I have a lot to say on this topic. A lot more than is relevant to the purpose of this post, so I’ll save most of my spiel for another time and keep this brief and to the point.
The best sources of protein are from whole foods like lean meats, dairy, beans, etc. But sometimes like doesn’t accommodate sitting down for a leisurely meal and you don’t want to eat a cold chicken breast out of a baggie while in line at the bank. Enter protein supplements.
One thing I want to say explicitly is that you DO NOT need protein supplements as part of your diet. (Odds are you don’t NEED any supplements).
HOWEVER – they can be a convenient way to get protein when you’re on the go or short on time.
Whether you want to use a protein powder supplement is entirely up to you but if you decide you do want one on hand for those times when you don’t have real foods prepared and ready to go, here are some guidelines to help you figure out what kind to get. (The supplement industry is a $36+ billion industry, so there are lots of options. One thing you should know is that the supplement industry is not regulated like the food industry).
- Look for as few ingredients is possible.
- On the same token, look for one without lots of added junk (in the form of sugar, natural flavors, and artificial coloring and other additives).
- Pick a form that you know you digest well. If dairy isn’t your jam or if you’re a plant-based eater, probably whey and casein aren’t your best bet. Fortunately there are lots of alternatives like rice, hemp, and pea proteins.
- For additional aide in digestion, look for digestive enzymes on the label.
- Don’t get fooled by flashy packaging and wild claims. Usually the companies with the most integrity aren’t the ones trying to woo you with the holograms on their containers.
- Keep an eye out for icons like these that indicate the supplement has been verified by an outside agency:
Here are some brands that have been vetted by Precision Nutrition, the agency through which I’ve done my nutrition coaching education:
- EXOS Performance Nutrition (they offer body dairy and plant-based options)
- Genuine Health (both dairy and plant-based options)
- Jay Robb (egg white)
- True Nutrition (you can make your own blend)
If you decide to use a powder from time to time, here’s a great shake recipe that I love that is really a full meal, as it has protein, veggies, carbs, and healthy fats.
This makes roughly a 16oz shake:
- ½-1 scoop of your powder of choice
- ¼-½ a frozen banana broken into chunks (it’s much easier if you break it into pieces before freezing, just FYI)
- ½ cup mixed frozen berries (you can use fresh ones, too, but they’re more expensive that way)
- 1 cup frozen spinach
- 1 tbsp flax seeds
- ¼ cup water (this is a total estimate, I put a little in, blend a little more, and repeat until I get my desired thickness).
I like my shakes thick enough that I can eat them with a spoon, so if you prefer a thinner one, add more water or use a room-temperature banana. I also don’t use any ice cubes because the other frozen ingredients do the trick but if you want to increase the volume, add ice cubes. Let me know if you try it!