One of the most effective ways to improve the rate of fat loss and muscle gain, whichever your goal may be, is to us protein powder.
Many studies over the years have demonstrated the importance of protein in the diet if you want to retain or build muscle.
The best protein powder will depend on a few of your personal preferences and tastes (even experts can’t recommend the best protein powder for everyone). Below is a protein powder comparison chart that will allow you to easily compare different leading products.
The Ultimate Protein Powder Comparison Chart
The table below is a result of a lot of research, but it’s only part of it. Instead of overloading you with information, I have only included the highest rated and most effect protein powders on the market. If you want to see more, refer to this full table of powders.
NOW Foods Whey Protein Isolate 5 Whey Unflavored 25 1 $$$ 4.6 Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Gold Standard 5 Whey Many 23 3 $$$ 4.5 Body Fortress Whey Protein Powder 2 Whey Vanilla 26 2 $$$ 4.4 Garden of Life Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein 1.37 Plant Vanilla 17 0 $$ 4 Dymatize Nutrition Elite 4.5 Whey Many 21 4 $$ 4 Optimum Nutrition 100% Casein Protein 4 Casein Many 24 0 $$$ 4.3
I’ve included the following 9 columns in the chart:
- Image : What the product looks like
- Brand and Name
- Size : How many pounds (lbs) of protein per container
- Type : What proteins are included in the product (*Very important if you’re vegetarian)
- Flavor : Note that “many” means that there are several flavors, you can definitely find one you’ll like
- Protein Per Serving : How much protein in a scoop of powder
- Net Carbs : Some lower quality products stuff a lot of sugar in to make it taste better. This column has the total carbs minus the dietary fiber
- Price : The prices will change over time in order to give you the best deal. However, I can give you an idea of the prices using symbols ( $ = less than $20, $$ = $20-40, $$$ = $40-80, $$$$ = $80+). If you click the name of the product you can find an exact price.
The Role of Protein in Nutrition
There are 3 main micro-nutrients in food that we eat. Protein is one them and arguably the most important one for good health.
Protein is used by many structures of the body, including muscle, to maintain and grow. Obviously the products in the table focus mainly on protein and less on carbohydrates and fats, which are needed for energy.
A Little More About Using Protein
So we get protein from food, but how do we actually use it to maintain the structure of our bodies?
Our bodies break down the protein into amino acids, which are just smaller molecules. While I recommend complete protein supplements, there are also amino acid supplements that focus on a few of the more used amino acids.
In order to have enough protein (and amino acids) for optimal muscle building conditions, you should intake of protein is 0.5 – 1 grams per lb of bodyweight every day. If you work out a lot, you should be closer to the 1 gram mark than the 0.5 end of that range.
Eating that much protein isn’t exactly easy. If you compare the cost of something like chicken or beef to a scoop of protein powder, the powder will be cheaper every time.
Another benefit of powders that isn’t always considered is that it is absorbed really quick, which means it is available to your muscles faster than if you get protein from food sources.
The Best Type of Protein Powder
If you didn’t know there were different types of protein before now, then I’m about to give you a crash course.
The type of protein isn’t required to be on a nutrition label, but is very important for any athlete. Protein powders of different types will be composed of different sets of amino acids, and also be absorbed at different rates. Here are the most common protein types used in supplements:
- Whey Protein: The majority of protein supplements are whey. It is found and extracted from cow’s milk, but it is still okay for many people who are lactose-intolerant because most of it is taken out. The reason this is such a popular type is that it is the fastest absorbing type of protein.
- Casein Protein: Milk is comprised of two main proteins: whey and casein. Unlike whey however, casein is a very slow-absorbing protein. It’s still a high quality protein, it’s just not ideal for right before or after a workout. If you want to add it into your diet as a general supplement, check out the best casein supplements here.
- Soy Protein: I said that it was important to understand the types of protein if you are vegetarian. There are limited options if you can’t have animal proteins in your diet, and soy is the best one for protein. As far as absorption speed goes, soy is somewhere in-between whey and casein, and many professional bodybuilders use it.
Before I move on I want to touch on the differences between whey protein isolate (very common) and whey protein concentrate (less common). All of the products in the comparison chart above are whey isolate’s, and the reason for that is because it’s what most people would benefit from the most.
Whey isolate’s are almost pure protein, while with concentrates you’re paying for fats and carbohydrates from the milk as well. If you’re more worried about calories rather than just protein, then you may want to look into concentrates, but for more stick with the ones in the chart.
Who Can Benefit From Supplementation?
Most people can benefit from regularly drinking protein shakes, but some more than others.
People who require the most protein, namely active people, typically have a much harder time ingesting as much as they should for optimal health. At the same time, there are those who aren’t active who simply don’t like protein very much and could benefit greatly from good tasting shakes.
Something I alluded to a bit earlier when the subject of amino acids came up was that it’s better to have a complete variety of amino acids rather than just a few. All of the types of protein discussed above are complete proteins, which means that they have all of the required amino acids for the body, which is a good thing.
Many questions typically arise as to whether or not gender factors into what protein powder is best for you, and to address these issues I have written posts on the best protein supplement for men and the best protein supplement for women. Overall the products work the exact same way in both men and women, but there are some special considerations you might want to take.
I’m far from an expert on veganism or vegetarianism, but I do understand the needs of people with diet restrictions, for whatever reason. There are tons of very successful bodybuilders and athletes who use protein from non-animal sources. The most popular types for you if you have this limit are soy and hemp, although hemp is not a complete protein.
Don’t Most Powders Taste Bad?
If you were fortunate to try a protein shake when they first became popular in the 80′s, you probably just about threw up. In other words, they weren’t too good.
Since that introduction, the processes behind how they make protein powders have come a very long way and the taste has improved an amazing amount. Even if you opt for an unflavored powder, you shouldn’t have any issues drinking it. The other flavored powders often taste like milkshakes and it’s amazing that they are actually good for you.
Is Protein the Best Supplement?
If you have a limited budget for supplements, like most people, you have to pick one or two supplement to regularly take. In my opinion, protein should be the first one on that list for most people. The only supplement that really rivals protein in terms of effectiveness is creatine, so if you stick with one of those two you’ll get great results.
With all of that said, you should have all the information you need to find the best protein powder for you. Take a look at the chart up near the chart and start to compare your different options.