If you've spent any time research supplements and trying to find the best one, you'll know that it's a minefield out there. You'll hear people say that protein powders are essential and that you have to catch that vital “anabolic window” just after working out. It's all clever marketing trying to get you to purchase their supplement.
Consider this article your complete guide to choosing the best protein supplement without all the bodybuilder B.S. that everyone else seems to tout.
Do You Even Need Protein Supplements In The First Place?
In all honesty, protein supplements are not essential. I take them, and many others do too, but they are not required to be healthy or to build muscle or lose fat. If you have the time, the budget and the energy to prepare real food each any every day, you will experience all the benefits of protein from whole food sources. I'm talking about hearty meats of all kinds, eggs, nuts, seafood and cheese. Each of this will give you the proteins and amino acids needed to build muscle and lose body fat.
But what if you're in a hurry? What if you're away from home travelling and don't have access to these foods? It's not just the cooking of these foods that takes the time, it's the time taken to eat them, clean the pots and tidy the kitchen area afterwards too! This is where protein supplements are amazingly useful – they save you a hell of a lot of time.
Now, just because they save time doesn't mean you can choose any old junk supplement from you local health store. Almost all protein powders are terrible for your health and won't give you the muscle gains or fat loss you want.
By knowing how to choose the best protein supplement though, you'll be able to use it as a quick, time-saving meal replacement that packs real protein into your muscles and makes the most of your hard work in the gym.
5 Crucial Tips for Choosing The Very Best Protein Supplement
I remember when I first started taking protein supplement. I went to my local health store, picked a brand which was relatively cheap, had a good looking bottle (why this mattered I have no idea) and a good amount of protein. Did I check the label to see what was in the powder? Nope. After a few weeks of taking it, I started to notice that I was getting pimple and acne breakouts on my face, neck and back. Not only that, I had some serious digestive issues too.
As it turns out, the powder I bought definitely was not the best protein supplement. It was full of unnecessary ingredients that nobody should be taking. Since then, I've spent almost a decade trying to find the best protein supplement that gives all the benefits with none of the side effects. I've come up with the following checklist that you can follow to make sure you don't get ripped off, or choose a bad protein powder. Stick to these rules and you'll always have a quality protein source on tap, without any of the added junk!
Always choose unflavored protein powder. Do you know why most protein supplements cause skin breakouts and upset stomachs? They are FULL of sugar. Whether it's fructose, sucrose, sucralose or maltodextrin, they are all artificial sweeteners that have no place in a protein powder. The best protein supplement is devoid of this and you can get much better, natural flavor by mixing it with berries, coconut milk or any other concoction you like.
Make sure the label has only protein as an ingredient. The only ingredient in your protein should be the protein source itself. As mentioned in the flavor rule, if you see any ingredients on the list like aspartame, maltodextrin, sucrose or sucralose then you should stay well clear. Soy lecithin will often be there as an emulsifier to keep the protein together and sometimes a company will use guar gum instead. Both of these are fine, but nothing else should be in the powder. This is very important if you want the best protein supplement.
Choose whey isolate over other types. You have a few types of protein powder available; including whey concentrate, whey isolate, casein protein, egg protein or soy protein. Whey isolate is the most pure source of protein there is. It's been filtered and processed to remove all the fat and lactose and typically the whey in isolate contains 90-94% protein compared to concentrate with a lowly 70-85%. Not only do you get the purest protein source, you also get to take it even if you are lactose intolerant. It also means that with isolate, you remove a lot of those nasty digestive problems whey concentrate or blends give you.
Make sure it has a complete amino acid profile. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and if your body is short in just one of them, it will restrict the quality of the protein produced in your body, and for you that means less of it gets into the muscles to do the job you want it to. There are are total of 20 amino acids and the best protein supplement should give you at least 18 of them. You don't need to worry too much about the values of each – as long as the total content of all amino acids is over 14g per serving. Amino acids make up about 75% of your body, so you need them for a lot more than just bulking up too!
Look at how much it costs per serving. The price of protein varies ridiculously from brand to brand and a lot of times you are only paying for the label. At the end of the day, the best protein supplement in my eyes is one that is affordable, but not cheap. I've seen protein powders sell for $9.95 and I've seen them sell for $99.95 for a 30 day supply. Both are ridiculous! The ideal price to get a balance between quality and affordability for most people is around $60 for a 5lb tub. That would work out to be $0.75 per serving – which I think is pretty affordable for most people who want to buy protein supplements.
What Are The Benefits to Choosing The Purest, Best Protein Supplement?
It's all well and good me telling you what the best protein supplement is and how to find it, but you probably want to know what the benefits to choosing a quality, and probably more expensive, protein powder than the one you currently take. That's how I felt too. In fact, I actually gave up on protein shakes for a while altogether because I couldn't seem to figure out why they weren't working for me the way they were supposed to.
It didn't help that I had ten different people telling me which powder they recommended. If you are as confused as I was with ten men screaming down my ear in the gym, then the following are some pretty damn great benefits to choosing the best protein supplement you can.
- You will build more muscle. By choosing the most protein-rich source of whey, you are feeding your muscles the purest, highest quality protein possible which can only be a good thing. Not only that, the branch chain amino acids (BCAA's) will help your body to use the protein better, shuttling it to your muscles for maximum effect. In short, better protein equals better muscle – which is what you want, right?
- You will shed fat. Because all the junk and usual ingredients are not present in the best protein supplements, you will reduce insulin spikes that cause fat retention (because there are no sugars to cause the spike) and less carbs is always a good thing when it comes to shredding fat from your body. Try mixing your powder with organic coconut milk for a protein and fat combo that will literally shed body fat faster than you can drink it! (not quite, but it WILL help towards a leaner you).
- You'll look and feel better. Without all the sugar and artificial sweeteners, your skin will be less blotchy, have less zits and generally look brighter and healthier. This will be even more noticeable if you are taking omega 3 fish oil too (which you should be). Not only that, your gut will be healthier and more stable because there is very minimal lactose in whey isolate. This means none of the usual protein “smells“, if you get my drift!
- You'll have more money in your pocket. Believe it or not, the best protein supplements tend to be a lot cheaper because they haven't got all that crap in them. They are also usually made by brands that genuinely want to help you build muscle and lose fat, rather than squeeze every last dollar out of you. That's more than can be said for most protein supplements where every one is so heavily marketed that they sound like damn infomercials!
The Protein Supplement I Use And Recommend To Friends and Family
After I gave up protein powders for the umpteenth time, I decided that there was no such thing as a good protein supplement and went back to eating whole foods, spending hours in the kitchen each week and washing more pots and pans than I could stand.
Then one day, at the gym, a workout buddy told me about this great powder he'd found. It was totally natural, had no artificial junk in it, tasted great on its own, could be mixed easily with all kinds of stuff to flavor it, and was affordable too! I had to try it.
That was three years ago and I still use NOW Pure Whey Protein Isolate to this day. It had everything I was looking for, and based on the criteria I had set myself, it was the best protein supplement on the market.
NOW Protein has just two ingredients – whey isolate and soy lecithin as a joining agent. It packs 25g of high-quality, muscle building whey protein isolate into every serving and has no artificial flavors, sweeteners, salt, starch, yeast, wheat, gluten, corn, egg or preservatives.
There are cheaper products out there, and more expensive products too – but NOW Pure Whey is the perfect mix for most people who want a quality protein within a budget. At just $0.67 per serving, it is one of the most affordable proteins I've ever found!
Once you start using a quality protein source such as this, you will experience strength gains, build more muscle, burn more fat, and look better than ever. I honestly believe you'll never go back to your old protein supplement again.