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What to look for when buying protein powder

Adding protein powders to your smoothie or post-workout drinks is an easy way to account for your daily protein intake, but what should you look for when buying one? And, more importantly, what should you avoid? Registered dietitian Christy Brissette shares some tips.

What to look for

  • First, you should make sure your protein powder has a short ingredient list. You’re buying protein—you want it to be mostly protein, not fillers.
  • Choose a protein powder with at least 20 grams of protein per scoop and less than 5 grams of carbs. You’ll probably be adding carbohydrates by mixing with milk or blending with a banana or eating a fruit.
  • If you’re using whey protein, look for protein isolate rather than concentrate. Isolate is more than 90 per cent protein.
  • Pick a neutral flavor. If you buy a large tub of protein powder with a wacky flavor, like mint butterscotch, you’re likely to get tired of it more quickly. By selecting a flavourless powder, you can add your own flavour (like cocoa powder or vanilla extract) when you feel like it.

What to avoid

  • Make sure your protein powder doesn’t have artificial sweeteners or added sugar. Artificial sweeteners that end in “ol” are sugar alcohols that can upset your digestive tract. Also be on the lookout for sugars (anything that ends in “ose”) or sugars in disguise, such as dextrins or maltodxtrins.

The different types of powders
This is protein from milk. It is well absorbed and easily used by the body, so it’s best for building muscle. The best time to use it is after a workout.

This is the main protein in milk that’s released more slowly. It can help you feel full so it’s beneficial for weight loss. You can add it to your breakfast smoothies to make them more satiating or have it before bed to build muscle overnight.

Egg white
This is helpful if you have a dairy allergy. It’s not as well absorbed as the milk proteins but it’s still a decent option for a post-workout shake or a breakfast smoothie addition.

Plant-based proteins
This helps lower cholesterol and offers bone health benefits. If you want to avoid GMOs, choose organic. Also, if you’ve had a hormone-sensitive cancer, limit soy to two servings a day.

This comes from yellow split peas and it’s good for people with allergies and is easy to digest. It’s not a complete protein and, for that reason, it’s often paired with rice protein in protein powders so you get all of the essential amino acids you need.

This protein gives you the added benefit of omega-3 fatty acids with lower inflammation. It’s lower in protein than the others and is best combined with pea to boost the protein content.