How to pick the perfect protein powder


Regardless of your goals, more muscle, or less body fat (or both!) there are no shortcuts. You have to put the effort in, use an effective, suitable training plan, and build a routine that you enjoy and that’s easy to stick to. The same goes for diet. It must be built round your needs and be practical so that the work gets done each and every day.

At this point you might be considering a protein supplement, but with such a bewildering array how do you choose which is best for you? 

29. January 2016

What do you want from a protein shake?

Much like training or diet, there’s no magic to protein powders, the point of them to provide you with the very best protein, suited to supporting muscle mass, training, fat loss and health, and do it in an easy, convenient and cost effective way.

Here’s the four questions you should be asking when choosing a powder:

Is it ‘instantised’

This is not the obvious place to start, but how well a powder mixes controls how easy it is to use day to day.

Back in the 80’s or 90’s shakes were hard to mix, you literally had to use a food blender to make one, which made them a pain to use.  Fast forward to today and mixability has taken huge leaps forward. This is a massive advantage, as you can throw some powder in a shaker, take it to the gym or work and have it ready in seconds. 

=> Look out for ‘instantised’ powders, these are the easiest and smoothest mixing of any powders.

=> Smooth mixing powders also improve mouthfeel and flavour

Does it taste good?

After you mix it, you have to get it down. The point of a sports food is not to taste good,  but it’s the flavour that you’re going to have to deal with every day and research shows that if a diet strategy is hard to stick to it fails. Luckily with many brands you don’t have to choose between quality and flavour

Taste is a personal thing and everyone has different preferences, so:

=> Don’t be afraid to initially get a few sample sachets

=> Follow mixing instructions

=> Avoid ‘flavour fatigue’ by opting for milder and more realistic flavours.

Does it contain high quality protein?

No one ever got lean or muscular eating bad food, and the same goes for sports foods. The quality of the protein in the shake determines how well it supports your training and recovery, feeds lean tissue and supports muscle gain and fat loss.

In terms of proteins for training and recovery the highest quality ones have all the eight essential amino acids and the twelve non-essential ones. They’ll also be high in selected aminos like the three ‘branched chain amino’ acids or glutamine.

=> Read the ingredients: proteins that contain the best spread of amino acids are based on animal foods, like whey and casein, both purified from milk.

=> Look out for proteins with high levels of branched chain amino acids.

Does it contain a decent amount of protein (and little fat and sugar)?

The point of the protein supplement is the protein, carbs and fats we can more easily get from whole foods, so when selecting a protein shake you want minimum carbs and fats. There are other products on the market like recovery drinks, mass gainers or diet blends that contain more than simply protein but they’re custom blends with different uses.

Generally the higher the percentage of protein in the product the more expensive it will be, but there’s products out there to suit every budget. That said:

=> Always compare brands using the ‘per 100g’ info on the label as serving sizes can vary.

=> Whey isolates have more protein than ‘concentrate’ but they’re more expensive, either can be a good choice provided they’re high quality.

=> For ‘whey concentrates’ or whey protein blends look for over 75% protein by weight, ideally 80% i.e. 80g per 100g.

=> For isolates look for the total of fat and sugar, they should be under 2g per 100g for fat and 3g per 100g per carbs.

The Bottom Line

Most tend to focus purely on the nutrition and the science of protein powders, but all aspects are important. Nutrition is a daily thing and making it easy, practical and enjoyable is the way to make hitting your targets easy and guarantee good results.