Choosing the Best Protein for your Lifestyle and Fitness Goals

Vegan/Plant Based Proteins
Being a vegetarian used to mean protein was hard to come by.  With numerous recent introductions of plant based proteins it is now much easier and the quality and flavor profiles have also improved significantly. Vegan proteins are simply products which use plant proteins as their source for protein. The most popular plant proteins are soy, pea, hemp, and brown rice. Most products consist of a blend of these to ensure an optimal amino acid profile. The most popular plant based proteins include About Time Vege, and MRM Veggie Protein. These products taste good, mix up easily, digest well and will provide a complete plant based protein source.

Meal Replacement Proteins
There is not a standard to define exactly what constitutes a meal replacement shake, but generally they consist of between 20-40 grams of protein with 2-5 grams of fat and typically about 20 carbohydrates. The difference between a meal replacement and a protein powder would be the additional carbohydrates and fats. In theory the additional carbohydrates and fats should make this type of product more filling. The easiest way to think about the meal replacement products is to look at them like a healthy fast food.  They are easy, convenient nutrition that can help an individual make good food choices even with limited time.

Post Workout Recovery
Post workout recovery drinks are designed to be consumed immediately following a workout and as such should contain a fast absorbing protein. Typically a whey protein will be the protein source for post workout products. As long as a post workout product contains some whey it is fine that it also contains other proteins even if they are proteins that digest slower. In fact research shows that a protein combination can provide some benefits for recovery.

wheybetter2lbProteins for Weight Loss
If your goal is weight loss you want to keep a couple of factors in mind when looking at a protein. A product that is low in carbohydrates and fats will typically be a better option as it will help keep calories under control. A shake that is also filling is helpful as it will help to manage appetite. Two products that come to mind are BME Labz Whey Better and 1st Phorm’s Level One. When it comes to weight loss customers will sometimes ask which product has the lowest calories and the most protein. Keep in mind that every gram of protein is 4 calories so the options for reducing calories would be to decrease carbohydrates and fats or to decrease the amount of protein. Another question that comes up is which type of protein is best for weight loss. Most research on protein shows the best results for weight loss are achieved with a combination of whey and casein proteins used together. It is also important to find a product you like and that digests well so that you are able to use it consistently.

Proteins for Muscle Building
Protein is the food for muscle and is necessary to maintain and grow muscle tissue.  If you are an individual that has a lean frame and has a difficult time adding muscle and weight you may want to consider a weight gain formula.  These formulas consist of protein with a large amounts of carbohydrates for extra calories.  The idea with these products is to consume more calories than your body is burning each day to facilitate muscle and weight gain.

For most people the calories in the weight gain formulas are going to be too much and they should stick with a standard protein product.  Although it may seem counterintuitive the same proteins that are optimal for reducing body fat are also ideal for adding lean muscle.  Research shows that the combination of whey and casein proteins is ideal for the purpose of muscle building.  This protein combination is extremely versatile and can be consumed at any point during the day.  If it seems confusing that the same protein(s) are ideal for muscle building and fat loss think about the concept in terms of food.  You could eat a protein source like chicken, fish or beef for either the purpose of fat loss or muscle building.  The outcome would be determined not by the protein source but by your total calories consumed and the physical training you undertake.

2lb-container-and-scoopNatural Colors and Sweeteners
If you are a consumer that is concerned about artificial sweeteners or colors you now have many choices of products that can meet your needs.  Most naturally sweetened products use stevia or sugar alcohols like xylitol.  Although xylitol works well from a taste standpoint sugar alcohols can be difficult for many people to digest.  Proteins using stevia are the most prevalent and the most popular with consumers.  Some of the more popular naturally sweetened products are Intek’s Protein Evolution, and About Time’s Whey Isolate.

Dominick Walsh is a blogger for Performance Nutrition and and covers all men’s health topics and exercise issues including protein powders, diets, weight loss, weight lifting supplements, fat burners and supplement reviews. Dominick’s columns cover everything you need to know about your pre, during and post workout nutrition.