Real Talk on Protein Powder (Plus the Best Options)
“What protein powder is the best?”
I can’t keep track of how many times I’ve been asked this question! Protein powder used to be a product that only body builder and extreme fitness fanatics used, but these days it can be found in regular households everywhere. Companies that make protein powders are no longer marketing only to elite athletes, so you're seeing more ads than ever and a lot of you guys have questions.
Today I’m going to answer your most common questions in one place as well as share my favourite protein powder options for the of you who will be using a protein supplement.
Do You Need a Protein Powder?
Most people will never need to take a protein supplement. With a recommended intake of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, you definitely don’t need as much protein as the diet industry promotes. Of course, individual needs vary based on activity level, whether or not there is an illness involved (stress increases the body’s need to amino acids) and other factors.
This means that on average, a 130 pound woman needs about 50 grams of protein per day to meet her needs. This is incredibly easy to consume through diet, considering that the content of common foods.
1 cup beans or lentils = 14-20g
Small (3oz) piece of fish = 16-20g
Small (3oz) piece of meat = 22-28g
2 eggs = 12g
1/4 cup of nuts = 4-6g
1/2 cup of seeds = 6-9g
1 cup yogurt = 8-18g
1 cup cooked quinoa = 8g
Plus, even vegetables like spinach and green peas offer a few grams per cup as well. So you can see how easy it is to meet or exceed needs simply by eating a balanced diet full of whole foods. This is my approach 90% of the time.
Is Protein Powder Healthy?
Will adding protein powder to your diet make your diet healthier?
In most cases, I would say probably not. The average person would benefit more from adding 2 more servings of leafy greens into their diet than a scoop of protein powder, here’s why…
1. Protein powder is an ultra-processed food.
Just like white sugar and canola oil, the processing that needs to take place in order to remove all components of a food and leave only one isolated macronutrient is very extreme.
Are all processed foods terrible? No way! But when considering adding protein powder to yoru diet, it’s an important thing to keep in mind. Because marketing doesn’t exactly highlight that protein powder is a super duper processed product.
2. Protein powder is not nutrient-dense.
Nutrient density is calculated by looking at how many calories a food contains relative to how many nutrients it contains. You want your diet to be as nutrient dense as possible. This doesn’t mean that you want a low calorie diet, but rather to meet yoru calorie needs while getting the best “bang for your buck.”
Protein powder doesn’t contain much in the way of micronutrients (unless it has vitamins or minerals added) so it cannot be considered nutrient dense. Just as sugar and oil would not be considered nutrient dense.
But… does that mean protein powder is unhealthy?
As with most nutrition topics, it’s not black and white, context is everything. Protein powder becomes unhealthy when people fail to realize the limitations of this food and start relying on it over other whole food nutrition sources. A cup of beans will give you so much more than a scoop of protein powder ever could so if you are including protein powder, don’t do it at the expense of a whole fo
There definitely are protein powders on the market that I would consider unhealthy additions to any diet, though. If a protein powder contains artificial sweeteners, oils, stabilizers and other weirdness.
Which Protein Powder is Best?
When I do use protein powders (less often these days, I really try to focus on whole foods and recommend you do too!) there are my favourites. They are all available at local health food stores. I usually buy from Healthy Planet (you can 10% off your order over $100 with code ASHLEYHEALTH). There are only two that I really like, both are under $50:
This is a plant-based protein powder that has been fermented to increase the bioavailability of the protein. It’s made from a blend of multiple sources (versus just rice or pea protein) so it contains ideal amounts of lysine in relation to the other amino acids.
I like that it comes in an unsweetened version so you can enjoy the natural taste of your food, and sweeten your smoothie with fruit like banks, berries or dates.
This is another plant-based protein blend, and this one contains a probiotic and enzyme blend to support digestion, which is cool. I find the flavour is a bit more chalky than Genuine Health but if you like a flavoured protein, I find this one has a more natural taste and is less stevia-ish.
What About the Others?
Beef protein, whey protein, collagen protein, pumpkin seed and hemp protein are all other options. Depending on your unique needs one of these might be better for you! I have tried the Designs for Health PurePaleo Protein powder and really like that as a non-plant-based option.
Whey protein can increase glutathione levels which may be helpful for those who need immune support, although you should ensure you are purchasing from a quality source.
Pumpkin and hemp seed proteins are probably the healthiest options in my opinion, but they tend to taste really bad which is why they’re not on my list of favourites.
How I Add Protein to Smoothies Without a Supplement
There are so many ways to add protein to your smoothie without using a protein powder! Here are some of my favourite smoothie upgrades to boost the protein:
1/2 Cup White Beans
You’ll get an extra 6g of protein. It sounds super weird, but it’s actually amazing and makes your smoothie nice and creamy. Plus it adds a great boost of fibre and calcium!
1/4 Cup Hemp Seeds
You’ll get an extra 13g of protein. Your smoothie will also be a lot creamier and packed with healthy omega-3 fats and some extra fibre.
2 Tablespoons Pumpkin Seed Butter
You’ll get an extra 6g of protein. Pumpkin seeds are also really high in healthy fats and zinc, which is important for your immune system and your skin health.
You’ll get and extra 6g of protein. Black sesame is also high in iron and calcium, so you’ll good dose of those important minerals along with some healthy fats.
Eat protein powder, or don’t eat protein powder. It’s up to you! As long as you have a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of whole foods and plants, you’re doing great!
As with all products, there are millions of dollars of marketing behind protein powder with
I’m curious to know how YOU feel about protein powder! Do you like it or dislike it? Do you use it, and if so why? Let me know your thoughts and your favourites in a comment.