In today’s world, everybody is looking to get better versions of something. Even in our food, we want to know that we are getting the most optimal nutrient servings out of whatever we’re eating. This is the reason why protein powders are expected to be an almost 8-billion industry by 2020. These products easily provide our bodies with the protein that we need for daily life, boost the protein content of any food, help us power through exercises, and are widely available everywhere.
No matter your preference, you are also sure to find something that suits your tastes as there are plenty of types of protein powders that you can find. And whether you are a newbie at fitness looking to squeeze more out of your workouts or a seasoned athlete looking for maximum gains, there is a protein powder for you. Below, in fact, are ten of the best of them.
Top 10 Protein Powders for Weight Loss in 2018
One of the most recognized brands in the market in the whole world, the Gold Standard 100% whey protein isolate from Optimum Nutrition is an award-winning supplement for over 10 years. Every serving of this product offers 24 grams of protein, as well as 5.5 grams of naturally-occurring branched-chain amino acids, and 4 grams of naturally occurring glutamine and glutamic acid.
The product, unlike similar products from other brands, is manufactured by the company itself, which means that you are assured of getting top quality. It is also instantized to mix easily with just a spoon or a shaker.
- Offers an award-winning formula that has proven its quality for more than a decade
- Comes with 24 grams of protein for every serving
- Also comes with 5.5 grams of BCAAs, and 4 grams of glutamine and glutamic acid
- Contains artificial sweeteners
- Some users have also reported that some of the flavors seem “off”
The EAS 100% Whey Protein powder offers even more protein and BCAAs than our top-notcher on this list, at about 30 grams of pure protein, and 6.3 grams of naturally-occurring BCAAs. The product, as it contains whey, is also especially suited for those who take their exercise sessions seriously. And it can be mixed with oatmeal, milk water, or some other thing thirty minutes after your workout for immediate muscle recovery aid.
However, it only nabs second place because each of its servings is also high in calories, as well as features 6 grams of carbohydrates, and 2.5 grams of fat. On the plus side, it is a good source of calcium, and its list of ingredients does not include any banned substance.
- Offers about 30 grams of protein per serving
- Ideal for athletes and people serious about their training
- More affordable than other products of its kind
- Mixes fast and well
- Does not contain digestive enzymes
- Contains soy, lactose, and acesulfame potassium, which may cause issues to those with sensitivities to these ingredients
With the distinction of being manufactured by one of America’s most popular bodybuilding supplement brands, the Nitro-Tech 100% whey gold protein powder from MuscleTech offers a scientifically-proven formula for muscle recovery, lean muscle formation, muscle strength, and muscle performance. Every serving has 24 grams of whey protein, 5.5 grams of BCAAs, and 4 grams of glutamine. The way the product is processed also ensures optimal quality, as its cold-filtered and multi-phase filtration reduces the resulting amount of fat, lactose, and impurities without the use of harsh salts or acids. And it is available in nine flavors, to match varying preferences.
- Comes with 30 grams of quality whey protein per serving
- Also comes with BCAAs, glutamine, and creatine for muscle-building
- May come with fillers
- Also contains carrageenan, which is an additive that has been linked to many issues, including cancer
The Six Star Pro Nutrition Elite Series Whey Protein Powder reportedly offers a scientifically-proven formula that can boost muscle formation by about 70%, thanks to its combination of high-quality protein, as well as fast-absorbing BCAAs and glutamine. It is ideal before and after workouts, and its manufacturer says that its taste is award-winning. In addition, it is perfect for young athletes and sports professionals.
- Contains a good protein mix
- Reportedly increases muscle formation by about 70%
- Also features creatine monohydrate, glutamine, and maltodextrin
- May contain too high a sodium content for those with cardiovascular issues
- Also associated with carrageenan, a problematic additive that has been linked to cancer
If you’re looking for something that allows you to feel good about the quality of purchases that you’re making, where the planet is concerned, the Orgain Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder is for you. This product is USDA-certified to be organic, soy-free, non-GMO, gluten-free, and free from any artificial flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives. Each scoop offers 21 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber. Its list of ingredients is also commendable, with goodies such as organic pea protein, organic chia seed, organic rice bran extract, sea salt, and monk fruit extract.
- USDA-certified organic, gluten-free, soy-free, and non-GMO
- Features a rich plant-based formula
- Delivers 21 grams of protein per serving, and only 150 calories
- May contain some carbohydrates
The CLICK Espresso Protein Drink is an all-in-one product that helps curb appetite, boost energy, and boost the rate of fat burning, which can all aid in faster and more effective weight loss. As its name denotes, it is flavored with the taste of coffee, so those who like their coffee will definitely like this protein powder. It is also great as a meal replacement, a midday snack, or a pre or post-workout drink. And it is gluten-free, delivering 23 essential vitamins and minerals with every serving.
- All-in-one, low-calorie protein powder drink mix that curbs appetite burns fat, and increases energy
- Offers 23 minerals and vitamins with every serving
- Can be used as a breakfast meal replacement, midday snack, or pre and post-workout drink
- Some users have complained about its hidden sugars and carbs
The BiPro 100% whey protein isolate powder is one of the few products of its kind that has a low protein to calorie ratio: every serving has 20 grams of protein and only 90 calories. Even better, it is very low on fat and carbs. It also has a straightforward list of ingredients: whey protein isolate, natural flavors, sunflower lecithin, and stevia extract. It does not have artificial flavors, sweeteners, or colors. And it mixes very well, with some users reporting that they can leave the product overnight and come back to find that nothing has clumped at the bottom.
- Offers one of the most impressive protein to calorie ratio in the market
- Does not contain artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors
- Contains minimal carbohydrates or fats
- Low on calcium
- Has a high amount of sodium
- More expensive than similar products
- Made from a non-GMO soy protein that is good for the heart
- Offers a patented fiber blend that helps you feel full longer
- Also contains digestive enzymes
- Does not have much iron, choline, or probiotics
- Contains artificial sweeteners
The Native Fuel Micellar Casein Protein Powder from Ascent is certified Gluten Free, as well as Informed Choice certified, which makes it an ideal choice for those who are particular about the products that they support. Every serving offers 25 grams of protein, as well as 11 grams of naturally-occurring BCAAs. It is free from any artificial ingredients or flavors, and the manufacturer is committed to making it as easy as possible for consumers to understand their ingredient panel.
- Gluten-free and Informed Choice certified
- Offers 25 grams of protein and 11 grams of BCAAs per serving
- Does not contain artificial ingredients
- Some users complain about its very thick consistency
Who Needs Protein Powders
Anybody who intends to add more protein to his or her diet can benefit from protein powders, as can those who need the fuel that protein provides during workouts. These include people who are growing, such as teenagers, those who are starting a new program, or those who are doing a more rigorous kind of training.
If you’re considering a food lifestyle change, like going vegan, protein powders may also be ideal for you. These products can supply the necessary amount of protein that you need without going by the usual animal sources.
What Are The Benefits Of Protein Powders
The most important benefit that comes with protein powders is the convenience that they offer. This is especially helpful to people who train frequently, as they need the fast recovery in between sessions that protein helps deliver. The carbs in these powders also help athletes and active people refuel and replenish their depleted stores of sugar. So if you want something quick to pick you up while you prepare to tackle other demanding parts of your day, protein powders can help.
They may also be more beneficial to women than men. For instance, these powders may also promote weight loss. A study published in the “Metabolism” journal found that obese women who used three protein shakes, in addition to fruits, vegetables, and one full prepackaged entree a day, lost about 10 percent of their body weight and 20 percent of their body fat in 16 weeks. In the study, the powders used either soy or casein as the main protein source.
Muscle maintenance as one age may also happen more easily with protein powders. Research published in the “Journal of Women and Aging” found that post-menopausal women that used protein powders combined with occasional resistance training over a 12-week period saw a boost in muscle mass and bone strength, compared to women who didn’t use protein powders.
What Are Protein Powders
As their name denotes, protein powder contains a high percentage of protein derived from various sources. These include pea, soy, rice, cranberry, artichoke, egg, and cranberry. But they don’t only contain protein; in many cases, they also comprise vitamins, minerals, fiber, and thickeners, and can be used as meal replacements.
However, it is important to remember that while these products can fill in your protein intake for the day, they are not actual food. They undergo intense processes so that they can taste delicious, as well as stay on the shelf longer. There are many types of these processes and they yield different types of protein products. These are:
Protein concentrates. Protein concentrates are made from using a high-heat drying process in conjunction with acid extraction to compress the whole protein food source into concentrated powder. Most of the time, they contain about 60 to 70 percent of protein by weight. Some of them may also feature fillers such as lactose and fat.
Protein isolates. In making protein isolates, the main goal is to separate or isolate the protein from the original food source through alcohol washing, water washing, or ionization. Of these three, a water wash is the least expensive while ionization is the one that fetches the highest price. Once isolated, the product then goes through filtration, where virtually everything except for the protein and minimal amounts of carbohydrate, fiber, fat, and phytochemicals are eliminated. As a result, they contain about 90 to 95 percent of protein by weight.
Protein Hydrolysates. Protein hydrolysates or hydrolyzed protein are expensive to produce, as they are aimed at combining protein polymers with water and then breaking them down into peptides, miniature groups of protein that contain 2 to 5 amino acids.
Ion-exchange protein. Ion-exchange proteins are products whose protein molecules are separated from other food fractions through electrical charges. Ion exchange is the used industry standard for processing milk proteins.
Other filtration processes used in the production of protein powders are microfiltration, cross microfiltration, and ultrafiltration. These eliminate contaminants from protein concentrate through passage by a membrane, which is similar to the reverse osmosis methodology used in water purification.
What Safety Issues Should You Be Aware Of For Protein Powders
There are quite a few risks and issues associated with protein powders, so anybody who is interested in using them should seriously make sure that they are safe when they do so. The first of these is that protein powders are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration, so manufacturers of the product do not need to meet stringent requirements that can help establish a safety baseline for consumers. When buying, always choose a reputable supplier with an established history of delivering quality products.
It is also possible for people to take too much of these protein powders. Having too much protein, which can start at about 35% of daily calories, can cause cramps, headaches, nausea, bloating, and fatigue. Dehydration may also occur, as can unintended weight gain due to the fillers and additional ingredients in the protein powders.
Other industry experts also believe that an excess of protein in the body may lead the kidney to work harder than it should. Published research in the 2013 International Scholarly Research Notices said that high amounts of protein over a long time can increase the acid load on your kidneys, and potentially raise the chances of kidney stone formation.
The same study in the same journal found that when you take too many protein powders, you also run the risk of endangering your bone health. The researchers studied the effects of three types of protein powders that had differing amount of protein by weight: 47 grams, 95 grams, and 142 grams; they found that every incremental increase also corresponds to a loss of calcium through urination, which can impact bone health. The ideal amount of protein per serving is about 20 to 50 grams.
So to stay within the recommended amount, a study published in the April 2006 issue of the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism says that you should only consume about 25 percent of protein based on your daily calories, or 2 to 2.5 grams per kilogram of your body weight. This means that, for a 150-pound person, the proper amount of protein to take would be between 136 to 170 grams.
In addition to the dangers of consuming too much protein, some tests conducted by Consumer Reports found that 15 protein powders and drinks tested positive for four heavy metals at the time: mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and lead. Many of the samples contained safe levels of heavy metals, but multiple servings of some of the samples can tot up potentially dangerous amounts. On top of these, some products contain unlisted ingredients that may include stimulants or even steroids.
A Brief History Of Protein Powders
While protein powders may seem like they are a very modern invention, their first use can actually be traced back to the 1950s. Around this time, a guy named Bob Hoffman made Hi-Proteen, using soy flour. The product had a rather unpleasant taste, as well as featured so many sweeteners to try and make up for the bad taste.
A decade after, research on protein and protein powders increased, and nutritional theorists such as Rheo H. Blair entered the scene. Blair created his own protein powder out of egg and casein protein, which was considered to be of higher quality than other and earlier products on the market. His protein powders were also very popular, as consumers gave positive reviews.
Then, in the 70s, bodybuilding started gaining ground. Some of the most famous protein powders at the time were Unipro, HeavyWeight Gainer 900, SuperCal, and Zero Carb Protein, which were all intended for the bodybuilding market
Around the 80s and the 90s, the industry of protein powders encountered significant milestones through A. Scott Connelly and Dan Duchaine. Connelly founded Met Rx, which formulated their products according to the amino acid profile of baby’s milk, as well as specific powder species, as they believed that heeding these would yield as close a product as Nature intended to give to man. Launched with aggressive marketing, Met Rx quickly became the most famous products of its kind.
Duchaine, on the other hand, introduced whey protein in 1993. Whey protein is a by-product that results from cheese making and contains high amounts of branched chain amino acids or BCAAs. To this day, whey protein is still among the most popular types of protein powders.
At present, the range of options has expanded to give consumers more options according to their preferences and requirements. For instance, there are now protein powders that can be used as shakes that have meat-based proteins or monohydrate creatine.
Important Factors to Keep in Mind
Types Of Protein Powders
There are many types of protein powders that you will find on the market, and some of the most essential are:
Whey Protein. Derived from milk in the process of cheese-making, whey is the liquid that isolates itself from the curds. It is rich in protein, but if it is not in an isolated form, it is also rich in lactose. For lactose-intolerant people, whey is therefore not ideal. But for those who have no issues ingesting it, it promises a slew of benefits.
First off, it is said to contain plenty of branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs, chief of which is leucine. Leucine is said to be significant in boosting muscle growth and recovery after exercise, while other amino acids are useful for protein synthesis or the development of new muscle. In fact, compared to other types of protein, one study found that this type of protein can increase synthesis 31% more than soy protein and 132% more than casein protein.
Other studies have also indicated that whey protein can help improve body composition by reducing fat mass and boosting lean mass. Additionally, it can curb your appetite as much as other protein types. Finally, it may be able to reduce inflammation and help out with some heart health markers in overweight and obese people.
Casein Protein. Casein also comes from milk, like whey, but unlike whey, it is digested and absorbed more slowly. When it interacts with stomach acid, it forms a gel, which slows down the emptying of the stomach and lengthens the time it takes for amino acids to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Consequently, the muscles of the body get more time to benefit from the amino acids, one of the advantages of which is a reduction in the rate of muscle protein breakdown.
Like whey, it is also believed to boost muscle protein synthesis and strength, and like whey, it can improve body composition. But with calorie restriction, it is believed to be even more effective at whey in enhancing lean mass.
Egg Protein. Egg protein powders are made from egg whites, which means that the quality of the resulting protein is excellent. It also contains a high amount of leucine, a branched-chain amino acid that is responsible for muscle health. A study that focused on female athletes also found that egg white protein helps in boosting lean mass and muscle strength as much as carb supplements.
However, this type of protein is not as well-studied as other types of protein like whey and casein. At best, they are ideal for those who are sensitive to milk protein and want something that is based on animal protein.
Pea Protein. Relatively new, pea protein is especially suited to vegans, vegetarians, and people with sensitivities to proteins derived from egg or dairy products. It is rich in both branched-chain and essential amino acids, as it comes from the high-fiber leume yellow split pea. It is absorbed less slowly than whey, but as quick as casein.
A study that focused on 161 men found that pea protein is as effective as whey protein in boosting muscle thickness. Another study in humans and rats with high blood pressure also found that this specific type of protein can lower blood pressure. Still, more studies are warranted to gain a full understanding of the things that pea protein can do.
Product Use Limitations/Who Shouldn’t Use Protein Powders
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should steer clear of using whey protein without the clearance of their doctors.
Protein powders provide a lot of benefits to anybody who wants the added rewards of boosting their protein consumption or making it as convenient as possible. The variety of options on the market also makes it easy to find something that suits your preferences, whether it’s the type of protein, ingredient panel, or flavor.
However, it is important to remember that protein powders should not serve as replacements for actual food rich in protein. At best, they should be supplements to a properly balanced meal, and not intended as a stand-in that can make up for a lack of protein in your diet. Additionally, they should only be used if you are sure that you will be safe while using them. If you have doubts or questions, consult a doctor.
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