We get a lot of questions about supplements, and of course the biggest category of "supplements" people use are protein powders and bars. I'll talk about bars in another blog post, but today... PROTEIN POWDER!
First things first... what's the difference between a supplement, and a food? Supplements, including protein powders, are designed to be just that... SUPPLEMENTAL. They are NOT designed to replace animal proteins in the diet (of non-vegans). Real animal products, poultry, beef, fish, pork, eggs, etc... are ALWAYS the preferred source of protein for our bodies. Whenever you can, increase protein intake by adding more animal protein into your diet. Vegetable based proteins (in rice, soy, legumes, etc...) are inferior sources in two ways. First, they are typically not "complete" proteins, containing all the amino acids required to be used by your body. This is "fixable" by blending complementary vegetable proteins into your diet to get all the essential amino acids, but even though this will cover your bases for essential amino acids, the VOLUME of protein you need to eat is going to be difficult to attain through vegetable sources only. In order to get 100g of protein out of rice and beans... you have to consume a HUGE volume of carbohydrates in the process. For lacto-ovo vegetarians (who eat milk/eggs) this is less of an issue, since eggs are an AMAZING protein source. But you'll still have to eat a LOT of eggs. For true vegans, a protein powder sourced from vegetable proteins is likely the ONLY way to get enough volume of protein in your diet without over-eating carbs. In this case... the powder is a "food". For everyone else... it should be supplemental.
So which brands are best?
Whey proteins, casein proteins, blended proteins, isolate, concentrate, filtered... blah, blah, blah... The hard truth is, the vast majority of the THOUSAND brands of protein powder in the US are sourced from only a FEW manufacturers, then privately labeled. The second truth is... the supplement industry is almost COMPLETELY UNREGULATED. This means that what the label SAYS is inside, is in NO WAY guaranteed to be what you're actually buying/eating. The dosages are off (due to added fillers), the sugar content is off (your sugar-free protein could be loaded), even the manufacturing method may be a lie, or simply a "stretched truth". That $50/lb "Organic, Hormone-Free, Certified-Vegan Amazon-Hemp" protein powder you bought at the high-end market... may very well be "Brand-X" beef-glandular protein that's sold at Walmart for $5/lb, but with a fancy label! Not ALL brands are garbage, and some are LIKELY more accurate than others, but in a VERY competitive business with investors to answer to, and profits to be made... you draw your own conclusion.
There's a lot of marketing hype out there about the various types, whey, casein, etc... and manufacturing methods, like hydrolyzed, ionized, cross-flow-filtered, etc. Claims are made about rate of absorption, rate of digestion, and protein efficiency ratios. In reality, pure whey protein is digested a BIT faster than casein, but can vary from batch to batch, and varies a LOT based on what's mixed into the shake, like berries, or peanut butter, or cow's milk, or almond milk. All powders digest and absorb faster than all real meats, since they are basically "pre-digested" in the manufacturing process. Fish digests a bit faster than chicken, which is a bit faster than beef... but in REALITY... in a real person's real digestive system... assuming you have an adequate intake of protein from multiple sources throughout your day and week, we all have an "amino acid pool" in our body that we draw from all the time. EVERY version of protein powder is broken down into elemental amino acids, predominantly in the stomach, and by the time it reaches your blood stream, there is ZERO difference between beef protein, fish protein, and "ionized hydrolyzed cross-filtered vegan pea protein"! In the end... it's all amino acids. The rate of digestion/absorption will never limit or enhance your "anabolic state", or cause you to miss your "optimal absorption window". ALL MARKETING HYPE! NO SCIENCE!
So what protein powders do WE, as competitive (non-SPONSORED, non-ENDORSED, non-BEHOLDEN) athletes use day to day to supplement our protein needs?
1) Does it taste good and mix easily?
2) Is it cheap and on sale, or available for repeat auto-shipping on Amazon?
3) Is it a different flavor from the same crap we've been eating for months?
4) Can I get a free sample at a vendor table at a contest?
Seriously... THESE are the stringent tests we put protein powder through before we buy/eat it!
And the results are evident... They all work.
Don't fall for the marketing hype. Eat REAL FOOD as much as possible (75% plus of your daily protein, with more being better). Don't waste your brain power on stressing over protein powders...
Drop us and email, or a phone call if you need personal, specific guidance on your nutrition needs!