder, but does contain high amounts of protein and can be used as a protein powder or with other protein powders. It is high in fiber and contains essential omega fatty acids, mainly omega’s. The protein content and quality can vary with flaxseed. It is gluten free. Flaxseed powder is sold in most grocery stores.

rice protein4. Incorporate brown rice protein powder into your diet if you have gastrointestinal issues, but still need a high quality protein powder. It is gluten free and easy to digest. Its protein content is almost as high as soy protein. Preliminary studies have shown rice protein powder may lower cholesterol.

pea protein5. Pick pea protein powder if satiety is important. It is easily digested and also gluten free. It contains a well-balanced amino acid profile and a high amount of protein. It has a PDCAAS rating of 0.93. Pea protein is very soluble and easily digested. It contains some non-essential amino acids in high amounts as well. Preliminary studies have shown pea protein leads to better satiety than milk protein or whey protein. It is not commonly found alone, but is mostly sold in blends with other proteins.

Understanding Quality in Protein Powders

The market contains many protein powders of varying qualities. It can be hard to understand which protein has the highest amount of bioavailable protein or which blend is the right for you. Here are some tips to help you along.

1. Understand what PDCAAS rating stands for. PDCAAS stands for protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score. This score rates the protein based on bioavailability and essential amino acid supply. The highest score is 1.00.

2. Know the difference between isolate and concentrate.
- Concentrate contains between 30% and 85% protein. It is cheaper and easier to find.
- Isolate contains more than 90% protein and is more expensive.
- When purchasing protein powder, be sure to check the label for the percentage of protein to be sure you are getting the best powder for your money.

3. Check the label when purchasing protein blends. You will want to know how much of each protein is in the blend before you purchase. This should be stated somewhere on the label. If it is not stated, you may want to consider another blend.

4. Know that amino acid powders are not the same as protein powders.
- Proteins are made up of amino acids and, in order to be a complete protein, they must contain all 9 essential amino acids.
- Amino acid powders have their functions, but will not do the same thing as a protein powder.


If you have never purchased protein powder, go to a nutrition store and review what they have. Also, ask the sales person questions because they will have more knowledge than an average sales person at a grocery store or health foods store. Once you have reviewed the selection and asked questions, go home and research before you buy.


If you have any health issues, please discuss using protein powder with a nutritionist before making the decision.

Sources and Citations

ABOUT Beverly Carroll
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I am the Director, Marketing and Member Services
Vitality Directory, Inc.

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