Many people associate protein powders with body builders or hardcore athletes, so dismiss them. It can also be a bit of a minefield choosing a good one, as there are a lot of junky protein powders out there. Watch out for artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose or aspartame – which are best avoided.
I am not an advocate of downing huge amounts of protein shakes or substituting them for meals. However, I do think that they can be an easy way to boost the protein content of some meals, so I often suggest them to my clients and use them myself.
Protein helps us to feel more satisfied and fulfilled, so less prone to energy dips and cravings, which is why I am a big supporter of including a bit of protein every time you have something to eat.
As with many things there are lots of different protein powders available and they tend to vary in terms of both price and quality.
So how do you choose a good protein powder?
If you are going to buy one I think that it is important to ensure that you are getting a good quality product. The ones that I usually suggest to my clients include the following:
Whey based protein powders are the ones that most people are familiar with. These are dairy based so will not work for people trying to completely avoid dairy. Whey powders come in different forms: concentrate, isolate and hydrolysed and there are lots of debates as to which is best*. Basically it comes down to how they have been processed (and therefore how much they cost) There are also some differences as to the % of protein contained in each (concentrate around 80% protein the others around 90%). Rather than get hung up over these differences look for a product that is:
- From grassfed animals
- No added nasties such as artificial sweeteners, flavourings or colourings.
- …basically a product that is as simple as possible from good quality raw ingredients.
* Note: of these three forms whey concentrate (the least processed / usually cheapest option) does contain lactose. So if you are lactose intolerant then go for one of the other options where the lactose has been almost entirely removed
Which brands of whey protein powder do I like?
- Pink Sun: organic grassfed whey protein concentrate with no added ingredients
- Organic Protein company: organic grassfed whey protein concentrate with no added ingredients
- Pulsin: organic grassfed whey protein concentrate with no added ingredients
Plant based protein powders
The non-dairy options that I like include: pea, hemp, mixed seed and brown rice powders. They vary somewhat in protein content, nutrient profile and taste….which at the end of the day is such a personal thing. It is worth experimenting to find that one that you like the best.
Pea and brown rice protein powder contain around 80% protein. Hemp and mixed seed protein powders usually contain less protein at around 40-50% however, depending on the mix do contain omega 3 & 6 fats and plant fibres.
Sometimes you can find blends containing several different types or protein powders which will change the nutrient profile and the taste.
I usually have a couple of different packets of plant based protein powder in my cupboard and ring the changes each time I buy a new one.
Which brands of plant based protein powder do I like?
- Pulsin: pea, brown rice and hemp options
- Sun Warrior: Warrior Blend Natural or Chocolate / Classic Plus Vanilla
- Purple Balance: Raw Green / Raw Omega / Raw Natural.....I have just noticed that they seem to be changing the product so I am not sure what is available at the moment.
- Purition: raw vegan hemp / vegan vanilla / vegan chocolate / superseed
- That Protein : pumpkin / brown rice / hemp
I have used all of the ones above to add to things like smoothies and porridge. My favourite as a stand alone shake are the Purition Wholefood Shakes- they are whey based and come in a range of delicious flavours: coconut, macadamia & vanilla, almond, pistachio along with strawberry and chocolate. Just add water and they are good to go.
How can you use protein powders?
They are a great way to add a protein boost to your food and drink or as a stand-alone shake that you can use as a quick snack after the gym.
- Mix into porridge or over cereal to boost the protein content
- Stir into yoghurt with added berries and seeds
- Add to a fruit or vegetable smoothie
- Include into your baking – such as muffins or pancakes
- Blend into a soup
- …or of course just as a stand alone shake