I used to HATE protein powders. I thought they tasted chalky and would often overpower my smoothies. So I avoided them altogether and used chia or hemp in my smoothies instead. While this is still a good approach, I also wanted to up my protein in the morning to make sure I was getting enough. The benefits of protein powder are impressive, but as with all things, quality is majorly important. As you can tell, I am pretty picky when it comes to picking a good protein powder. Now that I have found some I truly love, #notsponsored, I want to share them with you and also learn from you about which ones you love.
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Before we get into my top picks, I want to talk about protein powders in general first. Because I bet you’re wondering, are they even necessary and what is with all the ingredients in some of them? So, I’ll focus on the benefits of protein powder first and then share with you the brands I use and love.
Benefits of Protein Powder: Are Protein Powders Necessary?
First of all, protein is essential for everyone. It helps our bodies build muscle, balance blood sugar, reduce sugar cravings, create hormones and balance our immune systems. When we don’t get enough protein we can experience things like muscle loss, sugar cravings, hair loss, low energy and even a sluggish metabolism. The benefits of protein are clearly evident.
Depending on the person, their diet and their lifestyle, exercise/activity levels supplementing with a protein powder may be optimal. For women, especially, supplementing with a quality protein powder may be just what you need. This is because in general, women tend to consume less protein than men.
Just how much protein do women need? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that the average woman consume about 46 grams of protein per day, experts believe that women who are active or trying to lose weight may need even more to keep their muscles strong and their metabolisms revved. For instance, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as well as the American College of Sports Medicine recommend that athletes consume between 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram body weight per day. For a 140-pound woman, that would be between 76 and 108 grams of protein per day.
Protein Powder as a Supplement:
I refer to protein powder as a supplement. This is because I don’t believe that these shakes (how they are typically sold, not a smoothie) can replace a meal. You should aim to get your protein from whole food sources as much as possible. However, when you are strapped for time or on the run, a smoothie with protein powder can come in handy. I am sure you know by now that I LOVE my smoothies because they are quick and easy, but you also need to make sure they are balanced. By balanced, I mean that they should have a solid ratio of protein, fat and fibre. One of the most convenient ways to make sure you get some protein in your morning smoothie is with a protein powder.
The final answer is this- protein powders are not essential, however they are my most-used supplement. Provided that you are using a quality product, I highly encourage them. The benefits of protein powder are definitely worthwhile so long as you are sourcing ones that use quality ingredients.
Benefits of Protein Powder: Focus on the Ingredients:
As with all things in life, quality matters. It especially matters when it comes to the ingredients you are using to fuel yourself.
Thinking back to when I was younger, I remember my older brother got really into drinking these disgusting shakes with protein powder from a giant tub. I will go out on a limb and guess that the ingredients in them weren’t ideal. Lets do away with these images and instead take a closer look at the ingredients.
Many companies load their protein powder with sugar. They will use various terms for sugar on the label, so always look to see what the ingredients are and just how much sugar is in each serving and look at the serving size. You want to avoid having any added sweeteners (or as little as possible) in the product. These low quality and refined carbs from sugar will compromise your health, which you are trying to improve by having the protein powder in the first place. Stevia is ok in protein powders. When you focus on quality ingredients and include these types of products the benefits of protein powder are even greater.
Benefits of Protein Powder: All the Different Types:
Whey: this is readily available and is ideal for those that are specifically looking to gain muscle (have as post-workout). I don’t typically recommend whey or use it myself. The reason for this is that it can lead to food sensitivities, bloating, gas and other abdominal discomfort. However, if you are going to go for whey (which is low in lactose) make sure to buy one that is from a reputable company. Many of the ones out there are made with cheap whey ingredients from cows fed a sub-par diet or raised with hormones and antibiotics.
Collagen: Collagen as a protein source is another option that I would recommend. Collagen is an essential component that is needed for our joints, healthy digestion, muscle recovery plus our skin, hair and nails. Make sure to find a good quality product that contains collagen from grass-fed sources (for beef) or wild caught fish (for marine).
Vegan/Plant Based: these are usually my go-to and what I recommend to most people as well. I tend to avoid soy and instead focus on hemp, pea and sometimes rice. Typically these are sold as blends without soy, which is ideal. These are generally easily digested and especially so if you are using a sprouted or fermented kind. I happen to go with these types most as they don’t cause digestive issues and they contain some probiotics as well.
My Fave Brands and Picks for Each Category:
St. Francis: This brand is great quality. It is derived from the milk of pasture raised goats, free from antibiotics and hormones. It also contains lacto-fermented protein which helps with digestion and absorption. As with other goat and sheep products, these are also much more easily digested than cow’s milk as it most closely resembles human milk. It contains 12.7g of protein per 2 tbsp. serving. It doesn’t have a strong taste and blends easily with smoothies. You can read more about this one on their website.
Vital Proteins: This brand only uses grass-fed and wild caught marine sources for their collagen products. They are recommended by so many nutritionists because they work and are of high quality. They have 18g of protein per serving and also mix well into hot and cold beverages, like smoothies or matcha lattes, those being the main ways I use them. Collagen also does well when mixed with vitamin C for maximum absorption. This is why I find it ideal to mix with smoothies as they will already have some vitamin C from my veggies and fruits.
Designs for Health, Pure Paleo: This is a complete protein source that is ideal for those following a grain free, paleo diet. It is made from a highly concentrated, pure bone broth protein isolate, produced through an exclusive proprietary process that allows the protein to be hydrolyzed into more peptides, resulting in easier absorption and assimilation.
Sunwarrior: I really love the clean ingredients in Sunwarrior products and I find the taste is great and it mixes well in my smoothies. I usually opt for the Classic one or the Classic Plus and I like to get vanilla or chocolate. If you go for natural as I have in the past, it has no sugar added, but the taste is quite strong in my opinion. I don’t mind the small amount of stevia so I would rather the chocolate or vanilla flavour. For those in Canada, I love getting mine from Raw Elements. You can use the code JAC10 to enjoy 10% off your order.
Garden of Life: This is my personal go-to protein powder as of late and I am obsessed with the vanilla flavour. It isn’t overly strong in vanilla flavour and it mixes really well with my smoothies. Even my protein powder hating BF likes this one, #winning. I go for the Raw Organic Protein powder which is low in sugar (only has stevia in the flavoured ones) and contains some probiotics as well.
Beauty Chef: This was my go-to for a while and I love it too. All of the products from the Beauty Chef are really amazing as they use quality ingredients and believe in supporting a healthy gut first and foremost to get beautiful looking skin. I am partial to the chocolate as I found the vanilla a little too strong in flavour. They use organic ingredients and only contain stevia to sweeten.
Ok, that wraps up my protein powder post. I hope it was helpful for you and answered any questions you may have about which protein powders to choose. The benefits of protein powder are clearly evident, but just make sure you are utilizing quality ingredients and products.
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Let me know if you use a protein powder and if so which one?