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Which protein powder should I choose?

Which protein powder should I choose?

Protein is an important macronutrient, we need it for energy, our nervous system, immune function, healthy muscles, healthy hormones, bones, skin and hair.  It keeps us feeling full and helps to balance blood sugar levels. 

Many people turn to protein powder to boost their protein intake, to help build muscle or for weight loss.  It can also be helpful to boost nutrition for children, during pregnancy and for the elderly.  

How much protein should you eat daily?

Most people need 3-4 servings of protein each day from good sources like lean meat, poultry, eggs, fish, dairy, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils.  I recommend you get your protein from a variety of sources and aim for two servings of protein from fish and two servings from legumes each week.  

One serving of animal-based protein is approximately the size of the palm of your hand. Don’t worry too much about measuring your protein just ensure you eat protein-rich foods with all meals and snacks along with a balance of complex carbohydrates and good fats. 

Protein powders can be a convenient way to boost your protein intake, support muscle growth, and may even help with weight loss. However, they should not be considered a replacement for a balanced diet as wholefood sources of protein also contain other vitamins and minerals which are vital for our health and well-being. 

How to choose the right protein powder: 

The best protein powder for you will depend on your individual needs and goals, and any allergies or intolerances.  I also find your gut health will influence how well you tolerate and absorb protein powders.  

1.   Whey protein

Whey protein is a mixture of proteins isolated from whey, which is the liquid part of dairy milk that separates during cheese production.   Research shows whey protein can help you increase strength, gain muscle, support exercise recovery and help you lose body fat. 

It is well absorbed and considered a complete protein as it contains all nine essential amino acids.  It may contain lactose but no casein.   

There are three different types of whey available, so check the label to see which one you are buying:  

  • Concentrate: About 70–80% protein; contains some lactose and fat and has the highest nutrient profile and the best flavour. 

  • Isolate: 90% protein, or higher; contains less lactose and fat but lacks a lot of the beneficial nutrients found in concentrate.  A combination of concentrate and Isolate is usually found in protein powders aimed at weight loss. 

  • Hydrolysate or hydrolyzed:  has been broken down (ie processed) so it is absorbed faster.  As a result, it causes a greater insulin spike than the other whey products and has less nutrition.  It is designed to be taken before a workout, not after.

Whey protein is generally palatable and mixes well in a smoothie or with water.   My favourite brands include: Protein Supplies, Metagenics Shake it or BIoPure Whey; Slim Styles Shakes and White Wolf Nutrition.

2.   Plant-based protein 

There are a variety of vegan proteins on the market, some brands will have a variety of different protein sources, while others contain a single source of plant-based protein.  

Plant-based proteins are generally more difficult to digest so while they may be naturally high in nutrients such as iron and zinc, if your gut health is not optimal you may not be absorbing these nutrients.    

The good news is there is no issue with dairy allergens.  

They don’t mix very well with water but you can get a creamy texture with a good blender, they do however, still have a slightly chalky aftertaste. 

Hemp protein 

  • Contains all the essential amino acids your body needs but cannot produce on its own

  • Rich in omega-3 fatty acid 

  • Source of zinc, magnesium, iron and fibre

  • Easy to digest, making it a good choice if you suffer from digestive issues

  • Has a strong taste and is best used with a combination of other proteins 

Pea protein 

  • Considered a complete protein

  • Source of iron and fibre

  • Contains arginine, which supports cardiovascular health 

  • Pea protein may help with weight loss as it takes longer to digest and helps regulate appetite

Brown rice

  • Popular plant-based protein that is hypo-allergenic 

  • Does not contain all the essential amino acids, however, it is usually combined with other protein sources to form a complete protein

My favourite brands of plant-based protein include Nutra Organics, Amazonia, Eden Health Foods and Vital.

3.      Collagen 

Collagen is an essential protein the body needs to build and maintain the connective tissues in our muscles, skin and bones. It improves flexibility, supports major organs and boosts elasticity in the skin. Our body produces plenty of collagen from protein in our diet, but as we age we lose more collagen than we produce.  

Processed foods, smoking and excess sun exposure increase the depletion of collagen.  The result of depleted collagen is wrinkles and sagging skin, weak muscles and joints, and gastrointestinal problems.  There is strong evidence to show collagen supplementation improves bone density.   

There are 5 main collagen peptides.  Most products contain a combination of 2 or 3 types.  Type 1,2 4 and 5 all play a role in bone structure, type 1 and 3 are the main collagens in products focused on hair, skin and nails and type 5 is used for improving joints and other connective tissue.

Collagen powder has no flavour and mixes well with water, juice or smoothies.   It is well absorbed and has many benefits for your gut health.    Collagen is usually bovine or marine-based so not suitable for anyone following a plant-based diet.  

My favourite brands are Nutra organics and Designs for Health.   

Check the label:  

Check the label for protein per serving, as well as other important nutrients like carbohydrates, fats, and fibre. Look for a protein powder that offers at least 15 grams of protein per serving.

Choose a powder with a flavour you like, but avoid any added sugars or artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose, aspartame, xylitol, and saccharin. Look for a powder that uses natural sweeteners, such as stevia or monk fruit or one with no flavour (natural) and you can add fruit or your own sweeteners, and then you know exactly what you are eating. 

Some protein powders contain prebiotics to help with your digestion and probiotics to help you break down the protein.   How you react to these products will depend on your gut health.   

Look for a protein powder with minimal ingredients and avoid those with artificial additives, preservatives, gums and fillers.

Always choose a product made in Australia as overseas products are subject to different regulations and make contain trace elements of illegal substances.  

If you need more advice on the best protein powder, nutrition or your gut health book an appointment with Christine or Jean at Elemental Health.  



Posted on 26 March 2023
Author:Jean Jarrett
Tags:NutritionGut healthHealthy AgeingWeight management

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