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3 Ways To Make Your Own Protein Powder (And Save Money)

Do You Need to Take Protein Powder If You Are Serious About Fitness?

Protein, Protein, Protein. By this point, most of us are aware of protein's muscle-enhancing benefits — especially regarding exercise.

But does attaining the highest levels of fitness require the addition of protein powders to your diet? For many, the answer is no, but for many, the answer is yes — let's explore whether a protein powder will help you with your fitness goals.

You don't NEED protein powders. But you do NEED protein.

As a core subject matter of the NASM-CSNC and NASM-CNC course curriculum, protein is an essential building block for proper nutrition. Learn more below.

Breaking Down the Basics

Let's start with the fundamentals of muscle recovery and muscle growth. Muscles are made up of amino acids, and to build new tissues you need a combination of all the essential and non-essential amino acids. Non-essential amino acids are amino acids the body can create on its own through various metabolic processes. Essential amino acids (like BCAAs) are those that must be consumed through our diet because the body cannot synthesize them.

Skeletal muscle is also always in a dynamic state of negative and positive protein balance. When we exercise, our muscles are broken down to release amino acids and are used to regenerate new tissue, act as energy substrates, or be used in the synthesis of enzymes, immune system components, or hormones. However, to shift the body into a positive protein balance (building state), exogenous protein sources must be consumed.

That's where protein powders or protein from food comes in! All animal proteins act as complete proteins that supply the body with all the essential amino acids needed to build new tissues. Some plant sources such as soy and hemp protein can also act as complete proteins, but animal-based proteins are the highest quality.

Therefore, you don't need protein powders after exercise to help build and restore muscle tissues — but you DO need protein.

What Are Protein Powders? Really?

First, let's discuss what protein powders are. Essentially, protein powders are proteins, or amino acids, in their simplest form. Therefore, they can be digested and absorbed quickly because they are already in an elemental state.

3 Types of Protein Powders

There are 3 main types of protein powders: Whey, Casein, and Plant protein powders.

Whey is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained. It is very fast absorbing and is generally the type of protein that is recommended after exercise.

Casein protein is also a by-product of milk production and is a slower digesting protein. This protein is generally best to consume at night or as a snack.

Plant protein powders are generally a combination of protein derived from wheat, pea, hemp, or soy products. Plant proteins generally contain a combination of various protein sources to include ALL the essential amino acids needed to build new tissue.

See Also: The Power of Protein.

2 Primary Types of Protein

There are 2 primary types of protein: concentrate, isolate.

Concentrate: A concentrate will generally contain less protein by weight and have more carbohydrates and fat.

Isolate: An isolate indicates the protein powder went through further processing to increase protein content and eliminate any carbohydrate or fat sources. Ideally, an isolate will digest and absorb faster than a concentrate, but both are equal in terms of protein quality.

What are the benefits of consuming a protein powder?

So, what are the benefits of consuming a protein powder? Well as previously mentioned, to build new muscle tissue you need to consume a complete protein source. Protein powders (especially whey or casein) are complete protein sources! Furthermore, they are in an elemental form so the body will absorb and utilize those proteins quickly. This makes protein powders an excellent source of protein in the diet for fitness enthusiasts or athletes alike.

Read also: Vitamins and Supplements for Athletes

However, other than providing convenience, protein can be consumed via food sources as well to provide the same benefit.

High protein foods that can replace your protein powder

• Chicken

• Fish

• Beef

• Pork

• Lamb

• Eggs

• Shellfish

• Dairy Products (milk, cheese, Greek yogurt)

• Soybeans

• Tempeh/Tofu

• Hemp Seeds

A rich source of protein is between 20-40g, or the size of a deck of cards, or the palm of your hand.

Is Protein Powder Good For You?

Protein powders are good for you and a great way to hit protein requirements. Yet, when it comes to protein powders, it's important to be aware of additional ingredients that can be placed in them like heavy metals, artificial sweeteners, fillers, and sugar alcohols.

Con #1: Heavy Metals

Cadmium (Cd), Arsenic (As), Mercury (Hg), and lead (Pb) are among the 4 most common heavy metals found in protein powders. In the 2010 US Consumer Reports, 15 commercially available protein powders were found to have detectable traces of at least one heavy metal. In 2018, the Clean Label Project tested 133 different protein powders and found detectable concentrations of at least one heavy metal (1).

The issue with these heavy metals is that when consumed in excessive concentrations, can lead to various neurological, reproductive, and metabolic problems.

According to a 2020 study that evaluated the health risks of protein powders that were found with "detectable concentrations" of heavy metals determined that none of them consumed in either 1 or 3 doses per day contained traces that exceeded the daily limits that would increase the risk for any adverse health events (1).

However, it should be noted that heavy metals exist in our natural environment and can be found in trace amounts in various food sources. If this is a concern for you, then it is important to look for labels that ensure your product has been the third party tested for dangerous substances. "NSF certified Sport", "Informed Choice", and "BSCG certified drug-free" are among some of the third-party labels that ensure a safe product.

Con #2: Artificial Sweeteners, fillers, sugar alcohols

To add flavor without adding extra sugar or calories, sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners are commonly used. Some common sweeteners include sucralose, aspartame, erythritol, sorbitol, and xylitol.

There is some debate concerning the effects of artificial sweeteners on the gut microbiome. Some studies have shown that in mice, artificial sweeteners had negative effects on glucose metabolism which lead to weight gain.

In human studies, there has been evidence to show that artificial sweeteners disrupt the learning process associated with recognizing "real sugar" and decreased hormone signaling responsible for feelings of fullness which lead to weight gain. While the results are varied and warrant more research, excessive consumption of artificial sweeteners does seem to impact the bacteria within the gut.

When should I consume protein powder?

If you are choosing to add protein powders to your daily routine, the best time to consume protein is after exercise!

While anabolic effects of protein doses on muscle growth are dependent on the last dose of protein — consumption of your protein powder within 2 hours after your workout will be the most effective.

Read also: Nutrient Timing

Looking for a quick snack? Protein powders are great snack substitutes if you are seeking something quick and convenient.

Lastly, studies have shown that doses of protein 40g or more right before sleep has positive effects on muscle protein balance. Overall, protein powders are a very quick and convenient way to increase your overall protein intake throughout the day.

To ensure you have a safe product you should make sure your protein powder contains one of the banned substance seals, lists all individual ingredients, and uses branded ingredients and raw materials.

See also: Protein and Weight Loss.


Which Protein Powder Is Best for Your Fitness Goals?

Trying to eat healthier? Then you’ve likely heard about the importance of protein. Like carbs and fats, it’s a macronutrient, meaning your body needs it in large quantities. Protein is essential for your bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood, and your body uses it to help build and repair lean muscle. But unlike carbs and fat, your body can’t store extra protein, so you have to make sure you’re eating enough of it on a regular basis.

Do you even need protein powder?

Foods such as eggs, lean meats, nuts, and dairy all contain protein. You’re probably also familiar with the powdered version found in large tubs in health food stores. But, does the average exerciser really need to buy protein powder, a substance long been associated with bodybuilders trying to build Hulk-like physiques?

Well, it depends. “No one really needs protein powder. But if you’re not getting enough protein through food or you need protein sources that are portable, easy, and quick, then protein powder is a good option,” says Heather Mangieri, MS, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and author of Fueling Young Athletes. (We’ll explain later how to figure how much protein you actually need.)

If (like most of us) you have an on-the-go lifestyle, having a convenient and quick protein source is probably at the top of your nutrition wishlist. And , if you’re trying to build muscle, you may also be interested in reaching for a protein powder tub.

For an active person looking to optimize their body composition, it’s nearly impossible to get the proper amount of protein without the use of a protein powder, says Mike Roussell, Ph.D., nutritional consultant and author of The 6 Pillars of Nutrition. Protein is also proven to help increase satiety (or that feeling of fullness after a meal).

Another group who may benefit from protein powder: vegetarians and vegans. It can be hard to get all your essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) from vegetarian protein sources, so protein powder can help fill in the nutritional blanks, Roussell says. The only folks who wouldn’t benefit from protein powder? People who are not exercising, or who are already getting at least 30g of protein per meal from food, Roussell says.

How much protein do you need?

First and foremost, you should talk to your doctor before making any changes to your eating habits or adding supplements to your diet. There’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation for protein intake. The baseline daily protein requirement is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, Mangieri says. (Multiply your weight in pounds by 0.45 to find your weight in kilograms.)

But if you’re working out more frequently and trying to build muscle, aim for 1.2 to 2g per kg of bodyweight, Mangieri suggests. (That’s 81g to 135g of protein for someone weighing 150 pounds.) Roussell adds that for most people, 90g of protein per day is a good goal, although your max intake of protein can be as high as your bodyweight in pounds. (Or 150g for a 150-pound person.)

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What’s even more important than how much protein you’re eating is when you’re eating it, Mangieri says. Try to consume protein throughout the day every time you eat—breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks—and aim for about 25 to 30g per meal. That’s where protein powder can play a helpful part: You’d have to eat a lot of eggs (which have 7g of protein each) to get 30g of protein at breakfast, while most protein powders have about that much in a single scoop.

What kind of protein powder is right for you?

Here’s a rundown of the most popular types of protein powder on the market.


This is the best all-around option, Roussell says. It tastes great, dissolves well in water, and is typically inexpensive. Whey protein is easily and quickly digested by your body, which helps build and repair muscles post-workout.

Drawback: Since whey is derived from dairy, stay away if you’re vegan or lactose intolerant.


On its own, casein is super thick, so Roussell doesn’t recommend using it solo. But when combined with whey, you’ve hit the protein powder jackpot. “The combo of casein and whey gives you a delicious and creamy protein shake,” Roussell says. Plus, unlike rapidly digested whey, casein is absorbed more slowly by your body. Casein helps prevent muscle breakdown, making the combo especially beneficial when taken post-workout or before bed.

Drawback: Again, casein is a protein derived from milk, so not an option for vegans or lactose intolerant folks.


This plant-based is a good choice for vegans or those who are lactose-intolerant, Mangieri says. Plus, soy has also been shown to boost your cardiovascular health. Research shows it works just as well as whey protein to improve body composition and post-workout recovery. And if you’ve heard warnings that it messes with your hormones? “The buzz about soy protein disrupting or influencing hormonal function is blown way out of proportion,” Roussell says. Just be sure you’re choosing soy protein isolate, which is purified to remove the components of soy that could potentially drive those problems.

Drawback: It doesn’t dissolve as well in water, Mangieri says, and some people don’t like the taste.


Another plant-derived protein, hemp protein also heart-healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. And even though it’s made from the cannabis plant (where pot comes from), you can’t get high from it, Roussell says.

Drawback: Hemp is higher in fat and not as high in protein as other powders. Pay attention to how much protein is actually in each serving—and the fat and carbohydrates that are coming along with it, Roussell says.


This is another good option for people looking for dairy-free or vegan protein powder. Powdered peas offer up a high-quality protein source that contains all the essential amino acids, Roussell says.

Drawback: The taste may leave something to be desired, he notes. Plus, it doesn’t contain certain non-essential amino acids. “But, as long as you aren’t living off of pea protein alone this shouldn’t be an issue.”

Quinoa or Rice

You may think of these foods as carbohydrates. But, when certain components are stripped away, they provide a pretty decent amount of protein. Quinoa and rice are often found in vegan protein blends. These blends are specifically formulated to help people following a plant-based or dairy-free diet to get an optimal amino acid profile, Roussell says.

Drawback: Again, it’s a matter of personal preference, but some folks don’t love the taste of these plant-based supplements.

How can you use protein powders?

If you have a flavored variety (like chocolate or vanilla), you can simply mix the protein powder with water. This also helps you avoid the added carbs or sugars that many smoothies contain.

If you want something a little more hearty (and tasty), try Mangieri’s delicious recipe for a Chocolate Peanut Butter Shake.


1/2 scoop whey protein powder (or protein powder of your choice)

1/2 cup nonfat milk

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

1 tablespoon peanut butter (or any nut butter)

1/2 banana

Directions: Blend all ingredients together with 1/2 cup ice.

If you want to boost the nutrition, add a cup of spinach—it may turn you shake a little more green, but you won’t be able to taste it!

This contains 30g carbs, 22g protein, and 10g fat, Mangieri says, making it a nicely balanced recipe.

With all that protein, you’re ready to build some muscle! Get moving with Aaptiv.

3 Ways To Make Your Own Protein Powder (And Save Money)

Protein powder is great because adding chicken breast or raw eggs to your smoothie would be, um, awful. But buying the stuff can be a long, confusing process.

First, there’s finding one that meets your nutritional needs. (I need one with THIS much protein but only THIS many calories!) Then, there’s making sure it doesn’t contain any sketchy additives. (Carrageenan? No thanks.) Oh, and you have to actually like the way it tastes. Funky, chalk-like powders are out. (Protein powder isn't just for smoothies. Check out these 9 creative ways to cook with the stuff.)

Of course, you could spend hours researching and taste-testing different powders, dropping tons of cash in the process. Or, you could just make your own. Yes, really! Chances are, homemade protein powder has never even crossed your mind. But you probably have most of the ingredients on-hand already—like hemp and chia seeds, almond meal, nonfat dry milk powder, or rolled oats. And it’s crazy easy to make—all you have to do is grind or process the ingredients until smooth, mix to combine, and store them in a jar. (Repeat after us: No more dieting. Ever. Instead, learn how to eat clean—with zero deprivation!—and watch the pounds drop off, with Your Metabolism Makeover.)

Best of all, there’s a recipe out there no matter what your dietary preferences. Here’s how to make plant-based, dairy-based, and a mind-blowing green protein powder.

Eric Carter