Looking to add a bit of oomph to your smoothie (or to your morning run)? A good protein powder can provide a delicious and nutritious punch.
But walk down the aisles of any health shop and you’ll be staggered by the amount of choice. Whey, casein, soy, brown rice, golden pea, egg, hemp – it’s hard to know which protein to use, let alone how to use it! Here’s a guide.
Why even use a protein powder?
Your body uses protein to build and repair muscles, which is essential when you’re exercising. Protein is also incredibly satiating, meaning you won’t be slave to the carb/sugar rollercoaster, or give in to that vending machine chocolate bar at 3pm.
But we can’t always have a cheeky pile of chicken breasts on hand. Enter protein powder – a super convenient source of protein which your body can easily digest, too.
3 things to look for in a protein powder.
1. Complete amino acid profile. A complete protein contains all nine essential amino acids needed for lean muscle development. Whey, egg, soy (read more below) and certain vegan protein blends are all complete protein powders.
2. The purer, the better. Protein isolate has the highest percentage of protein, so it’s ideal for lean muscle development. Protein concentrate contains small amounts of carbs and fats, making it a good 'all-rounder'. Be careful of 'gainers' though – unlike many powders, these contain lots of carbs and calories to help bodybuilders gain mass.
3. Taste! It seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many dud protein powders you can go through before you find one that doesn’t taste like chalk. We’re fans of Bare Blends Organic Vanilla Bean WPI in the IQS office – mainly because it tastes creamy and natural, and goes with everything.
3 things to avoid!
1. Soy. If you’re looking for a vegan protein, we recommend you stay away from soy for many reasons. More than half the world’s soybeans are genetically modified; it’s also rough on digestion and can disrupt thyroid hormones. Note: small amounts of soy lecithin are used in protein powders so they don’t clump, but it’s not worth worrying about unless you have a soy allergy.
2. More than five ingredients. If the protein powder has 30 different ingredients (some of which you can’t even identify), put it back on the shelf. Try and find a blend with no more than five ingredients, and nothing artificial. The only exception here is whole ingredients – for example, matcha, maca, vanilla bean or cacao.
3. Sugar! Unsurprisingly, many protein brands include sugar under different guises. You don’t need the added sugar, especially if you’re adding the powder to a fruit smoothie! Go for an unsweetened blend or one with natural fructose-free sweeteners like stevia (avoid dodgy artificial sweeteners like aspartame, however).
I bought a protein powder! What next?
Protein powder is amazingly versatile. You can add it to shakes, blend it in smoothies, or get creative with protein balls, pancakes, porridge or… cheesecakes! Try these recipes below for inspiration.