I often get asked by members whether they should include a protein powder in their diet. My first answer will always be to get your protein from as many whole foods as possible rather than a protein shake. For some however, this isn’t always possible due to: time constraints, budget, food choices and other aspects. Now protein powders are technically a food source, so you could argue they’re in the same category as whole foods. But they are most commonly known as supplement.
First and foremost protein shakes will not ‘make you big’, because if they did, the same would be true of your chicken breasts, salmon fillets and any other foods rich in protein. A combination of suitable training programmes and periodisation (the systematic planning of athletic or physical training), paired with a calorie surplus will aid in ‘making you big’ if we’re talking muscles. Even then, there is still a lot of hard exercise work involved! If we’re talking about fat gain, this is typically down to a surplus in calories too high above what your calorie expenditure is.
Protein powders are a convenient and affordable (per serving) source of protein. They are great to have on standby if you struggle to maintain a balanced protein diet. I often have a protein shake after a training session for convenience, but if a good meal is on the cards soon after the session then I will rather opt for the meal. Often I have both as I want my muscles to recover as efficiently as possible.
I would recommend researching which protein powder would be best for you, as there are many different types available such as: whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, pea protein, beef protein, hemp protein, rice protein, and so the list goes on. It all comes down to personal preference, taste and budget.
I personally enjoy whey protein the most and more specifically the isolate, as I find it easier on the tummy. A whey isolate is typically higher in protein and is a lot lower in fat and lactose. This often makes it a slightly more expensive option due to the extra ‘processing’ required. If you are sensitive to dairy but can still enjoy it in small amounts, then this may be the option for you. Some brands of whey concentrate I find that I am absolutely fine with, but it’s just a bit of a gamble, so I usually go straight for the isolate.
If you are sensitive to dairy or follow a diet that doesn’t include dairy, then pea, rice and hemp proteins are very popular. Some powders have a mixture of these types. Again however, you need to figure out which one agrees best with your body!
Below I’ve listed some well-known protein powders in differing price brackets. I have tried all of the whey powders myself and have been happy with the taste. I have also compared prices for approx 1kg of powder unless the product doesn’t come in this size, and all in vanilla flavour.
Most of these powders are available in alternative sizes and flavours and some of these brands include other options such as: added digestive enzymes, BCAA’s, alternative sweeteners. Always check the ingredients before you decide to purchase and often you can find the products cheaper on websites such as Dolphin Fitness.
If in doubt, I am always available to answer any questions that you may have, or offer additional guidance on the subject of protein powder!
Emily Adams is our female personal trainer at Core Results Chichester. She has a keen interest in nutrition and strength training and leads the nutrition sessions at the gym.
If you want to step things up a notch with your nutrition goals, Emily will guide you through the process with nutritional consultation. Find out more here