While my favorite way to consume dietary protein is by eating lean proteins, my pantry does contain a few protein powders for after strength workouts, to jazz up oatmeal and to have an on-the-go snack. Protein powders offer a lot of convenience and can improve body composition and maintain or grow muscle mass if you consume them after workouts or at bedtime. With so many protein powders on the market, it can get a little confusing to know which one is best for you.
Most people should consume between 15 percent and 30 percent of their daily energy needs from protein. If you are male, young, active or are building muscle mass, your needs are on the higher end.
Protein powders can be a simple addition to shakes, yogurt, smoothies, oatmeal, cereal and egg whites to boost daily protein intake. Before selecting one, read the labels to make sure you aren't consuming extra fillers and unwanted ingredients. A good rule of thumb is to avoid a product with a long list of hard-to-pronounce ingredients.
Here are some of the most common protein powders on store shelves:
Whey: Whey protein is a milk protein. It is quickly absorbed and provides excellent muscle building properties since it is a great source of leucine, the amino acid that initiates the process of protein-building. The isolate form may be more easily digested for some people since it can be considered lactose-free.
Soy: One of the only vegetable sources of complete protein, soy contains all the essential amino acids necessary for building and maintaining lean mass. It also offers additional heart health, bone health and antioxidant properties. In addition, some females find it helpful in reducing symptoms of menopause.
Casein: The “other” protein in milk, casein is a slower digesting protein and offers the benefit of preventing muscle breakdown during periods of fasting such as overnight.
Hemp: This type of protein would be higher on the list if it didn't have a taste. Like soy, hemp is another great vegan option, offering all of the amino acids necessary for the body. It can also be substituted in baking, for up to one fourth of the flour in a recipe.
Rice: The protein from the grain is removed from brown rice (the whole grain) and can provide a means for people to increase daily protein intake while adhering to a vegan and/or gluten-free diet. While the grain of rice cannot provide complete proteins, rice protein can be a helpful boost to the diets of vegetarians. It is also close to tasteless.