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Beginner's Guide to Protein Powder

In our day to day life, we must consciously and consistently ensure that we have a well-rounded diet with all the necessary nutrients. We have to go through our days thinking Oh I shouldn’t have a sandwich. I already had toast this morning, maybe I’ll get a salad and some yogurt… maybe I should also have some milk… is that enough dairy? Having to consciously track your nutrient intake can be exhausting. And, although it’s already a lot to think about, we often lose track of a crucial nutrient that is important for many of our body’s functions: protein.

Protein is a macronutrient that your body needs for numerous functions such as enzyme reactions, cellular function, and transporting oxygen through the bloodstream. Protein also acts as an energy source for the body and plays a big role in the function of the metabolism. Given the many benefits of protein, it’s crucial that you are consciously including it in your regular diet. You’re likely already getting protein from consuming a variety of foods including eggs, almonds, chicken, milk, greek yogurt, etc. But many also elect to use protein powder as an additional source of this crucial nutrient.

Why Use Protein Powder?

There are many reasons why people will turn to protein powders as a source of protein in their diets. One reason would be that they are active and workout regularly. Adequate amounts of protein are crucial for repairing muscles following activity and must also be added on top of your daily protein requirements. Finally, using protein powder as a dietary supplement can be helpful for those who simply have trouble meeting the daily recommended amount of protein in their typical diets.

Types of Protein Powders

One of the most popular protein powders is Whey Protein, which is made by using the liquid from the cheesemaking process once the milk has curdled and strained. Whey Protein remains one of the more popular forms due to its ability to be digested by the body quickly, compared to Casein Protein. Whey Protein is available in three forms: concentrate, isolate and hydrolysate. Each of these forms contains Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s), which are three amino acids highly involved in the process of repairing muscle damage that occurs during exercise.

Another common choice is soy protein, which involves hulling and drying soy into flour, then isolating it into a powder. It is a vegetarian choice and has also been shown to be helpful at reducing cholesterol. Egg protein, a powder made from separating and dehydrating egg whites, is another option. Although this option does contain a series of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals and is typically low in lactose or lactose-free, it can also be one of the more expensive protein powders.

Casein, the most abundant protein in milk, is another option that is digested by the body at a slower rate over several hours. Hemp protein is a 100% plant-based protein option that is derived from seeds of a cannabis plant. Although it is hypoallergenic and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, it’s low in leucine which is one of the more important amino acids for muscle development. Rice protein is another vegan option that also has the added benefit of B vitamins but will need to be added to other sources of protein for proper muscle growth. Finally, there’s pea protein, which is made from golden pea plants. This acts as a vegan-friendly alternative to casein as another slow-release protein.

What Are Your Needs?

When choosing which protein powder works best for you, you should consider your protein needs. For example, if you’re planning to add a protein powder to your diet to help support muscle goals such as building, recovering or maintaining muscle, you’ll likely want to look at a whey protein, or more specifically a whey protein isolate that is more highly purified since it has a high biological value. since it has a high biological value. If you’re looking for a vegan-friendly protein, you’ll want to go with the hemp, pea, or rice protein options. If you’re looking to lose weight or you have a medical condition like diabetes, you’ll want to choose an option without any added sugars.

How Much Protein Powder to Take

The Recommended Dietary Allowance is .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day, but those who are active may need to consume more to replenish their muscle tissue. For those who work out, 20-40 grams are typically recommended as an additional protein supplement. This is the ideal amount in order to support muscle protein synthesis, which is the process that supports repairing and rebuilding muscle. If you’re simply looking to add protein to your diet, however, look for a lower protein option like one with 10 to 15 grams per serving since your body doesn’t need it for muscle-recovery, which requires higher volumes of protein.

When to Use Protein Powder

Scheduling your protein powder consumption will depend on your goals and which type of protein you’re using. For example, if you’re an active person, recommends that one should consume their protein powder within 60 minutes of their workout as this is when one’s muscles are most responsive. Whey protein is also recommended in this instance as it is absorbed by the body at a faster rate. However, slower absorbing proteins such as pea or casein protein from milk are great for replenishing your body’s protein slowly overnight, so they’re a great option to consume nightly before bed.

How to Consume Protein Powder

If you’re looking for a protein powder that will be both a good source of recovery and flavor, an easy option would be Optimum Nutrition whose Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder was chosen as the Best Tasting Whey Protein Powder by Business Insider in 2020 and remains the world’s best-selling whey protein. With this type of protein powder, you can simply add milk or water and you’ll be good to go. For those looking for a non-dairy protein, Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Plant Protein can be a good option.

If, however, you prefer more taste and texture, finding a few fun recipes and using a blender to create a shake with a mix of fruits and vegetables and sweeteners like honey will not only yield a yummy shake but will also add more nutrients to the experience as well. For example, adding chia seeds or flax seeds will give your body additional omega-3 fatty acids. And, if you want to get really creative, you can even make it a fun dessert by baking your favorite protein powder into cookies, cupcakes, mug cakes, or even pancakes.

8 most common protein shake mistakes

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If you're looking to build muscle quickly, boost your macros and even shrink your recovery time, it's hard to beat a decent protein shake — whether it's whey or vegan. With research proving that protein supplementation, as part of a resistance training programme, can maintain lean body mass and increase strength, adding protein shakes to your diet quickly becomes a no-brainer if you're looking to build strength, size or athleticism.

But remember, with great amounts of protein comes great responsibility. It's important to know that protein supplementation isn't a catch-all solution for guys looking to add mass quickly. Rather, it's a convenient way of increasing your protein intake day-to-day and, for some, a solution to curbing a sweet tooth. There are, however, certain hurdles you should overcome to truly become a master of the protein shake.

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It's not just average Joes tripping up, either. In fact, a study conducted by the University of Montreal found that three in four professional athletes failed to improve their performance or recovery with the help of protein shakes because they don’t know how to take them properly. Thankfully, that needn't apply to you. Below, Men's Health walks you through your need-to-know guide.

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Protein: What is it?

Firstly, let's go back to basics. If you know what you are actually consuming, then you are less likely to make mistakes. At its simplest, protein is a molecule made from chemicals called amino acids. Our bodies need these amino acids to function properly – they carry oxygen through blood, boost the immune system and build muscle.

There are 20 different amino acids in all, nine of which the human body can't produce. These are known as 'essential' amino acids and we need to get them from food.

Eggs are a high-protein food Zero Creatives Getty Images

So, How Much Protein Do I Need?

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It depends on your training goals. The US Food and Nutrition Board's current guidelines for the average adult is 0.8g of protein per kg of bodyweight. If you're looking to bulk up, you'll need to increase this number, but that's not as easy as simply stuffing your face.

You have to play it a bit smarter. Instead of reaching for calorie-dense foods, opt for high-protein foods. Not only will these cupboard staples build mass in your muscle groups — currently, research suggests, 2.2g of protein per kg of bodyweight is your limit — but also help stave off any hunger pangs that could derail even the most diligent of dieters.

For example, if you weigh 100kg, you'd need to be eating the equivalent of seven chicken breasts every day. Seven. A tad unrealistic. This type of extreme eating (and this amount) is reserved for competitive bodybuilders, so an achievable alternative for a first timer is 1.5g of protein per kg of bodyweight.

The amount you need to eat is a complex topic, and there is no one size fits all. It's important to tailor your intake to your workouts. Here's how to do it.

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What Food Should I Be Eating?

It's vital that you realise protein shakes should never replace real foods. Ever. Protein shakes are supplements, and they are there to do just that — to supplement your diet. They are add-ons. Additional extras to help you reach your daily protein fix. Yes, we know, consuming a shed load of protein every day isn't easy. But it's important you don't cut corners.

Protein shakes will never hold the same nutritional benefits as real food, which will generally contain more protein per serving than a shake.

Great-tasting breakfasts, lunches and dinners – consisting of a healthy balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fats – are full of vital minerals and vitamins that will strengthen the body and help it grow. They needn't be complicated either. Here's a list of a few of our favourites. If you're struggling for food ideas, check out our protein sources food guides (and snacks) below:

Whey Protein or Casein Protein? What's the Difference?

Right, you now know what you should be eating and have stocked your larder with high-protein foods. Next up: knowing is what is actually in your protein shake. Bear with us, your mistakes are coming. Quite simply, milk contains two main types of protein: whey and casein.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is found in the watery portion of milk and is a mixture of protein isolates. It's considered a complete protein – it contains all nine essential amino acids, which the body can't produce. That's why whey protein shakes are so important for muscle gain and why they are so popular in fitness circles. Generally, whey protein contains lower levels of fat and carbohydrates, minimising gut distress and helps with weight-loss.

Whey Isolate

So you know your casein from your whey protein, but do you know about whey isolate? Whey isolate, generally speaking, goes through more processing to eliminate reserves of fat, carbohydrates and lactose. Because of this, whey isolate is normally more expensive than regular whey protein.

Slow-Release Casein Myprotein £22.99 SHOP NOW Perfect for blending into shakes or making before bed, this slow-release Casein from Myprotein is available in chocolate, vanilla and strawberry flavours, and has received four out of five starts from customers. Mixes well with porridge, baked goods and in shakes. Casein: Gold Standard Optimum Nutrition £48.99 SHOP NOW The industry's first all-micellar Casein, Optimum Nutrition Casein contains 24g of slow-digesting casein proteins for muscle support. Add one scoop to water or milk. Micellar Casein Bulk £11.24 SHOP NOW The lowest in fat and carbohydrate content in this list, Bulk's Micellar Casein is a strong contender. Available in chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, it comes with 85 per cent protein, of which there's over 25g per 30g serving. 100% Micellar Casein Protein Powder Protein Works £17.90 SHOP NOW Designed to provide a slow release of amino acids to your muscles, Protein Works' casein protein powder delivers 24g of protein per serving with only 0.4g of fat and 0.6g of sugar. Micellar Casein Slow Release Protein Powder Reflex Nutrition £21.99 SHOP NOW Reflex's Micellar Casein is the ideal slow-release protein shake, contributing to maintainance of muscle mass. Packing 24g of protein per serving and 0.5 of fat, it can take up to six hours to digest, making it perfect for a pre-bed protein top-up with no added sugars.


Unlike whey, casein is a sl0w releasing protein, which can take up to six hours to completely digest and be utilised. Casein will help drip-feed your muscles over several hours, ensuring your body is constantly topped up with protein.

It's not ideal during the day – after a gym session – when your body desperately needs that protein fix. However, taking Casein last thing at night – the time when your body recovers best – is the most practical way to keep your muscles firing on all cylinders, avoiding 'starvation mode' – when your body starts to break down muscle for fuel.

If you want to fully maximise your fitness goals, then you will need to consume a combination of both casein and whey protein (although not in the same shake). A study conducted by Baylor University, Texas, observed 36 males undergoing heavy strength training and discovered that the group consuming a whey and casein combination far out-performed those who were on a combination of whey, BCAAs, and glutamine supplement. Over the 10-week period, results showed that those who took a combination of both protein supplements built significantly more lean muscle.

Protein Shake Mistakes You Keep Making

So far, we've covered understanding what protein is, how protein shakes should never replace real food and how much protein you need to build muscle, plus the best sources. Read on for the mistakes you keep making.

Protein Shake Mistake #1: You’re Overcomplicating Things

Got milk? Plus dried fruit and few scoops of almond butter? You’re doing it wrong. “Load up your DIY shake with too many ingredients and you’re going to whack up the calorie count for no extra benefit,” says nutritionist Scott Baptie.

The Fix

It’s simple: opt for some low-sugar ingredients that will help you bulk up your muscle, not your belly. But where can you find recipes to shake up your protein plan? Good question: we’ve got some quick-to-make DIY shakes devised by Baptie to help you build muscle all day long.

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Protein Shake Mistake #2: You’re Selling Yourself Short

When it comes to protein powder, there’s no such thing as cheap and cheerful. According to Baptie, if your shake contains a concentrate powder with a suspiciously low price and a long shelf life then you’re forking out for something packed with fat and carbs. These are the best whey protein products you can buy.

The Fix

Whey Isolate protein. It’s a touch more expensive, but when it comes to powder you get what you pay for. “Due to its long refinement processing, isolate will give you a higher quality protein without the unnecessary additives,” says Baptie.

Not sure your current shake packs the right punch? Check one scoop of your powder contains at least 20-25 grams of protein. Drop below that and you’ll soon notice your wallet shrinking and belly fat bulging.

Protein Shake Mistake #3: You’ve Gone Two Scoops Too Far

You really can have too much of a good thing. If you’re filling your shopping basket to the brim with chicken and powder tubs then we’ve got some bad news: you’re just going to the additional calories could just be increasing your waist line. In fact, trying to copy the diet of professional athletes will only set you up for a career in one sport: sumo wrestling.

The Fix

Calculators at the ready: you need (as we have mentioned) 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per kilo of bodyweight per day if you want to bulk up. This means if you’re the UK average of 83kg, you need at least 133 grams of protein each day. Don’t be put off if this sounds like a lot, as one chicken breast contains around 30g of protein. "This means you can easily consume enough without resorting to supps,” says PT Peter Parasiliti. If you’ve already chowed down a protein-packed chicken salad for lunch and a bulk-up burger for dinner, chances are you've already met you protein requirements.

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Protein Shake Mistake #4:You’re Making a Meal of It

There are too many guys who think all protein is created equal and are swapping for shakes. Don’t be one of them. “It might be quick to take, but a high calorie smoothie is unlikely to fill you up and won’t give you as many nutrients as a proper meal,” says Baptie. “Plus, a full course means your body has to work harder to break down the food so you use up more calories in the digestion process.”

The Fix

If your busy work day makes it too tempting to trade in a meal for a whey shake, then prep your lunchtime the night before. “Focus on things like fish, chicken, turkey, beef for the best protein. They’ve got far more nutrients to keep you full,” says Baptie. That’s right, investing in some foil, Tupperware and a Mexican tuna salad could be a key step to a chiselled core.

Protein Shake Mistake #5: You’re Neglecting the Little Guys

Cheap protein shake powder not only comes with an extra dose of carbs and fats, but also strips away the amino acids vital for muscle growth. Not only will you struggle to add size, you’ll recover more slowly too. That means sore muscles putting the brakes on your performance.

The Fix

Keep your eyes peeled for two things: BCAAs and leucine. A quality powder will be jammed with BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) crucial for growth. And leucine? “It’s is the key acid that stimulates muscle protein synthesis and growth,” says Baptie. “You need 3 grams of leucine to start this process." Always read the label.

Protein Shake Mistake #6: You’ve Got a One-shake Mind

Once you’ve invested in a massive tub of protein powder, it’s only good for shakes, right? Wrong. Constricting yourself to mixing it with milk or water alone means you’re missing out on more muscle building – and tasty – alternatives.

The Fix

Add it to your meals to get the protein you need, as well as the nutrients. And the earlier, the better. Research from the University of Missouri-Columbia found adding a scoop to your breakfast porridge or cinnamon pancakes will make you less likely to overeat during the day.

Protein Shake Mistake #7: Your Timing Is All Wrong

Before? During? A lot of men are wrongly led to believe by the Bro Science community that, as long as the protein is in your system, then you're sorted. However, when it comes to supps working out when to take them can be just as important as what you're taking.

The Fix

When is the best time for a shake? Within an hour after your workout, says Parasiliti. Because they’re more receptive, this is the time to feed your muscles the fuel they need to repair and recover, leading to faster growth. If you’re looking to prime yourself before a workout then don’t rely on powder, according to Baptie. This rustic spinach and pepper omelette, for instance, will give you the fuel for a full muscle-building session.

naito8 Getty Images

Protein Shake Mistake #8: Beware of Intolerance

A lot of protein powders will contain dairy, soy, corn starch, and additives your body may be unfamiliar with or allergic to. Whey is by far the most popular powdered protein and, if you have an issue with dairy, whey will have all the same problems being as it is, a milk derivative.

Whey Hey Protein - coconut - 64 servings Bio-Synergy £49.99 SHOP NOW

Soy protein isolate can be cheaply obtained and can cause inflammation, nausea and skin conditions. Corn starch has a habit of sending your blood sugar into peaks and troughs. Reading the long and complex ingredients list can be tough going but may just save your workout.

The Fix

While you're trying new shakes, keep a record of what you're taking and how you feel, so you can identify the culprit in the event of any unwanted side effects. Try to keep a food diary so you can monitor everything you're consuming. Listen to your body. Allergies make themselves known quickly so be aware of any changes in digestion and complexion.

As Baptie says, "There is still no substitute for hard work, a solid training plan and a proper nutrition routine. Supplements may make a little difference but unless you’ve nailed the first three, it's likely to be an exercise in futility."

Protein Shake Mistake #9: Getting Your Intake 'Window' Wrong

You don't need to inhale a four-egg omlette with a side of whey protein as soon as you've completed your cooldown. According to a review published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, your muscle groups are primed for protein for a larger 'window' than previously thought. So you don't need to rush things as soon as you're out of the showers.

The Fix

While every body is different, it's thought that timing your pre and post-exercise meals could be your greatest muscle-building ally if adding size is your primary goal. For example, if you start your day with a pre-gym snack at 7AM, you don't actually need another protein hit until your breakfast at 11AM. Your gains won't shrivel away and, if you'r chasing strength and size, work to 0.7g to 1g of protein per pound of your bodyweight — a figure that's achievable if you split your macros across three to five meals in the day. Whether that's a protein shake or an egg white omelette, we'll leave that decision to you.

Protein Shake Mistake #10: It's Not Just About The Shake

It's easy to poke fun at Jim Bro and his cronies chugging their third protein shake of the day, but know that they're doing it for the sake of their strength. That doesn't mean three shakes a day will work for you — you can source the same amount of protein (and, arguably, yield more enjoyment) from a protein bar. Try to stick to one shake a day and vary your protein sources, even if you're double-dipping in whey or vegan protein. Just make sure you look at the ingredients list.

"When you’re looking for protein bars it’s important to consider the amount of saturated fats in each bar. Bars which contain more than 5g per 100g is considered high in saturated fats,” explains Jenna Hope, (ANutr), MSc, BSc (Hons). “Additionally, whilst these bars are a convenient source of protein, many of them (but not all) are made using artificial and highly processed ingredients."

Protein bars "should be viewed as a convenient protein source or an alternative to a chocolate bar rather than a healthy snack,” explains Hope. “The artificial sweeteners can also contribute to cravings for sweet foods. Where possible opt for protein bars which contain fibre and natural ingredients."

Protein Shake Mistake #11: Using Expired Protein Powder

Keep it, or bin it? Chug it, or leave it? We've all been there — staring into the abyss of a past-its-sell-by-date tub of protein. How bad can it be? It's made from milk after all and, due to the manufacturing process, whey protein doesn't spoil like meat or dairy.

However, that doesn't mean your protein shake is good to drink. It's muscle-building potential does diminish after the sell-by date. That's because the protein reacts with leftover sugar, resulting in a slow decrease of the amino acid lysine. Crucially, this mens the protein power will not be as effective as it was when you bought it.

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Different Types of Protein Powder Explained — Which is Best For You?

When you walk into your local supplement shop, you’ll likely come face-to-face with an endless selection of supplements — namely, protein powders. The colorful shelves and assorted tubs can be overwhelming, even for advanced bodybuilders who have been lifting weights for a long time.

Before you make a panic purchase or fall prey to the sales pitch of the employee behind the desk, you should probably have a working knowledge of the various types of protein powder. Believe it or not, not all protein is cut from the same cow. Knowing the difference can help you make an informed purchase, or even reach your lifting goals a little quicker.

Editor’s Note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t take the place of advice and/or supervision from a medical professional. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. Speak with your physician if you have any concerns.

What is Protein Powder?

Protein powder is what it sounds like, powdered protein. Protein is an essential macronutrient that is vital for countless physiological functions and is found in muscle, bone, skin, hair, and pretty much every other tissue in your body. Protein is also made up of amino acids which serve important regulatory and repair functions themselves.

Like it or not, you need to consume protein in your diet, not only to support the various structures above, but also to help grow muscle. If you were to skip out on your protein intake, all that hard work you do in the gym would likely be for nothing. A protein powder supplement can help you hit the right amount of protein quickly and conveniently.

Types of Protein Powder

There are plenty of options out there, but most options originate from some familiar foods such as dairy, eggs, and plant sources. However, not all protein powder is the same. Some are derived from higher-quality sources, while others may have particularly rigid production standards. Being an informed consumer is essential to picking the best option for yourself.

Whey Protein

Whey protein, a dairy product derived from cow’s milk, is probably the most common type of protein you will see, and for good reason. Whey is generally regarded as the highest-quality protein source due to its favorable amino acid content and easy absorption. It can sometimes be added to food products, but you’ll commonly see it on its own as a powder supplement.

Whey is also a “complete” protein, meaning it contains all nine of the essential amino acids you need for healthy bodily function. Further, whey also comes with a high concentration of the essential acid leucine. (1) The high leucine content contributes to whey’s efficacy as a means of building muscle.

Further, whey also boasts a high PDCAAS score, a scale that measures the digestibility and utilization of a protein source. (2)

Whey Concentrate

There are several subtypes of whey protein. Whey concentrate is generally regarded as the lowest-quality option due to its limited refinement process. Concentrates contain up to 80% pure protein by weight, but some products tend to run even lower. The remainder of the nutritional composition is made up of carbohydrates and fat.

This contributes to a higher caloric content, which can be detrimental if you’re looking for a powder that doesn’t mess with your nutritional plan overall. However, most concentrates don’t come with enough extra calories that you should worry too much over it.

Whey Isolate

For a product to be considered a whey isolate, it needs to contain at minimum 90% protein by weight. This extensive refinement and concentrated purity makes whey isolate the de-facto protein powder source for most athletes. Isolates will also come with a lower caloric content than most other options.

Further, a reduced amount of carbohydrate also makes whey isolate relatively low in lactose, which can be a lifesaver if you’ve got dietary restrictions. As a caveat, isolate’s extensive processing does make it a bit more expensive than some of its cousins.

Whey Hydrolysate

Whey protein hydrolysate is another variation of whey protein where the product has been treated with either heat, enzymes, or acids to “pre-digest” the product by breaking some of the peptide bonds. This results in a product that is very rapidly digested and typically easily tolerated by most athletes.

Whey protein hydrolysate has been shown to be as effective as traditional whey protein, and in some instances even more effective at stimulating muscle protein synthesis in animal testing. (3) Hydrolysate is often going to be the most expensive option on the market and will be a little bit harder to come by.


Casein is the other type of protein found in cow’s milk and is typically used for making cheese. It has been widely used by bodybuilders before bedtime for its slow digestive properties. Casein curdles in the stomach’s acidic environment, causing it to digest much slower than whey protein. (4)

The idea behind bodybuilders taking casein protein before bed is to have a slow release of amino acids throughout the night when they would otherwise go through a long fasting period.

Plant-Based Protein

Believe it or not, you can actually get a good bit of protein without ever touching a whey product. Plant-based protein powders are generally considered of lower quality, since they are “incomplete,” missing out on at least some of the nine essential aminos. Many plant-based products also have a lower PDCAAS score, indicative of poorer digestibility.

However, they can be a wonderful option if you have a dairy intolerance or other dietary contraindication. When selecting a plant-based powder, you’ll want one that contains different protein sources, such as both pea and rice, or a pure soy protein, which is one of the only complete plant sources.

Egg Protein

Egg-based protein powders are usually more obscure than the other more mainstream options. Egg powders are also more expensive than whey, but if you can find an egg product, it might be a suitable option if you have a milk allergy or simply want to sample a new product for fun.

Do You Need Protein Powder?

The simple answer is no. You can get all the protein your body requires through the foods you consume. If your meal plan is on point, with hearty doses of whole-food options, you don’t technically need to pick up a whey product ever. Some of the best whole-food protein sources include:






Protein powder really shines in the arena of convenience. Simply adding powder to a shaker bottle and mixing it up with water is way less time-consuming than cooking and cleaning from scratch. Therefore, you’ll commonly see most physique enthusiasts and strength athletes include protein powders to make their lives easier outside the gym. There are some populations who will benefit from dosing protein more than others.

As a Bodybuilder

Bodybuilders undoubtedly come to mind when you think of a protein powder loyalist. If you’re a dedicated gymgoer trying to bulk up your physique, you’ll probably need more protein than most people. Therefore, having easy access to high-quality dietary protein from a powder supplement can be invaluable.

Moreover, most powders are very compatible with your nutritional plan and fit neatly into your macronutrient goals, making them a great plug-and-play option. You can get loads of pure protein while avoiding unwanted calories from carbs or fat.

Protein Intake Calculator Imperial Metric Age Sex Male Female Height Feet Meters Weight Pounds Kilograms Goal Fat Loss Maintenance Muscle Gains Activity Level Sedentary: little or no exercise Exercise 1-3 times/week Exercise 4-5 times/week Daily exercise or intense exercise 3-4 times/week Intense exercise 6-7 times/week Very intense exercise daily, or physical job Do you know your body fat percentage? No Yes Calculate Total Calories: 1699 Per Day Daily protein intake recommendation: Recommended Protein Minimum (g) Generally recommended (g) High (g) Exercise: 15-30 minutes of elevated heart rate activity.

Intense exercise: 45-120 minutes of elevated heart rate activity.

Very intense exercise: 2+ hours of elevated heart rate activity.

As a Powerlifter

Even powerlifters tend to need more protein than the average Joe. Now, a dedicated powerlifter may not need to worry over every individual gram of carbohydrate or fat the way a bodybuilder during contest prep would, but protein is equally important for recovery as it is for hypertrophy. Protein powders are therefore a practical addition to any strength athlete’s supplement cabinet.

As a bonus, the controlled and precise dosing in protein powders can help you hit your caloric targets if you’re trying to cut weight to enter a specific weight class. The more control you have over your nutrition, the better.

As an Athlete

Traditional track, field, or court athletes are likely to have more muscle mass and much higher physical activity levels than the population at large. As a consequence, you’ll probably also have more robust nutritional needs, whether you have a ball in your hand or cleats on your feet.

Regardless of your sport of choice, the purity of your protein sourcing is paramount. Some supplements slip through the cracks with banned ingredients that could tarnish your reputation or prohibit you from entering a competition. If you compete in structured or professional athletics, it is absolutely essential that any supplement you take be third-party tested for safety and purity by a qualified healthcare professional or dietitian.

As a Beginner

One of the first things many beginners do when they decide they want to start lifting weights is go out and buy a protein powder. This is not as necessary as you may think, and also ratchets up the monetary buy-in when you begin your fitness journey. While protein powders are certainly helpful for new lifters, you might instead opt to work on your whole-food nutritional habits in lieu of getting a supplement from day one.

With that being said, it can be challenging to meet your protein target if you’re not used to eating a lot of food. In such cases, supplementing your intake with a powder can be an effective approach to ensuring you hit your macronutrient targets — provided that you still consume a majority of your total protein from whole foods.

What to Consider Before Buying Protein Powder

It goes without saying that not all protein powders are created equal. Some are going to be of higher quality, provide a better value, or straight-up taste better than others. The product you end up going with depends on a couple of key factors.


Unfortunately, some protein powders don’t always contain the full amount of protein listed on the label. Moreover, there are occasional incidences of “amino spiking,” a practice that involves adding cheaper amino acids to the nutritional profile to artificially inflate the values on the label.

Broadly speaking, dietary supplements aren’t as tightly-regulated as the pharmaceutical industry. This means that the occasional purity issue does occur from time to time. You as a consumer can sidestep many of these quality issues by ensuring that you purchase a product that has been third-party tested.

Products that have undergone third-party testing by organizations like the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) or Informed Choice & Banned Substance Control Group (BCSG) will display the logo of the organization on the canister somewhere.

Nutritional Profile

Ideally, you want a protein powder that contains all of the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. You also want it to be from an easily-digestible source and to contain a good amount of leucine. Along with this, you should consider the total calorie content of the product and look for a powder that gives you a good amount of protein without the extra fluff.


The price of the product is as relevant as any other factor, especially if you’re on a budget. Opting for a whey isolate is a smart choice from a nutritional perspective, but may bruise your wallet more than the other options. If dollar value is of high importance to you, you may want to look towards a whey concentrate. You’ll still get high-quality protein, but it won’t break the bank as much.


No supplement is necessary, but some are worth their weight and more. If you’re a lifting addict or just into fitness, you probably need more protein powder than most. Having a reliable supplement at your disposal can make your dietary planning more than a little easier.

With less time spent worrying about your meals, you can focus more on what matters — your training. The right protein powder will do a lot of the legwork for you behind the scenes so you can give your all in in the weight room and hit your goals. Like any purchase, make sure you do your research and are buying a product that is both relevant and practical. With this guide at your side, you shouldn’t have any problems at all.


Gorissen, S., Crombag, J., Senden, J., Waterval, W., Bierau, J., Verdijk, L. B., & van Loon, L. (2018). Protein content and amino acid composition of commercially available plant-based protein isolates. Amino acids, 50(12), 1685–1695. Hoffman, J. R., & Falvo, M. J. (2004). Protein – Which is Best?. Journal of sports science & medicine, 3(3), 118–130. Nakayama, K., Tagawa, R., Saito, Y. et al. Effects of whey protein hydrolysate ingestion on post-exercise muscle protein synthesis compared with intact whey protein in rats. Nutr Metab (Lond) 16, 90 (2019). Trommelen, J., Weijzen, M., van Kranenburg, J., Ganzevles, R. A., Beelen, M., Verdijk, L. B., & van Loon, L. (2020). Casein Protein Processing Strongly Modulates Post-Prandial Plasma Amino Acid Responses In Vivo in Humans. Nutrients, 12(8), 2299.

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Eric Carter