The Best Protein Powders of 2021: A Comprehensive Guide
An Introduction to Protein Powders
We all know that many serious fitness enthusiasts take protein shakes.
In recent years protein powders have grown in popularity especially among gym goers. If you’re on the path to better health and fitness, these can definitely help you meet your body goals.
Protein powders are supplements which when combined with the right exercise regime, can enhance muscle growth.
In this post, we’ll go into detail about the benefits of protein powders, the various protein powders available and tips on choosing the right one.
Why is Protein Essential?
Protein is key to building and maintaining muscles and other types of body tissues. It is an important part of a healthy, balanced diet and is found in eggs, chicken, red meat, nuts and some other super foods. However, due to our increasingly fast paced lifestyles, most of are rarely able to get required amounts of protein from food sources alone. This is where protein powders come in. These supplements are an effective way to get the necessary amount of protein your body needs to build muscle.
Protein supplements are sold in the form of powders, capsules, bars, and shakes. There are several brands and health food stores that offer high-quality protein supplements that are easily available both online and offline. But it’s important to make sure you choose the right protein powder for your specific fitness needs. Before buying a protein supplement, there are a few factors that you need to take into consideration.
Best Protein Powder Brands
#1. Vega One All-in-One Nutritional Shake
The Vega One Nutritional Shake is one of the more popular protein powder brands around. This is a meal replacement shake made from real whole food, high-quality ingredients. A single serving contains 20 grams of complete plant-based protein, 50% of necessary vitamins and minerals, fiber, antioxidants, Omega-3s, and probiotics. It is a great protein supplement option for people who are watching their weight since it contains only 170 calories per serving. It is gluten-free, vegan and available in flavors such as French vanilla, berry, chocolate and vanilla chai.
Comes in several different flavors.
Low in calories and made from natural ingredients.
This is a vegan, low-glycemic, gluten-free option.
One of the more expensive protein supplements.
Not certified organic.
#2. Dymatize Iso-100
This is a protein supplement that is made from 100% hydrolyzed whey protein. Hydrolyzed whey protein contains smaller peptide structures as it is processed through enzymatic hydrolysis. This makes it easier to digest, and the amino acids you need are absorbed faster into your blood stream. A single serving of Dymatize Iso-100 contains only 106 calories and 24 grams of protein. It also has 5.5 grams of Branched Chain Amino Acids which are needed to increase protein synthesis and muscle repair. It is gluten-free and suitable for people who are lactose intolerant.
Low in calories and cholesterol.
Made prom premium quality ingredients and easy to digest.
Very high protein content per serving.
Since this is a fast absorbing protein supplement, it will not keep you full for long.
The taste takes some getting used to.
#3. Muscle Feast Hormone-Free Whey Isolate
Muscle Feast Hormone-Free Whey Isolate is a natural protein supplement that is low in calories. A single scoop has only 99 calories and is packed with 24 grams of protein. It also supplies your body with potassium and magnesium and is low in sodium and cholesterol. This supplement is manufactured from milk sourced from grass-fed cows. It is entirely free of artificial hormones or antibiotics. The powder dissolves quickly in liquids and is gluten-free.
Free from artificial ingredients, soy, and gluten.
Sourced from hormone free, grass-fed cows.
It is reasonably priced.
Tastes bland when mixed with plain water.
The taste takes some getting used to.
#4. Optimum Nutrition Whey Gold Standard
Optimum Nutrition Whey Gold Standard is a tried and tested whey protein supplement. Many long-time users swear by this brand, and it is highly recommended by fitness experts. This a reasonably priced product that everyone looking to maintain or gain muscle mass should try. It is high in protein and has a low-calorie content. The powder mixes well with any kind of liquid without clumping together. One downside is that it contains artificial sweeteners and flavoring agents such sucralose and acesulfame potassium.
Great value for money.
Free from fat, cholesterol, and lactose.
Extremely high in protein.
Contains artificial sweeteners and additives.
Some flavors have a bitter aftertaste.
What are the Benefits of Protein Powder?
Proteins play a key role in several important body functions such as the manufacture of enzymes, hormones, immune-system components and nucleic acids. Our bodies require protein to build the structures that make up every cell, muscle, tissue, and organ. When your body lacks protein, it cannot manufacture the biochemical constituents that are required for muscle growth, healing and cardiovascular function.
Without this adequate amount of protein, your muscles cannot heal optimally. When you work out without consuming protein, you stand the risk of overtraining your muscles which could lead to injuries. The best time to consume protein is right after a workout so that it can be sent to your muscles immediately. When you work out, "micro tears" occur which are tiny tears in the muscle tissue. These are brought on by intense muscle contractions. These "micro tears" start to heal immediately when you consume a protein supplement after exercising.
Protein shakes take only 30 minutes to reach your muscles after ingestion, unlike solid food which can take more time to break down.
Protein powders can also play a role in supporting a healthy metabolism. The number of calories you burn throughout the day is tied to the amount of muscle you have. When you build muscle, it becomes easier to burn calories and maintain a healthy weight. As long as you’re getting enough protein in your diet, even simple activities like walking, gardening, and hiking can help you lose those pounds.
Protein supplements can also help with appetite control. This is due to the fact that they have the ability to keep you feeling full for longer. Unlike sugar and carbohydrates, protein-based foods take longer to digest. Due to this extended digestive process, these supplements can keep you feeling full much longer than many other foods. This way you’ll be less tempted to eat unhealthy foods.
Types of Protein Powders
#1. Whey Protein
Milk contains two primary types of protein — whey which accounts for 20% and casein which accounts for 80%. Whey is the liquid part of milk that is separated during the process of cheese making. When cheese is produced, the fatty parts of the milk bind together, and whey is formed as a byproduct. Before the commercial value of whey was discovered, this valuable byproduct was discarded by most cheese makers.
Post the cheese production process, the whey needs to go through a succession of processes before it becomes what people recognize as whey protein. This powder can then be added to shakes, juices and protein snacks.
It is a great option for fitness enthusiasts who are trying to enhance their physiques, build muscle and avoid health issues.
#2. Casein Protein
Casein is a particular type of protein powder that is not as popular as whey protein and it comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. It is available at many price points and comes in many different flavors.
What is casein protein? Casein is a slow digesting protein that will keep you full for long periods of time. It is packed full of amino acids that are essential for the optimal functioning of the body. Caseins are classified as phosphorus proteins and are found in milk. It is the insoluble component of milk, which is what causes it to form a gel-like consistency once it is ingested. It is for this reason that it is slow-digesting. As a result of this, it is not an ideal post workout option, but works better as a substitute for snacks and dinner.
#3. Brown Rice Protein
If you’re looking for a vegetarian source of protein, brown rice protein powder is a great option. A single 30g serving of Brown Rice Protein powder contains over 24g of protein. This can contribute to the maintenance and growth of muscle mass.
Brown rice protein is produced through a natural wet milling process. Sprouted whole brown rice grains go through a fermentation and filtration process to extract the protein and fiber. This protein supplement is ideal if you’re looking to avoid soy and dairy proteins and allergens such as eggs, gluten, and wheat.
#4. Egg Protein
This type of protein powder is ideal for those who are allergic to milk or dairy proteins. They are made with pure egg white protein and don’t contain egg yolk. This type of protein supplement is low in fat and is cholesterol free. Since its amino acid pattern matches the pattern required for human growth, it is considered a close to perfect form of protein.
Egg protein powders take a longer time to digest, so they will keep you fuller for longer. The best time to consume egg protein is as a midday snack or in the evenings to help you stay full until dinner.
#5. Hemp Protein
Hemp protein is derived from the seeds of the hemp plant. The seeds are pressed to extract the oil, and the remaining seed meal is then processed into protein powder. The hemp supplements available in the market are manufactured from a strain low in THC, the psychoactive agent in Marijuana.
Unlike some of the other protein supplements on the list, hemp protein is not a pure protein supplement. It also contains 10% omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Due to the low percentage of lysine and leucine, the protein portion of hemp cannot be considered a complete protein source. Hemp protein is high in fiber and functions well as a meal replacement option.
#6. Pea Protein
Although pea protein isn’t the most common option on the list, it is rapidly growing in popularity due to the surge in the desire for plant based products. Since it contains no gluten or dairy, this is considered the most hypoallergenic among the various types of protein supplements available. Many people prefer this type of supplement as it does not lead to bloating which is a side effect brought on by many other protein powders. Pea protein is a great option if you’re looking for a healthy vegan protein option.
Choosing the Best Protein Powder
With so many protein supplements available on the market it can be difficult to decide which one to opt for. Whether you’re new to protein powders or a seasoned user, it is important to ask yourself a few questions, to ensure that you get one that suits your particular needs.
Are you looking for a post workout supplement, a healthy midday snack or a meal replacement? Different protein powders are suitable for different times of day, so it is essential to identify when you’ll be consuming these supplements.
How will you be consuming these supplements? Will you be mixing the protein powder with water, making smoothies or adding it to savory foods? Protein supplements come in different flavors, so make sure you pick one that blends well with your drinks or foods.
What is your budget? Protein powders can be pricey, so it is essential to know what you’re looking for. Since this is a question of your health, it is recommended to opt for the best supplement you can afford.
Are Protein Powders Worth The Hype?
Enter your text here...Protein powders are your best bet when it comes to recovering quickly and building muscle after a workout. However, they should always be taken as supplements and not as replacements for solid foods that are an essential part of a well-balanced diet.
Your first option for healthy protein sources should be food sources such as legumes, chicken, beans, and eggs as these are packed with other healthy nutrients required by your body. If you eat healthy, you may already be getting the average recommended protein intake through your diet.
Protein powders must be taken at the right times and never in excess. Eating more protein than your body can process, will not lead to muscle growth or bigger strength gains. This can do more harm than good, so always stick to recommended amounts when supplementing your diet with protein powders.
The way you incorporate protein shakes into your diet is a matter of personal preference. While it is not recommended to substitute whole food meals with protein supplements regularly, they prove to be highly beneficial when consumed post workout or in between meals.
When taken post workout, protein powders digest faster in the stomach and provide vital muscle building nutrients. This way your sore muscles can heal and recover faster. Protein supplements are also a great option for people with sensitive stomachs who find it difficult to eat whole food after a workout. In such cases, these are an excellent way to get a quick dose of protein.
When purchasing a protein supplement, look for one with a short list of ingredients. Go for the most natural option without added minerals, vitamins, and other additives as these are sometimes added as unnecessary fillers.
While protein powders are a great way to build muscle, it is important to remember that whole food sources are still your best option for getting your dose of vital nutrients. Powder supplements are a healthy and convenient option to enhance a well-balanced diet built on a base of solid food. They are growing steadily in popularity among fitness enthusiasts and becoming a necessity for an active lifestyle.