One of the most effective ways to improve the rate of fat loss and muscle gain, whichever your goal may be, is to use 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 agree on the best supplement for everyone). Below is a 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 supplements on the market. If you want to see more, refer to this complete 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 $$ 4.3
I’ve included the following 9 columns in the chart:
- Image : What the product looks like
- Brand and Name
- Size : How many pounds (lbs) per container
- Type : What proteins are included in the product (*Very important if you’re vegetarian)
- Flavor : Note that “many” means that there are several flavors, you can definitely find one you’ll like
- Protein Per Serving : How many grams are in a scoop of powder
- Net Carbs : Some lower quality products stuff a lot of sugar in to make it taste better. This column has the total carbs minus the dietary fiber
- Price : The prices will change over time in order to give you the best deal. However, I can give you an idea of the prices using symbols ( $ = less than $20, $$ = $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 less on carbohydrates and fats, which are needed more for energy purposes.
How We Use It
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 nutrient 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 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 isn’t exactly easy. If you compare the cost of something like chicken or beef to a scoop of powder, the powder will be cheaper every time.
Another benefit of powders that isn’t always considered is that they are absorbed really quick due to being soluble in water, 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 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 types used in supplements:
- Whey: The majority of supplements consist of 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: Milk is comprised of two main proteins: whey and casein. Unlike whey however, casein is very slow-absorbing. 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: This is your best option if you are vegetarian. There are limited options if you can’t have animal proteins in your diet, and soy is the leading one. 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 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 getting enough calories, then you may want to look into concentrates, but for now 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 getting it from food sources 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 product is best for you, and to address these issues I have written posts on the best supplement for men and the best protein 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 does not have all the essential amino acids.
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 supplements to take regularly at most. In my opinion, protein should be the first one on that list for most people. The only supplement that really rivals it 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.