You’ve seen it advertised everywhere and if you are anything like me, the sheer number of products on the market is sure to make your head spin. Protein powders. A common question we get asked on a regular basis is, “Do I need a protein powder, and if so, what is the best brand for me to buy?” These are both loaded questions. When it comes to protein, I always first encourage the bulk of your daily protein to come from whole foods. Particularly, it is important to keep in mind that whole foods offer additional nutrients that protein powders often do not contain. However, if you do decide to incorporate a protein powder into your diet or are struggling to meet your protein requirements through food, here are a few guidelines to follow.
Protein Powder Ingredients
Keep it simple! Less is more. At the end of the day you are looking to purchase a protein supplement, not one laced with 10 other ingredients to fancy up a label. Companies have a tendency to stack up ingredients to make their product appear superior to others. Rarely do they inform you of the amounts added to supplements and there is a high potential that the combination of these ingredients in the body can hinder exercise performance and cause adverse effects and interactions with medications.
Protein Powder Nutritionals
Current research depending on the individual and his or her training needs has established optimal protein doses to be at about 20-40 grams delivered over 5-6 small meals/snacks per day. This combination allows for satiety, improved management of cravings, and increased benefit for training. You will get the biggest bang for your buck using whole food sources or protein due to the additional naturally-occurring nutrient profiles delivered. Use protein supplements for convenience (ex. When you’re out and about or right after a workout) or when there’s days where appetite isn’t the greatest (ex. After an exhausting and taxing workout). When it comes to protein, whole natural foods are your best choice!
Third Party Testing
When you are choosing a product, it is essential that you choose one tested by an outside third party. Current regulation on protein supplements are very inconsistent, so it is up to you as the consumer to research the product you choose. Third party testing means that the manufacturing facility, standard operating procedures and quality control documentation of the factory which produces the product are thoroughly inspected. Then, each batch of the product is tested to ensure that no banned substances are present. This is particularly important for athletes who are drug tested but also for the regular joe as it is not uncommon for heavy metals or fillers to be added to products. Look for logos such as “NSF certified” or an “informed choice” check mark as a guide.