When I first became interested in my physique I didn’t know where to start.
I asked about what type of protein powders I should be taking for the best results during my workout.
I heard words like whey protein, pre-workout, post-recovery, alpha proteins, carb loading, macronutrients, and casein.
My eyes glossed over.
I felt totally overwhelmed.
So, let me ask you this:
Do you think I started eating better for better results?
I actually started eating worse and probably harming my body more than I helped it.
Because I found it too complicated.
OK, I think you’ll agree that choosing protein powder isn’t all that easy.
It takes hours of research and an incredible amount of nutritional understanding to get the right brand.
And that’s what most people think.
It is also important to consider preworkout supplements, to help maximise your workout.
What I’ve found is that most people who are just getting into working out or lifting weights focus on the wrong aspects.
They get all caught up in the best protein shakes, the optimal time to take protein powders, and what variety of proteins they need.
Beginners focus too much on the details and the minutiae.
“What time should I eat my pre-workout snack?”
“What are the best tasting protein powders?”
“What protein powder works for dumbbell exercises?”
I know this is supposed to be an easy guide to protein powders, but I’m going to shock you here.
It’s not that hard!
In fact, it’s never meant to be that hard.
I’m going to dispel the myths and the legends surrounding protein powders.
I’m going to break it down step by step, and I’m going to walk you through what are the best protein powders out there.
But before I do…
What is a Protein Powder?
I’m not going to assume that you have all this previous information about protein powders.
I’m going to start from the beginning.
If you already know about protein powders and you just want to get to the meat of the article (pun totally intended), skip this section.
But if you’re a complete beginner, keep reading.
Protein powders give you the boost of protein your body needs after strenuous exercise.
When you work out, you’re causing microscopic tears and fissures to your ligaments and muscles.
You’re damaging the very structure of your body.
But wait, that’s a good thing.
When your body rebuilds that damage, it rebuilds it stronger and bigger. And to do that, it uses…
That’s right! Protein!
Protein is the key building block that is used in the production of muscles.
Your body takes the protein from the food you eat and makes hormones, enzymes, immune response cells, and so much more.
And it also builds up your muscle tissue.
Protein not only builds up your muscle but prevents you from causing injury when you work out next time.
It’s not just to get you “swoll”, it’s to prevent you from being stretchered out of the weight room.
So, why take protein shakes?
You could take your George Foreman grill into the weight room.
You could finish up your workout set with a grilled chicken breast and a side of chickpea salad.
But I doubt Gold’s Gym looks kindly on that idea.
Or, you could indulge in a protein bar to consumer the necessary nutrients.
Protein powders make it easy on your body.
It doesn’t have to break down the food to access the protein molecules in the cells.
With a powerful protein powder, you can get instant access to all that wonderful, sweet protein powder goodness to rebuild those aching, hurting muscles.
And the faster your body can get that nourishing protein, the better it can rebuild.
Most people believe that there is a 45-60 minute window after a rigorous workout where you get the most effective results from taking protein powders or shakes.
It’s when your body is injured that it’s searching out proteins to rebuild and heal as fast as possible.
And it’s as simple as that.
I mean, I could get into the body’s muscular structure and molecular compounds of proteins, but it’s not necessary here.
I think your eyes would glaze over if I tried.
So, let’s start to look at the protein powders you should be paying attention to for your body’s best performance.
The Best Tasting Protein Powder
OK, if you skipped that last section, welcome back.
Everyone is caught up on why we’re even looking at protein powders.
Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty.
First of all, the taste.
I’ll be honest, saying that protein powder tastes great is like saying you had a great time at the dentist.
You know it wasn’t actually great, but it wasn’t as bad as you thought it was going to be.
Protein powders can be off-putting, both in texture and in flavour.
They can be grainy and the flavours can taste almost medicinal sometimes.
There are some incredible smooth protein powders that work to eliminate that texture that some people can’t get past.
And I’m saying this because I totally get it that protein powder can be hard to get down.
That’s why I want to present these options for great tasting protein powders.
It makes the experience that much easier to swallow (again, pun totally intended).
The Best Chocolate Protein Powder
For your money, I’m going to suggest a brand that does a lot of different flavours.
BSN Syntha-6 has a wide range of products, but this Chocolate Milkshake flavour is worth trying out.
I’m pretty partial to the chocolate milkshake taste already.
If you’re keen on getting a great source of protein in a chocolate flavour you love, go for this brand.
I think the reason that chocolate protein works so well is that the taste of chocolate just overrides anything else.
It covers up all the parts you don’t want to taste while giving you an instant hit of a flavour you know and that you already love.
If you’re not a fan of taking a protein powder shake straight up, let me make a suggestion.
Add a banana to the mixture and that will help with both the texture and the taste.
It will feel like a chocolate banana smoothie while also giving you the best protein for your muscles.
Sidenote: Chocolate milk is actually a great source of protein as well. I’ll get into the why further on in this article. It’s worth noting that it is good, but there’s a high sugar content as well. Use sparingly.
Sidenote:Part 2: The BSN range also includes a peanut butter chocolate variety. Heck yes! Peanuts and chocolate…and it’s good for me? Sign me up.
The Best Vanilla Protein Powder
Did you know that you can use protein powders in your baking?
You can make protein powder cookies or balls that you pop after your workout.
It’s much easier than mixing up liquids on the go, and it works well in a cookie form.
So, although I’m not a vanilla fan, I have heard great things about Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Vanilla Protein Powder.
It’s a respected brand of protein supplement so it’s worth noting it comes from a reputable background.
One of the best markers of this protein powder brand is that it comes with an exceptional rating of like-minded protein powder users.
The online reviews far eclipse what others brands offer.
One of the hardest parts about getting fit is giving up on all those foods you used to love.
That’s why I’m a fan of the O.N. brand.
They brought vanilla ice cream into your diet and made it good for you.
They also offer variations like French Vanilla Crème and Cookies and Cream.
Protein powder just doesn’t have to be boring anymore.
The Best Strawberry Protein Powder
If you’re partial to berries, you’ll be happy to know that ON Gold Standard also does a Strawberry variety.
It’s perfect for adding to smoothies and shakes.
I know that unless you’re serious about weightlifting, you’re probably going to want to mask the way you intake your protein requirements.
Adding protein powder to shakes and smoothies helps the medicine go down.
Make a fruit smoothie using the strawberry flavour as your base.
You’ll enjoy the benefits of protein after a workout and a fruit flavoured drink at the same time.
Of course, it’s hard to stop there.
Listing all the flavours you can find would be nearly impossible.
You can get Caramel Toffee, Fudge, Chocolate Mint, Brownie, Banana Cream, Rocky Road, and White Chocolate Raspberry.
Like I said earlier, protein powders don’t have to be a chore.
In fact, make these protein powders your treat for finishing your workout and you’ll always be happy to get into the gym.
The Best Protein for Building Muscle
Of course, you can certainly build muscle by eating right and working out.
Lifting weights will add mass to your body.
That’s just how it works.
So, why bother taking protein powders?
It’s because you want to gain mass fast.
You want to see results quicker than if you didn’t do it at all.
Am I right?
Protein powders can help you gain muscle mass faster, but they’re not the be-all and end-all.
They’re simply a tool to get results faster and to target the kind of results you want.
So what do you want?
Do you want to gain weight?
Do you want to bulk up?
Or do you simply want to stop being the skinny guy getting sand kicked in his face? (Does anybody actually do that?)
Protein supplements will get you there, that’s for sure.
The Best Protein for Weight Gain
For any type of weight gain, I’m going to recommend a whey-based protein.
Let me explain why I’m a fan of whey protein further down the article.
Whey protein, naturally found in milk, is a key factor to building up mass.
Again, I can’t go past the ON brand for their commitment to using whey proteins.
They know that using whey is so important that they only use 100% whey in all their protein supplements.
The Best Protein for Muscle Gain
If you want to get bigger muscles, you need to do more reps in the weight room.
It’s a fact that your muscle size is directly connected to the reps you can push out in the gym.
There’s one protein that is favoured above all others for building up muscle mass.
And it doesn’t just add size to make you look good.
It powers the fast-energy tissues in your muscles that you need to get that extra few reps out.
I hear you wondering what that is:
Creatine powder directly targets the part of the muscle that needs the energy to keep pushing through.
Men who take creatine rapidly see increases in muscle size, even if they’ve plateaued for a while at a certain weight.
For my bet, I’d recommend a dosage of Muscleform Micropure Creatine.
It gives you that boost of high energy impact in the gym and a burst of size outside the gym
Bulk Up with Protein for Skinny Guys
There are no secret pills to gain mass.
It’s a simple case of getting more good calories into your diet.
You need to build up the amount of intake while working out to burn that excess energy, not letting your body store it as fat.
The problem with some of these protein powders is that they can be thick and filling.
After having one, you won’t feel like eating again for a while.
I’m going to introduce you to casein.
Casein is a protein powder that works in tandem with whey powder.
Casein still boosts your protein intake so that your muscles can build on what you’ve got.
You can also rely on casein to do one more thing.
It doesn’t leave you feeling full.
You can have your protein powder, and not feel like you’re going to burst after the protein shake.
For skinny guys looking to bulk up, protein powders like the one offered by USN Night Time Casein are good sources of casein.
The best part about this protein powder is that it works overnight, allowing you to rest easy and build mass while you sleep.
The Best Protein for Weight Loss
I suppose I struggled a lot understanding this next concept:
Protein powder can actually help you lose weight.
Let me break it down in a simple way so that you can understand.
If you’ve ever binged on biscuits, you’ll understand this problem.
You never actually feel full after having a couple.
You can easily slam back a pack of Oreos or a bag of crisps without really feeling satiated.
You could always have one more.
But can you continually eat steak or chicken?
Can you keep on scarfing as much as you want?
By the time you take a few bites, your body starts to experience that satiated feeling.
Your stomach sends signals to your brain that you don’t need to feel hungry anymore.
That is caused, in part, by the protein in your food.
It regulates the weight hormones in your body and alerts your brain when you’re getting enough food.
Here’s what this means for your weight loss:
You can use this part of your brain to your advantage.
By taking protein powder, you can curb your diet and feel fuller with the right type of protein intake.
What’s the best protein for weight loss?
Studies show that whey protein helps your body feel full after ingesting it.
It sends those key signals to the hypothalamus in your brain saying, “Don’t eat! We’re getting enough protein down here!”
Obviously, the best weight loss is eating right and exercising.
But if you need to get on top of your eating habits and want to curb your appetite, whey protein can help.
Use a whey protein like ON Gold Standard which has NO added carbohydrates or fats.
It’s pure whey protein, giving you the maximum effect to reduce your body’s hunger stimulus.
The Best Vegan Protein Shakes
Now, we’ve covered taste.
You don’t have worry about finding the protein powder that ruins your palate and your appetite.
We’ve covered muscle mass gain and fat loss.
Protein has a miraculous ability to target your body’s response to build up muscle and use stored fat as energy sources in your body.
But you may be wondering:
What about all us vegans?
I hear you.
I know that a HUGE portion of the fitness fanatics out there are extremely conscious about what they put in their mouths.
If you’re practicing CrossFit, protein powders help energize you and build up your strength.
But if you’re avoiding animal products, you need to be extra aware of the type of protein powders you’re taking.
If you’re using a vegan protein powder as a supplement to your diet, you should know that there is a huge range of plant-based protein powders that don’t have any milk or animal products in them at all.
Plant-based protein powders, like the NutriSport 90+ Vegan Protein Powder, use rice, peas and soy to isolate the protein chains.
One of the benefits of choosing a vegan protein powder is that you don’t have to worry about fat or cholesterol like you might in animal-based proteins.
You also get the benefit of choosing a sustainable method of harvesting proteins.
It’s safe, non-GMO, and has almost the exact amino acid makeup of a normal animal-based protein powder.
Raw protein powder also isn’t exposed to any harmful chemicals during the processing of the pea plant.
Each plant is subjected to pressure and water treatment to extract the proteins.
It’s tough to find a decent-tasting protein powder, no matter where it’s sourced from.
As I mentioned earlier, but there are a few varieties that I could call the best tasting vegan protein powder you can try.
Garden Of Life produces an ethically harvested vegan protein powder that has a vanilla taste to it.
It’s an entirely organic plant-based protein powder that uses natural extracts to flavour the powder.
Reflex Nutrition also puts out a vegan plant-based protein that tastes like chocolate.
Don’t even think about giving up chocolate.
And now you don’t have to.
Each of these has a good selection of plants and minerals to satisfy your need for a vegan protein shake after a workout.
There is one thing I should mention:
Plant-based proteins do lack some of the rich minerals that you would normally find in a protein source like meat or a non-vegan protein powder.
Take care to supplement your diet with vitamins so you don’t miss out on vital nutrients.
But of course, you probably already knew that.
Other Types of Protein Shakes
I know many gyms or CrossFit boxes sell different types of protein powders.
They also sell pre-made protein shakes.
That’s handy and I’m not knocking that.
You’ll probably come across casein and whey protein shakes, so let me break that down further for you.
Milk is an excellent source of protein because it contains two types of complementary proteins called Casein and Whey.
They work hand in hand and perform different tasks in your body.
You’re going to notice that you get separate protein powders, but they actually work well together.
Whey protein starts to work immediately in your gut.
It boosts your production of protein synthesizing cells.
Basically, your body can use the protein in your body quickly because whey proteins tell it to get moving.
That’s where casein comes in to help the process.
Casein is a long-lasting, slow-release protein that blocks your body from breaking down protein cells.
It slows down digestion and that allows your body to access more protein before it gets broken down to pass through your system.
So, hand in hand, it looks like this:
Whey protein tell your body, “Hey! Protein is here! Let’s go! Starts to grab it and use it!”
Meanwhile, casein steps in, “Whoa. Don’t break it all down. I’ll slow your digestion down so that you have enough time to grab all the protein you can without losing anything”
But if you want to save space, you can combine the two with Grenade Hydra 6 Protein Powder which combines both of the proteins into one powder.
Pre-Made Protein Shakes
So, here’s what’s going on:
I get it that gyms are hard.
They take time and energy and adding on a protein shake can be a burden you’re not ready to take on.
Here comes the pre-made protein shakes to save the day.
You can still squeeze in your workout and grab a ready-to-drink (RTD) protein shake on the way out the door.
The best RTD protein shakes depend on what you’re looking for.
Do you want muscle mass?
Do you want to cut fat and build bulk?
Or do you want to tone your muscles and get a stronger body?
MaxiNutrition puts out a great strawberry-flavoured protein shake that you can put in your bag and drink on the go.
It packs a hit of 30g of protein in the single bottle serving.
ISO100 CLEAR puts out a smooth protein drink that is pretty good going down.
I love this one because it has no sugars or fats and each drink is 40g of pure whey protein in one hit.
Just like with a camera, the best ready to drink shakes are the ones that you have with you.
So, if you’ve prepared a protein shake before you went out, or you grabbed a pre-made protein shake on the way out of the gym, it’s still going to be good for your body.
What the Experts Think
We asked fitness bloggers what their favourite protein powder is, and here’s what they had to say:
Keith from FitMole said “I don’t take protein powders unless absolutely necessary. I find them to be a fast, convenient way to get protein more than anything else. If possible, you should get your protein from real foods. But currently, I’m using ON Gold Standard if I really need protein.”
Radu from Think Eat Lift said “I haven’t tried many brands of protein power but at the moment I use Forever Lite from Forever Living Products and Pea Protein Isolate from MyProtein. I make my shake using a scoop from each. I started using plant protein powders instead of whey or casein in order to minimise my use of animal products. I chose pea protein because it is high in all essential amino-acids. It’s almost equivalent to whey.”
Power-Packed Protein Powder
So, now you’re informed.
If you’re interested in your fitness at all, whether it’s performance or appearance, a protein shake should interest you.
Use this as a guide.
Bookmark this and come back to reference when you need to understand a certain milestone you’re trying to achieve.
Don’t get bogged down in the details.
I’ve made this as detailed as I can, but that shouldn’t distract you from what’s really important.
Get the basics right.
Work on consistently showing up to the gym.
Then work on your form before your performance.
Eat a balanced diet.
Once you’ve mastered those, you can move on to more complicated aspects.
Protein powders don’t replace good, healthy habits.
They boost your hard work.
So, when you’re ready to put some punch into your workout, grab a protein powder shake on your way out the door.
Your body will thank you.