Choosing a Protein Powder

The following recommendations are based on three factors:

  1. Quality of Product
  2. Quality of Service
  3. Value for Money

Whilst there are many other great companies out there, those below are ones that we've used personally and feel happy recommending based on the criteria above. If a company you like isn't on the list, it may be that we've simply never used them, or that we've had issues with them in the past.

Premium Brands
  • Metagenics BioPure Protein (Enter Jeremy Boyd as your health practitioner when you register and you'll get a 5% discount email before you order)
General Brands
Budget Brands
  • The Protein Works (Our number one budget choice due to the addition of a digestive enzyme to improve digestion and absorption)
  • Bulk Powders
  • Go Nutrition
  • MyProtein (Customer service has been poor of late, so whilst we still think their products are ok, they're now in fourth place)
The Basics

Sports supplements are one of the largest unregulated industries within the nutrition sector. Our primary concern is to make sure you’re getting the protein you need, both from a daily requirement standpoint, but also from a nutrient balancing perspective as well. That said, we also want you to understand how to choose the best protein to suit you.

With that in mind, we’re going to cover choosing a protein powder in a little more detail, exploring the PROs and CONs of the four most common protein powder types.

Milk and Egg Proteins

There are so many benefits to milk-derived protein powders that it would simply be impractical to list them all.

The good news is that you don’t have to choose one or the other. Many protein supplements out there combine both whey and casein. Although for most people, when given the choice, we prefer milk protein blends containing exclusively or primarily whey.

Also, unless we've told you otherwise, go for whey concentrate over isolate. Whilst isolate is a better form of whey, the cost to benefit ratio is only skewed in favour of the isolate in specific circumstances.

However, before whey came along, egg was considered the most perfect source of protein available. Made from egg whites and naturally fat-free, it’s a complete protein, with a great dose of Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and glutamic acid.

Whey Proteins

PROs                                                                             

  • Excellent amino acid profile
  • Rapidly-digesting
  • High cysteine content
  • Immune-fortifying
  • Osteoblast-stimulating
  • Performance-enhancing
  • Improved insulin-sensitivity

CONs

  • The lactose in whey concentrates may be problematic for some (in other words, giving rise to gas or bloating)
  • The protein itself may be difficult for some with milk protein allergy
Casein Proteins

PROs                                                                             

  • Slow digesting
  • Immune fortifying
  • Mildly anti-inflammatory
  • Good amino acid profile

CONs

  • A small fraction of the population is allergic to casein, and it can cause many of the same problems as gluten in some highly sensitive individuals.
Egg Proteins

PROs                                                                             

  • Easily absorbed
  • Slightly different amino acid profile than whey
  • Slower-releasing than whey

CONs

  • Can be problematic for those with egg allergies
Conclusion

Milk derived protein powders are our main recommendation, but only if you can handle dairy. If you experience gas or bloating, try heading to the nearest health store and pick up some digestive enzymes (especially lactase). Try taking them for two weeks and see if it helps alleviate the issue. If not, consider dropping the milk protein for another choice.

Additionally, if the protein seems to be making you stuffy or congested, you may actually have a milk protein allergy. In which case you’d also be better off switching to another choice.

Egg protein is also a fine choice of protein powder and it lacks the controversy of soy or the possible tolerance concerns of milk proteins. that said, in a head-to-head, we prefer milk proteins to egg proteins for 90% of clients. However, if your body doesn’t like milk-based proteins, try switching to an egg-based protein first.

Plant Based Bands

Overall, plant based proteins are not quite as good as their milk or egg counterparts. Because of this, we typically only recommend these for vegans or those with allergies to whey, casein or egg.

Although they each have their own health benefits, the poor availability, inferior taste (in our opinion), and lowered amino acid content make these slightly less favourable than the proteins covered above. Which means unless you’re a vegan or vegetarian, these are a distant runner up.

Soy Protein

PROs                                                                             

  • Highly digestible
  • Improves cardiovascular risk factors
  • Lowers blood LDL (“bad cholesterol”) levels
  • May bind to estrogen receptor sites, thereby blocking absorption of stronger estrogenic substances

CONs

  • Phytoestrogens may alter blood levels of testosterone, DHEA, and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), if consumed in high enough amounts over the long-term
  • Lower biological value (BV) than whey, casein, and egg protein
  • Can cause an allergic reaction in some individuals
Rice Protein

PROs                                                                             

  • Well-tolerated by those with allergies and sensitivities
  • Doesn’t come from animal products

CONs

  • A less complete source of protein (low in isoleucine)
  • Needs to be combined with pea protein for optimum results
Pea & Hemp Proteins

PROs                                                                             

  • Well-tolerated by those with allergies and sensitivities
  •  Doesn’t come from animal products

CONs

  • A less balanced source of amino acids (lower in methionine)
  • Needs other protein sources to make it usable as a complete protein
Conclusion

Rice, Pea and Hemp proteins are harder to find, more expensive and the taste typically detracts from its positives. However, if you're vegan/vegetarian, can’t tolerate whey and casein, and can’t tolerate or don’t want to try egg protein, then rice protein is fine.

Soy is a protein we'd only recommend in very specific circumstances, so it gets a thumbs down from us for most people.

This means that if you’re using a plant based protein as your main daily powder, make sure you’re getting enough complete or complementary proteins (from meat, beans, rice, peas, grains and the like) throughout the rest of the day to make up for some of the limiting essential amino acids.

So because of its amino acid shortfall it gets a thumbs down if you can tolerate milk-based proteins, but a thumbs up if you can’t.

Some important considerations

Unfortunately, the supplement industry can be a shady place. Largely unregulated, consumers are stuck with becoming their own guides, on what they should and shouldn’t buy. It seems every other product is riddled with some fancy new technology that promises much but delivers little. The best bet, as always, is to stick with the basics.

If the protein you’re considering has any fancy trademarked names, patented delivery systems, or ‘revolutionary’ chemical compounds in the ingredient list that promise to “rock your world overnight”, ignore them. They’re not worth your time, money, or health.

On a different note, many naturopaths and nutritionists share the theory that eating the same food in large quantities, day after day, can lead to an intolerance or sensitivity. Generally, this doesn’t hold true for most whole foods, but for protein supplements, we know it can sometimes become an issue.

For that reason, we generally recommend cycling your protein choices. To do so is easy. Just pick up 2-3 different brands or types of protein powder and rotate through them every day/week or so.

That said, for some people, it’s a non-issue. So if you like your current protein powder and all is well, that's great. Consider it a potential preventative strategy for the future. However, if your protein starts to give you discomfort, look at swapping to another brand for a short period.

Lastly, if your protein powder isn’t on the above list, don’t panic. Take a good look at the ingredients, and ask yourself: is it not on the list because it’s questionable, or did we just not have enough space to list every protein powder currently available?

If you’re at all unsure and would like a second opinion, email us and we’ll let you know if your chosen option is something you might want to avoid or include.