First up, let’s talk about ingredients.
The harsh truth is that many protein powders are absolute trash with ingredients. And they matter, especially if it’s a protein powder you’re using on a daily or regular basis.
- Artificial Sweeteners – not ideal, again, especially if you’re using it on the daily. Artificial sweeteners are not great for gut health in general and can potentially cause gastrointestinal upset like bloating. Ingredients to look for would be:
- Acesulfame Potassium (ACK, Ace K, Equal)
- Aspartame (NutraSweet)
- Sucralose (Splenda)
- Dextrin/Glucose/Maltodextrin – we don’t need to be spiking your blood sugar for no reason, especially when the goal of a protein powder is to get…protein.
- Milk powders/milk solids – these are cheap bulking agents found in low-quality powders. They are high in lactose sugars, which can cause bloating and other GI issues.
- Soy protein – watch out here. A TON of “plant-based” or “vegan” proteins contain soy (specifically soy protein isolate). Soy itself is not bad, as long as it’s high quality. However, highly processed soy is an issue.
- Vegetable oils – these are put into protein powders to add “richness” but are high in omega-6 fatty acids, causing inflammation. Plus, these oils can also contain trans fats. Look out for ingredients like soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, or sunflower oil.
- Carrageenan – this thickener is a major cause of gastrointestinal distress and bloating.
- rBGH – if you’re using a whey protein, and it doesn’t say it’s “rBGH-free”, that means it contains bovine growth hormone. Pass.
- Gluten – is a thickening agent, but there is no reason to be consuming gluten in your morning smoothie. Check your label – “Glutamine peptide” is a sneaky word for gluten!
Ok next, let’s check the nutrition label.
When you flip over the container of protein powder and check out the nutrition facts, there are a few things I want you to peek at. First, what is the protein content per scoop or serving? The goal is to get at least 20 grams of protein (the closer the 30 grams the better in my opinion).
A common protein powder I come across is women using Shakeology. It’s not a horrible choice, but my biggest concern is that it’s pretty low in protein at only 17 grams per serving. With that, it’s also on the higher end of carb content with 15 grams of carbs and 5 grams of added sugar per serving. Again, it’s not a bad product, but it’s more of a carb and protein supplement vs. just protein powder.
On that note, the other thing to check for would be added sugar or carb content. The goal is 0 grams of added sugar (again this is PROTEIN powder) and minimal added carbohydrates. A few grams is expected.
Fat should also be minimal at 3 grams or fewer per serving approximately.
One final consideration:
Has there been heavy metal testing? Always choose a company that does heavy metal testing on their products! This is especially important if you choose a plant-based protein, as these are more likely to have heavy metals. Sometimes you have to search the company website, or even email their support team to get the answer on if they do heavy metal testing.
Benefits of Using Protein Powder
I sometimes hear from people that they don’t want to use protein powder because it’s “so processed.” Listen, if you only want to eat 100% whole foods from scratch, you do you. No seriously, that’s really admirable. But there are lots of high-quality protein powders on the market now, and protein powders are no more “processed” than crackers if you find a good one.
It’s great because you can reach (or almost reach) your goal of 30 grams of protein at a meal with 1 scoop of protein powder when adding to things like smoothies, oatmeal, or yogurt bowls.
Remember, getting enough protein sends a signal to your brain that you are full (so great for weight loss).
Protein also supports muscle building and repair, which revs your metabolism. Protein has a thermogenic effect on your body, so when you consume at least 25g at a time you actually BURN calories.
What about collagen?
Collagen is a little different than protein powder, but it can still be a convenient way to add protein to your day! Collagen is specifically derived from the hide of bovine or marine animals, whereas protein powder is powder forms of protein from plants, eggs, or milk.
Collagen is an incomplete protein, meaning it does not have all the essential amino acids in it like milk or egg-based protein powders would, but it still counts as a protein source.
Some great ways to use collagen are adding it to coffee, oatmeal, or smoothies!
The same principles apply to finding a good collagen powder. We specifically like the brands Vital Proteins, Further Foods, and Perfect Supplements.
Our Recommended Protein Powders:
Designer Egg Protein
YUM, this is such a delicious protein powder and continues to be one of my favorites. The chocolate and vanilla both taste like cake. This is a great option for those who can’t do dairy but are still looking for a complete protein. WARNING: do not buy this with the intention of using it in hot coffee. It will taste like cooked eggs and it will scar you.
This protein powder literally has one ingredient! Whey! The whey comes from grass-fed cows and the company even tests for heavy metals. This is a really high-quality protein product.
I love this protein powder because it includes so much fiber and it’s incredibly filling! You don’t even need to add additional fiber if you don’t want to. The only “con” to this brand is that it’s more sweet tasting if that’s not your preference.
This protein is made with over 20 superfoods to deliver a complete amino acid profile and contains over 2 servings of greens in each serving of protein. It also contains digestive enzymes, so if you’ve been sensitive to plant protein in the past, this may take care of that issue for you.