I always get asked,
“Hey Brad, how do you keep such a lush head of hair?”
Then I wake up, roll out of bed, and start my day. And, when I get to work, I am usually asked, maybe 2-3 times per week,
“What kind of protein should I buy?"
This is a great question, and one you might’ve asked yourself, or a trusted friend who lifts.
It's a lengthy post today, so if you want to stay informed and sound super knowledgeable to your friends about protein, read on.
If you just want the gist of this post, feel free to scroll to the bottom to get the important points.
What do protein powders do, anyways?
Many people commonly think that protein supplements will bulk you up, or are only good for people who lift weights.
And while they definitely benefit those two groups of people, they can actually be useful for other, time-constrained individuals looking to look and feel their best.
Because we don’t always have a few hours a week, or an hour a day, to prep every single meal.
But we should be able to fuel our bodies with quality foods and supplements - regardless if we’re trying to slim down, tone up, bulk up, or just want to stay young and spry.
Side note, just FYI: Whether your goal is to build muscle, burn fat, or just function normally, protein is crucial to health. If you don’t take in carbohydrates, your body can still create glucose from stored fat and protein. But, unlike glucose, your body can’t make protein - it has to come from the digestion of protein taken in through animal and plant foods.
OK, so you know you need it - how can you get more of it?
Whole foods are hands-down the best sources - whether from animal or plant. But, when we are crunched for time, bored with chicken, or want something to satisfy a sweet craving, we can turn to protein supplements to help solve all of those issues.
Here’s where (protein) supplements come in.
The purpose of this email today is to give you a few simple pointers when you hit the grocery or nutrition store, to help you ensure you buy a good quality supplement.
Now, protein powders can be made from many different sources - rice, hemp, soy, milk, and pea. There are others, but these are most common, and I’m going to focus solely on milk protein (more specifically, whey). Whey powder is what most people are asking about, as it is super common, because you get a fast and plentiful dose of protein with whey protein supplements.
Before we dive in, first - don’t get overwhelmed.
You got this.
You will soon find that there are a TON of products out there. Supplement companies will put out products with clever names, crazy colors, lettering, images, and buzzwords all perfectly crafted on the label to convince you that they’re product is #1.
Supplement companies want you to buy their product - they want you to see their packaging, fall in love with the images and ideas they put on their label, and spend your money on their stuff.
Just like any business, so you can’t fault them for it.
You just need to be able to sort through the good and bad, and come to a decision that will give you the protein boost you need, without upsetting your stomach, interrupting your health, or emptying your wallet.
Here’s where you need to start:
First, don’t pay much attention to the catchy “benefits” or claims on the label. They may be true, but we don’t trust them yet. You want something that works, and fancy, eye-catching labels don’t make the product any better.
That said, I notice the fancy, eye-catching label. See what I did there?
OK, it’s alright to grab something that catches your attention to start. It’s like shopping for shoes - before you check to see if they have your size and they fit properly, first you grab a style you like that caught your eye.
Now that I have something in hand, I need to see what the label says to keep my attention. Spin the container until you can see the nutrition label.
You want to be looking at:
If I see a product that doesn’t have a minimum of 20g of protein per scoop, I toss it. Some labels will claim “50g of muscle-building protein!” - buuuut it is with 3 scoops.
What the hell??
20-25g of protein is enough to give your body the pulse of protein it needs to synthesize, build, and repair.
The products that taste the best, usually have more sugar than others. I am usually mixing my protein with fruit, so the taste of the powder by itself isn’t a huge concern to me.
So we need to find a product that has less than 5g of sugar, per scoop.
BCAA is short for Branched Chain Amino Acids, and these are are links of protein that are helpful to reduce muscle fatigue and increase repair and recovery. Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine are the three BCAAs, and you want to buy a product that contains 2-4g of each per scoop.
Preliminary label check is finished, what else should you look for?
After I scan the nutrition facts and I like what I see, I go to the ingredient label.
When buying a whey protein powder, it should obviously be the first ingredient listed.
If it’s not, throw it across the room, yell “LIARS!” and sprint out the door. Seriously.
Now, I won’t get into the different processing methods, but I will say when looking at the ingredient list, it should say something like:
“Whey protein concentrate”
“Whey protein isolate”
“100% Whey protein….”
There is a difference between isolate and concentrate, but today, I want you to look for either one, that fits the other criteria and your budget.
There will be other ingredients listed, and some of them may be tough to pronounce. Companies will put sweeteners and thickeners to get the product tasting good (obviously!) and appealing. Depending on how you feel about these ingredients that you may not know all about, go with what you’re comfortable buying.
I, personally, am OK if I have a good product in hand, that may have a few strange items at the end of the ingredient list. You can find products that have all-natural ingredients, but you will be paying a higher price.
Protein supplements can come in a variety of sizes and types of containers. There are tubs, bags, and buckets (2 or 5 lbs is typically most common).
Because of this, it can be tough to decide what a good price may be.
Look to spend between $.80 to $.90 CDN per serving for a moderate-to-great product. There are some products that are good quality at a lower price, but I will typically pay this amount knowing I am getting a quality protein supplement and not break the bank.
Also, using the tips above, you can be sure that you’re getting a quality supplement, and not just paying a high price, just for a name brand.
Honorable mention: Flavor and mixability
If you find a protein supplement that meets the requirements I’ve listed above, the last thing I hope to get with my protein is a great taste, and will mix without clumping.
Using blenders is best, of course, but when you’re on the go, sometimes you don’t have the luxury. Buying a brand that mixes well will save me from bouts of forearm muscle cramping and it won’t take all afternoon for it to mix well.
So, here’s the rundown:
Use these tips to help you sort through the endless shelves of plastic powders. If you keep these tips in mind when buying, you can rest assured knowing you are buying a product that will do what you need it to - replace a cooked meal with a convenient, healthy, protein-packed solution.
That was a hell of a lengthy bit of advice today, but hey, you need to know this stuff :)
Talk to you soon,
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