Buyer’s Guide: Choosing a Protein Powder

Protein powder has come a long way from its initial use as a post-recovery workout supplement—these days it can serve as a quick meal replacement and an easy source of needed nutrition. You can dress it up or dress it down, add it to smoothies or pancake mix, or quickly shake it up with your choice of beverage for a light meal on the go.

Protein supplements have evolved as well—from basic animal-sourced protein such as whey, casein, collagen or egg white concentrate, to fancier formulations concocted from plant-based sources (e.g. brown rice, pea and hemp protein). Today, many powdered protein formulations even come fortified with greens, fiber, vitamins, herbs and probiotics to bring added boosts to suit your needs. There are even protein powders that can help target weight loss and curb cravings. Here’s a quick look at the most popular types of protein powders, and how to choose the one for you.

Protein type
Health Benefits Where you’ll find it
Whey Concentrate & Whey Isolate Whey concentrate is a water soluble milk protein, considered a “complete protein” because it contains all nine amino acids necessary for human dietary needs. It’s nutritionally dense, filled with protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, and immunoglobulins that are especially vital for a robust immune system. With a strong amino acid profile and general ease of absorption, whey has been shown to augment muscle protein synthesis, support fat burning, boost immunity, improve insulin sensitivity and decrease appetite.

Whey concentrate contains a significant amount of lactose and is not suitable for those with lactose intolerance. Whey protein concentrate can be further processed and denatured into whey protein isolate—a product that loses some biologic activity yet yields higher amounts of protein.

Hydrolyzed whey isolate is even further processed, leading to smaller, more absorbable peptides (but also comes at the cost of lowered biological activity).

Egg White Egg white is a lactose-free, low-fat, low-carbohydrate, vitamin-rich food that can offer more protein than 4 eggs in one scoop of protein powder.
Plant-Based/Vegan Plant-based protein formulations an excellent substitute for traditional whey formulas. Common plant sources of protein includes pea, brown rice, amaranth, quinoa, garbanzo, millet, buckwheat, lentil, adzuki, flax, chia, sesame and pumpkin seed sprout.

Some plant-based formulas are made with raw ingredients, since heating protein can reduce its availability and absorption.

Protein for Weight Loss Protein powders are a fantastic low-calorie addition to a weight loss regimen. Weight loss formulations have added nutrients such as chromium, cinnamon, green coffee bean extract and fiber to help fight cravings, boost energy, burn fat, balance blood sugar and curb appetite, thus enabling weight loss.
Protein with Greens Adding greens to protein creates an ideal superfood since greens alkalinize the blood, provide antioxidant activity, detoxify, boost energy and offer invaluable nutrients.
Collagen-Based Protein Collagen proteins, including those made from bone broth, wild-caught fish and pasture-raised bovine sources are a great way to support stronger hair, skin and nails and radiant, hydrated skin.

Collagen protein blends often feature hyaluronic acid, biotin, vitamin C and alpha lipoic acid to improve elasticity, enhance collagen formation, prevent free radical damage and support connective tissues in the bones and joints.

  • Look for new collagen and bone broth proteins at in the next few months!
Fermented Proteins Fermentation is a process whereby bacteria feeds on sugar and starch in foods, creating lactic acid (aka lactofermentation). The fermentation process preserves nutrients and breaks down food into a more digestible and absorbable form. It also creates beneficial enzymes, B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and various strains of probiotics.

Many people experience improved digestion when consuming fermented foods. Vegan fermented protein is an excellent choice because it promotes overall digestive health, healthy gut bacteria, enhanced absorption, unlocks vitamins, minerals, amino acids and carbohydrates for optimal absorption, removes anti-nutrients and harmful bacteria and supports the immune system.