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The Beginners Guide To Protein Shakes

The Best Protein Powder For Beginners

What is protein powder?

Protein powder is just food. Do not let anyone convince you otherwise. The protein in a protein supplement is not molecularly different from the protein in eggs, almonds, etc. In other words, it is by no means a superior source of protein, and cannot, from a nutritional standpoint, offer you anything that a normal food cannot. That said, protein powder does have its advantages.

First and foremost, boosting your protein intake with a protein powder is easy. A protein shake can be made in seconds, and if you have a shaker bottle, it can be made almost anywhere. For many people, this is a driving factor in their decision to start using protein powder. It is also easier to drink your protein than it is to chew it, which is helpful for people with food aversions or trouble swallowing. Finally, protein powder has a high amount of protein per serving when compared to most foods.

How to choose a protein powder.

I am not here to convince you that you need to start using protein powder. If you are reading this, I assume that you have already decided to use protein powder. That was your decision, based on your specific nutrition goals. Instead, I am here to help you choose the best protein powder for you. Given the variety of options out there, this can be a daunting task. There are dozens of different types and hundreds of different brands. How are you supposed to know which one to pick?

First of all, most protein powders contain the same ingredients and offer the same nutritional benefits. Many of them are even made by the same manufacturer in the same facility. The only difference is the packaging, and you do not want to pay more for packaging, do you? Second, no one type of protein is better than another. Some proteins may not be a good fit for your diet – whey protein is not a good fit for people with lactose intolerance for example – but any type of protein can help you achieve your nutrition goals. Different companies will try to persuade you that their protein powder is the best because it contains more amino acids or because it is more bioavailable, but they are just blowing hot air. From a nutritional standpoint and for a person with a balanced diet, a protein shake made from whey is no different than a protein shake made from peas. So, does the protein supplement you choose matter at all?

There are two types of protein supplements: ready-to-drink (store-bought) protein shakes, and protein shakes made with protein powder. In order to make a protein shake for beginners, you have to mix the powder with milk or water. This requires a blender or a shaker bottle, and a little extra time and effort. Some people prefer ready-to-drink protein shakes because they are more convenient, but if they knew what they were drinking, they would probably vomit.

Ready-to-drink protein shakes are full of emulsifiers, stabilizers, and thickeners. Ingredients like these improve characteristics like shelf stability, but are hard to digest and can cause uncomfortable side effects (more about this soon). This is why I recommend that you make your own protein shakes for beginners with protein powder. That said, not all protein powders are created equal, and many contain the same additives found in ready-to-drink protein shakes! Keep reading to learn why you should avoid food additives.

The 3 Best Protein Powders for Beginners Explained

If you are looking to get into shape before summer, for a special occasion, or just to live a better, healthier lifestyle, you may be looking into protein powders to add into your diet.

Protein powders allow you to replace your meal (or supplement a meal) with a protein-packed shake that helps you meet the amount of protein you need to build strength and muscle.

If you’re reading this article, chances are that you have thought about trying a protein powder but aren’t sure what brand is going to be the best for you. Let me simplify the process for you!

For my money, the best protein powders for beginners to try are:

Let’s take a closer look at what every beginner should consider when buying their first protein powder.

What To Look For When Shopping For Protein Powders

As a beginner, you are going to need to know a few things before buying your first protein powder to ensure that you are getting a product that is going to do what you need it to do.

With a wide selection of protein powders on the market, it can be very intimidating trying to research each product.

Let’s look at a few things to remember when choosing a protein powder.

What is protein powder used for and who needs it?

Protein powder is usually used to make a shake for meal replacement or to supplement a meal.

Basically, it’s a relatively inexpensive and convenient way to get a large amount of protein, really quickly.

To build strength and muscle (or maintain muscle mass on a cut or weight loss phase), you’ll need a pretty good amount of protein every day — somewhere around .8 to 1 grams per pound of bodyweight.

Protein powders aren’t necessary, as they’re obviously not the only way to get that much protein into your diet, but they are convenient and often less expensive than buying lots of lean meats and other sources.

What should beginners look for in a protein powder?

Beginners should look for a couple of different things before pulling the trigger:

Source & form of protein: In most cases, you’ll get the most benefits from Whey protein vs other kinds (like casein, plant, pea, etc.) You’ll also want to look for powders that contain at least some protein isolate, one of the purest forms and highest concentrations of protein.

In most cases, you’ll get the most benefits from Whey protein vs other kinds (like casein, plant, pea, etc.) You’ll also want to look for powders that contain at least some protein isolate, one of the purest forms and highest concentrations of protein. Protein per serving: Keep an eye on this number to figure out how each supplement will fit into your overall diet and protein intake needs. 20+ grams of protein per serving is common. Lower than that and the supplement may have too many fillers.

Keep an eye on this number to figure out how each supplement will fit into your overall diet and protein intake needs. 20+ grams of protein per serving is common. Lower than that and the supplement may have too many fillers. Price: You may not want to immediately spring for the highest-end protein on the market. If you don’t enjoy supplementing with protein or don’t like the taste, you won’t want to be stuck with an expensive tub you have to finish or waste.

What’s a good budget for protein powder?

A good budget is going to depend on how much protein you are going to need and what brand you want to go with.

Most respectable protein powders go for about $10-$20/lb — a tub of protein powder will be anywhere from 1.5 to 5 pounds.

If you’re taking a protein shake every day, a tub will usually last you somewhere around a month. But the range can vary greatly by the size of the tub and how many protein shakes you’re having every day.

What should you avoid?

This will be a personal decision and will depend heavily on your goals and how much protein powder you use.

For example, if you’re relying heavily on protein powder as a significant piece of your diet every day, you may want to avoid low-quality supplements with lots of fillers, added sugar, or too many artificial sweeteners.

If you’re just trying protein powder for the convenience, and want the flexibility to add in a quick shake here and there for a boost of protein and amino acids, you’ll be fine with a more budget-friendly approach.

(Related: What are protein farts? And how to prevent them!)

Now let’s take a look at some great protein powders you can try if you’re just getting started.

Best budget protein powder for beginners: BSN SYNTHA-6 Ultra Premium Protein Matrix

Overview: BSN is a really well-thought of brand in the supplement game, and their entry-level protein formula is a great one to start out with.

The price is fair and friendly but still gets you a good quality protein powder. Some of the cheaper options than this one have to cut corners on quality and ingredients — something you may want to avoid if your shakes will be a big part of your diet.

There’s only 2-3 grams of sugar in each serving, though (with the help of a little artificial sweetener) this supplements packs a taste-whallop. Users rave about how much they love to drink it.

Source & Form: Mixture of whey protein concentrate, isolate, and others

Protein per Serving: 22g

Why I Like This Protein Powder for Beginners: The “protein matrix” included in this supplement is really cool.

Getting really pure, high-quality whey protein isolate is great if you can afford it, but as far as less expensive options go, a blend like this has some nice benefits.

The milk protein, egg protein, and casein proteins in this powder all have unique attributes and benefits, making this a good all-around choice for beginners.

I also love that this one is affordable and has great taste. That’s pretty much exactly what you want when you’re first dipping your toes in the water.

Potential Drawbacks: There’s a good amount of artificial flavoring via sucralose and other synethic flavors.

For some, that’s part of why this tastes so great without having extra sugar. For others, the taste is too overpowering.

Some people also don’t like to consume artificial sweeteners on a daily basis.

Check the current price & read real user reviews of BSN SYNTHA-6 on Amazon.

Best mid-range protein powder for beginners: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein Powder

Overview: For those with a slightly higher budget looking for a higher quality protein they can really make a part of their lifestyle, Optimum Nutrition protein is by far one of the most popular and highest rated protein powder on the market.

This supplement uses high-quality whey and only 1-3 grams of sugar per serving along with a very mild dose of sucralose.

What you give up in some flavor with this supplement, you more than make up for with a clean tasting product that’s good for your body.

Source & Form: Whey protein isolate, concentrate, and peptides

Protein per Serving: 24g

Why I Like This Protein for Beginners: There’s a lot to love about this supplement.

Each scoop has over 5 grams of naturally occurring BCAAs which are fantastic for gym performance and muscle recovery.

I also love that the powder is instantized (meaning the manufacturer has used one of many methods to make the powder more soluble), which means you’re way less likely to get clumps when mixing it into water, milk, or smoothies.

Finally, you have to appreciate that the product caters to elite athletes — it’s been tested for banned substances. If it’s good enough for the pros, you should feel pretty good about taking it.

Potential Drawbacks: It’s a good thing that this protein is light on sugar and artificial sweeteners, but for some people, that means a sacrifice in taste.

The price point here is also higher than a lot of competitors.

Check the current price & read real user reviews of Optimum Nutrition whey protein on Amazon.

Best high-end protein powder for beginners: Isopure Zero Carb Protein Powder

Overview: If you’re looking for a protein powder with zero carbs and a low-calorie count, look no further than Isopure’s Zero Carb Protein Powder.

Packed with 25g of protein, 100 calories, and 0 carbs in every scoop, this protein powder is perfect for those who are looking to lose weight while gaining muscle.

I’m pretty on the record saying that carbs aren’t bad, but you do need to moderate or restrict them in order to eat enough protein and not go over your calorie goal for weight loss.

That’s what makes this powder an awesome option for beginners, especially those looking to slim down and get toned.

Source & Form: 100% pure whey protein isolate

Protein per Serving: 25g

Why I Like This Protein for Beginners: Where to start?!

This supplement is made from 100% pure whey protein isolate, making it among the best quality options you’re going to find anywhere.

I also love that there are no carbs — none! — in each and every serving. It really helps you keep your calories down while getting the protein surge you need to build or maintain muscle mass.

It also makes this protein a perfect candidate for those on low carb or Keto diets.

This is a really high-quality product you could feel good about adding to your daily diet.

Potential Drawbacks: The Isopure protein has a sodium content of 240mg per scoop which equates to 10% of your daily recommended intake. Depending on your current diet, this will be something that you need to take into consideration.

Users are also extremely mixed on the taste. Some enjoy the mild sweet taste of this no-carb supplement, others absolutely detest it. Your mileage may vary!

Check the current price & read real user reviews of Isopure zero carb protein powder on Amazon.

Wrapping Up

Protein shakes are a totally optional supplement, but they have some awesome advantages.

Namely, they’re usually cheaper and more convenient than buying and cooking other high protein sources like lean meats.

When you’re trying to hit your protein intake and macros in a pinch, they can really help!

If you’re just getting started, I probably wouldn’t shell out big bucks yet until you know if you can stomach having a protein shake every day.

My best recommendation would be to go with a budget-friendly option like BSN SYNTHA-6 (Amazon link) and try it out before eventually upgrading to something a little more high-end when you’re ready.

Hope that helps, everyone, and good luck!

The Beginners Guide To Protein Shakes

Like many aspects of nutrition and fitness it can be quite bewildering for beginners to decipher fact from fiction. Protein - specifically protein powder and protein shakes – can be one of those confusing subjects for beginners.

You may have seen people in the gym swigging on a brightly coloured concoction after a workout. Do you need to take a protein shake instantly after exercise?

What is the best protein powder for weight loss? Or maybe you`re trying to build muscle and want to know the best shake for muscle gain.

Let’s look at the facts, this article is going to help give you some clarity.

Do I need to take a protein shake?

A post shared by Scott Baptie (@scottbaptie) on Jun 23, 2017 at 4:25am PDT

Quite simply, no, you don’t need to take a protein shake. You can get all the protein you need from protein rich whole foods like poultry, beef, fish and dairy.

Before looking to add a protein shake, it’s a good idea to look at your whole diet first to make sure you’re consuming a wide range of fresh, nutritious, tasty, protein-rich foods that you enjoy. Check out some of our high protein recipes.

However, the occasional use of a protein supplement can help you to hit your protein targets if you have a higher requirement or if you struggle to consume a sufficient quantity of protein from whole foods.

Research shows that a higher protein intake can help with weight loss, muscle building and satiety (feelings of fullness).

Protein powders can be an easy, tasty and cost effective method of ensuring you get enough protein in your diet but they’re certainly not essential.

What are the different kinds of protein powder?

The most popular form of protein on the market is called whey protein. Whey is a bi-product from making cheese and it has a very high biological value (BV). A high BV means it is easily digested and a large proportion of it is absorbed by the body.

There are two main types of whey protein.

Whey protein concentrate is the lowest priced form of whey and is popular among many gym users for that reason. The protein content of concentrate is typically around 60-80%.

Whey protein isolate is a much higher quality of whey protein. It has a lower fat and carbohydrate content and protein can be as high as 95%. It’s also slightly more expensive than concentrate.

There are other powders that are popular with people who follow a plant-based diet such as brown rice protein or soy protein. However, these sources have a lower BV score and are less available in the shops. Some people take a casein protein supplement but we haven’t seen a convincing volume of research that shows us that casein is superior to whey, although some research suggests that it may be more filling if you`re trying to lose weight.

When should I take protein after a workout?

Contrary to gym-lore, there isn’t a rapid urgency to consume protein immediately after a workout. The post-exercise “anabolic window” is an often misunderstood subject.

Recent research in the JISSN suggests that the window of opportunity lasts considerably longer than 45 minutes! For most people, consuming a 25g + serving of protein (any type of quality protein source, not specifically a shake) within 3 hours of exercise will be sufficient to stimulate the muscle recovery process (known as muscle protein synthesis or MPS for short). In practical terms this means if you exercise before lunch, make sure your lunch contains a suitable serving of protein. The same rule applies if you’re working-out before dinner, before breakfast and so on.

Consuming a shake after a workout isn’t bad idea but it’s certainly not a necessity.

What are the benefits of protein powder?

As previously mentioned, you don’t need to have a protein shake but it can be convenient and when you consume one is often down to individual preferences and circumstances.

Research shows that people who have protein at breakfast have better eating habits as their day progresses. Adding a scoop of whey protein to your morning porridge could be a simple way to boost your daily protein intake. You could also try out these delicious overnight oats recipes. Alternatively, you could also try a protein smoothie to kick-start your day and whack all of the following into a blender:

50g porridge oats

1 scoop whey protein

250ml water

50g frozen blueberries

Pinch of cinnamon.

Perhaps you struggle for time to have a protein and carbohydrate rich meal after training if you’re working out late at night? This is another case of when a scoop of protein powder may be a convenient option for you. Research suggests that consuming protein just before bed may improve whole-body protein balance during post-exercise overnight recovery.

What is the best protein shake for weight loss?

The protein powder market is flooded with ‘diet protein’ but will it help with faster fat loss?


Here’s the thing – most of these ‘diet protein shakes’ are just standard whey protein with a couple of added ingredients.

There’s no secret ingredients that are going to turbo charge your fat loss. It’s usually basics like CLA, green tea extract, carnitine and a few other ingredients that simply boost the price, but not your fat loss. The thing is, if you look at what the science says, these ingredients don’t really make much, if any difference, to fat loss.

So, the best protein powder for weight loss is the same protein powder we would recommend for muscle gain, improving recovery, boosting your protein intake at breakfast…or for whatever reason you decide to use a protein shake for.

The Winner: our favourite protein powder is......

So what is the best tasting, best value, all-round-winner? If you think you would benefit from including a protein supplement in your diet then we quite like this one:

The Protein Works Whey Protein 80 is a high quality protein powder that contains over 80% protein with very little fat and lactose and it is good value.

There are a load of different flavours from strawberries and vanilla to chocolate orange and cinnamon swirl.

If you`re looking for the best protein powder to lose weight or build muscle then this wouldn`t be a bad choice!

Click here to get some Whey Protein 80 over on The Protein Works

Eric Carter