The Best Protein Powder For Everyday People

You don’t have to be a gym junkie to benefit from using protein powders. But what is the best protein powder for everyday people and how should you be using it?

No matter your health and strength goals, complementing your training sessions with a balanced diet of whole foods which are rich in protein will get the best results. Without adequate protein your body won’t be able to effectively build and repair muscle, which means you’ll miss out on some of the benefits of your workouts.

Sources such as salmon, beef and chicken are not only high in protein but also health-boosting micronutrients. These play a role in important functions such as producing energy, preventing cell damage and strengthening the immune system. You can read more about the role of protein and micronutrients here.

However, always having nutritionally balanced meals on hand which perfectly hit your macronutrient goals is no small feat. If you’re struggling to get enough protein in your diet from whole foods, using protein powders is a great shortcut. It’s quick and easy to prepare a protein shake, which serves as a great snack when you’re on-the-go.

What is the best type of protein powder?

At Plexus, we recommend whey protein to clients who are struggling to hit their protein goals. Whey protein is a filtered milk product made from cheese whey. It contains all 20 amino acids that your body needs to maintain good health and normal function [1].

Whey protein

Whey protein comes as Whey Protein Isolate (WPI), Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC), or a mix of the two. Both are lean proteins low in fats and carbohydrates and have very high levels of amino acids. There are some differences between these options, but they are minimal.

Whey Protein Isolate is a more refined protein powder, which means it digests fast and is low in lactose. It is suitable for those who are looking to get that extra protein in their diet, without too many additional calories from carbs and fat.

Whey Protein Concentrate has slightly more lactose. At Plexus, we have found those with a sensitive stomach may find it more difficult to digest. However, it’s still going to be easier than drinking a lot of milk or eating a protein-rich meal. It contains less protein by weight than WPI and is usually cheaper [2].

Whether you opt for WPI, WPC or a mixed whey protein will likely come down to personal preference. Any of these options will be a good choice towards reaching your nutritional goals.

Plant-based protein

Plant-based protein powders from sources such as rice, pea and hemp will each have a unique nutritional profile. However, they generally won’t be as high quality protein as the whey options. This is because animal sources are complete protein sources, meaning they contain all the essential amino acids your body needs. On the other hand, plant sources lack one or more of the essential amino acids [3]. This means unless you are getting these from other meals, you could be missing out on essential nutrients.

Plant-based protein also has a lot of fibre. Although fibre plays an important role in keeping our digestive systems healthy, too much of it can cause digestive issues such as bloating, gas and constipation [4].

Mass gainer protein

Mass gainer protein is formulated to help people pack in extra calories when they are trying to gain weight [5]. It is rich in carbohydrates and protein and often has high fibre, vitamins, minerals and dietary fats [6]. It’s designed for those undergoing intense physical training, not people who want to lose or maintain their weight.

What protein tastes the best?

There is an incredibly broad range of protein powder flavours available on the market and the best one for you will come down to individual preference. Your main choice will be between natural and flavoured protein.

Natural protein, or unflavoured protein is flavourless and will come with not as many sweeteners or other additives. This makes it more versatile, as you can easily add in other ingredients to make a different flavoured shake every time and use the powder in a broader range of recipes.

Flavoured protein is available in standard flavours such as chocolate, vanilla and banana as well as more creative ones such as cookies and cream, melon and even birthday cake. If you want convenience, opt for a flavoured protein powder [7].

At Plexus, we often recommend our clients who are struggling to hit their protein intake to try a whey protein from Bulk Nutrients. This Australian company has cheap but good quality protein. Alternatives are Rule One and Optimum Nutrition. These are both great tasting powders and we’ve found Rule One digests more easily than some other brands.

How to have your protein powder

Protein powder is great as a shake or mixed in with a meal such as oats with berries. For a quick snack on the go, mix your powder with water or light milk. This is the best option if you’re watching your calories.

If you have a few more calories to spare, you can make a meal replacement shake by popping your protein in the blender with milk or coconut water and adding fruit such as a banana or berries. Particularly if you’re trying to gain weight, you can also add some peanut butter or oats.

When is the best time for a protein shake?

By eating a healthy and balanced diet, every meal should include some protein. This will provide your body with adequate protein across the entire course of the day. To get the most out of your training, you should eat a small meal with some protein 1.5-2 hours before a session and then again after you train. Ultimately, it’s not going to make a massive difference whether that protein before or after your session comes from whole food or a protein powder.

No matter how or when you decide to consume your protein powder, it’s important to remember it’s a supplement. It should help you hit your daily protein intake when you are struggling to get enough by eating whole foods. In addition, once you have hit your protein intake for the day, don’t feel obliged to keep going. Carbs and fat also perform important functions in the body and hitting those other macronutrient targets will allow your body to perform at its best. Remember, variety is key!

References

[1] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324229

[2] https://www.bulknutrients.com.au/blog/whey-protein-buyers-guide-whats-the-difference-and-which-should-i-be-using/

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3905294/

[4] https://nutritionaustralia.org/app/uploads/2020/05/Fibre-2014.pdf

[5] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/best-mass-gainer#_noHeaderPrefixedContent

[6] https://doclists.in/mass-gainer-vs-whey-protein/

[7] https://nakednutrition.com/blogs/protein/unflavored-vs-flavored-protein-powders