Which Protein Powder Is Right For You?
Did you know that protein is essential to life? Protein is a powerful nutrient made up of many amino acids that are components of every cell in your body. It is used to build and repair tissues and make essential enzymes and hormones, blood cells and many other important chemicals. Protein is also an important building block for muscles, bones, cartilage, and skin. Even your hair and nails are largely made up of protein.
Just like fat and carbohydrates, protein is a macronutrient (meaning that your body needs relatively large amounts). But unlike fat and carbs, your body doesn’t store protein. Your amino acid stores are constantly used and must be replenished and if enough isn’t provided by dietary sources, your body will start to take it from your muscle mass.
An adequate dietary protein intake is important across the life cycle, especially as we age. A protein deficiency can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness and hair loss and can contribute to a variety of other conditions.
Protein has long been used by body builders to help build muscle, but it is also an excellent part of a low-carb diet, weight-loss program or any of the recent “fitness trends.” Dietary protein can help stabilize blood sugar by slowing down digestion — this also helps you feel more satisfied so you’re less likely to go back for seconds (or thirds), meaning you consume fewer calories.
With so many options on the market though, what should you look for in a protein powder? Is there any difference in quality between brands?
Whey protein can now be sourced from cattle that have not been treated with synthetic hormones (no added rbST or BGH) and it can be processed using low-temperature pasteurization to minimize denaturing of the protein.
High-quality soy protein can be sourced from plants that are not genetically engineered. There are even unique protein blends that can provide complete protein (a protein is considered complete when it contains an adequate proportion of all nine of the essential amino acids necessary for the dietary needs of humans). One such unique blend utilizes both pea and potato protein. Both are exceptional sources of amino acids and when combined, provide an excellent complete pure protein source.
The quality of a supplement can completely vary from brand to brand, so you should definitely compare nutritional labels to know exactly what you're getting. Don't let vague labels like "all natural" persuade you. "All natural" is simply a marketing term. There is no certification or testing that is done for that label. And what's on the label may not necessarily be what's in the package.
In many cases, the "you get what you pay for" rationale applies to the supplement industry. Often, quality products are created with premium ingredients that cost more to purchase. But don't focus entirely on price. Make sure the manufacturer carries a potency guarantee, use Good Manufacturing Practices, and operate in a FDA-registered facility, following the FDA's highest possible standard for manufacturing.
You can check how well your supplement is rated on unbiased, third party websites such as Consumer Lab or this book, NutriSearch Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements. Click here for the kind I take and details on why I choose this brand.