There are so many protein powders out there today that it can be hard to make an educated decision. And if you’re one of the many people relying on it for a quick and easy solution to get enough protein every day, you may be surprised where your current protein powder may fall short!
The good news is there are a few indicators that can tell you if a protein powder or bar is worth your money at a glance. Here are the 5 mistakes to avoid the next time you’re shopping for protein:
1) Choosing Solely Based on Price
Cheaper isn’t always better. In fact, there’s generally a reason protein powders are cheaper than others. More often than not, it has to do with cheap fillers that have no bearing on what it’s designed to do. Or ingredients that can harm you.
These ingredients are all red flags:
- Corn syrup solids
- Other artificial sweeteners
- Vegetable oils
Other than not being necessary for protein synthesis, many of these ingredients are just plain awful for you.
Artificial sweeteners are added to make protein powders taste better, but they can also make you want to eat more sweets.
2) Choosing a Single-Source Vegan Protein Powder
If you’re vegan or just want to look for an alternative protein source, vegan proteins are an excellent choice.
Not all vegan protein powders are bad, but you do need to carefully read the labels.
Unlike animal-based proteins, single sources of plant protein are not always complete proteins.
A complete protein contains all 9 essential amino acids—in the proper proportions. Hemp, for example, is often considered a complete protein, but it’s proportionally low in leucine and lysine. That means you’ll need to add another source of plant protein to your shake to cover for hemp’s deficiencies.
There’s a scale that can help you find out if a protein is complete or not. It’s called PDCAAS (Protein Digestion Corrected Amino Acid Score). If the score is 1.0, it’s considered a complete protein.
If you don’t want to go through all that trouble, pick a vegan protein powder with multiple plant sources to get a complete protein.
3) Too Much Protein
Your body can only handle so much protein at one time. Some protein supplements offer more than 50 grams of protein per serving, but a study reveals protein synthesis is maximal around 40 grams.
If your protein bar, meal, or shake contains more than that, you’re basically flushing protein down the drain. Considering protein is the most expensive part of any meal, this is a terrible mistake.
That being said, you should aim for 30-40 grams of protein per meal owing to the fact that not all protein is optimally absorbed.
4) Not Enough Protein
According to an analysis of the 2007-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, most Americans eat too much protein.
The average male is getting 100 grams per day. The current Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is just 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. At 160 pounds, that’s roughly 58 grams of protein—which is why Americans are perceived to be eating too much protein. But the opposite is true!
If you exercise, you’re older, or you’re male, you’re going to need more protein than the 0.8 grams per kilogram recommended by the Food & Nutrition Board.
For example, aerobic exercise requires 1.2 – 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of weight. At 160 pounds, that’s 116 grams of protein per day on the high side.
If you’re doing resistance exercise (lifting weights), you should be getting between 1.6 and 2.0 grams per kg.
5) No Carbs or Low Carbs
Your body doesn’t just take the protein you ingest and turn it into muscle, or hair, or enzymes, etc.
In order for your body to utilize your protein powder, some insulin is necessary. Insulin is raised by ingesting carbs which are then broken down into sugar. The trick, of course, is to not eat too many sugar or carbs as they can negatively affect your body.
If your protein powder doesn’t have many carbs, you need to add some to the shake or risk losing out on the benefits.
Instead, look for a protein powder with a low glycemic index (often abbreviated as GI). The glycemic index is a rating system that lets you know how quickly a carbohydrate raises your blood sugar. The higher the number, the worse it is for you.
Bonus: Eating Protein at the Wrong Time
If you’re only eating protein at a single meal, you definitely need to spread it out. Your body uses protein around the clock. So if you’re not eating protein at every meal, your body may be taking amino acids (protein building blocks) from your muscles. So what should you do?
Step 1 is eating protein at every meal.
Step 2 goes against popular wisdom, but you absolutely need to have some protein before bed this in order to maintain muscle mass. A slow-digesting protein like casein about a half hour before you go to bed is perfect.
Having 3 high quality sources of protein, like those found in Protein40, can ensure you’re effortlessly maintaining muscle mass while you’re sleeping.
Avoiding Protein Mistakes
Finding a high quality protein powder, while it seems tedious, is well worth your time. It will assure you that your money is well-spent and help you get the protein you need to support muscle and bone health.
The key is to:
- Avoid cheap fillers, vegetable oils, and artificial sweeteners
- Choose a vegan protein powder with multiple plant sources
- Protein per serving should be between 20 and 25 grams
- Find a low GI protein powder (carbs/sugars are important!)
- Spread protein consumption throughout the day
If you follow these simple rules, you’ll be well on your way to seeing the results you’re looking for.