There are so many kinds, with so many different, specific purposes, that it can be tough to keep track of what you actually want.
Your first step? Assessing your goals.
1. What is my goal?
If you’re interested in trying to pack on some weight, your perfect protein will be quite different than the choice of your gym friend who’s trying to ditch pounds. If you’re the gym friend trying to ditch pounds, don’t even look at what are called “mass gainers.”
Ask yourself: what is your goal? Some options:
Build lean muscle mass without adding weight
Add weight and mass
Lose weight but take in essential nutrients
Find a good, easy snack for in-between meals
2. What’s the most important trait for me to have in a product?
Once you’ve established your goal, this question becomes a lot easier to answer, because you’ll have a category to select from.
Example: You’re looking for a mass gainer. Technically, “high calorie” is your biggest requirement.
But you’re already in the high calorie category. And you’re a really picky eater. You realize you won’t drink something that doesn’t taste delicious. Flavor is your most important trait.
Let’s say you want a great protein, but you’re lactose intolerant. Lactose free is probably your most important trait.
3. How fast do I want my protein to absorb?
This answer is complicated, and you might find that you want two different protein powders for different absorption rates. Your answer will likely also depend on your goal. This question is where the terms “isolate,” “concentrate,” and “casein” come in to play.
Here’s a more detailed description of the differences. A quick overview:
Isolates absorb quickly and create a different, quicker insulin response, so they’re great immediately following your workout. Concentrates are slightly less processed and absorb at a less quick pace. They’re more moderate and good in-between meals choices. Casein is usually drank at night, before bed, as your body will digest it less quickly than the others.
If you are trying to support muscle building, a combination of isolate (for post-workout) and casein (for before bed) will probably be your top choice.
4. What do I want from the company that makes my protein?
A lot of supplement companies are devoted to just one category, like fitness, so it can be tempting to just trust the category leader and take the first cool-looking package off the shelf.
But you should ask yourself this type of question for each product choice you make if you want to feel great about your purchase.
Do I want natural materials only? Am I looking for manufacturing certifications to ensure safety? Do I want to buy from a company that is trusted in the industry? How long do I want a product to be on the market before I give it a go? Am I committed to using products that are backed by research?
Have you found your perfect protein powder? If not, and you’re still looking for more info on the right clean, quality formula, check out our selection of whey and soy options. If yes, tell us how you chose in the comments!