by Tracey Pollack
How to Choose a Protein
It’s not only athletes and fitness buffs that need plenty of protein. Today, everyone is craving more protein, from active adults to growing kids and older individuals. That’s because many now realize that getting enough protein is essential for a healthy immune system, strong muscles, tissue repair, recovery, athletic performance, weight loss and good health. The amount of protein you need is based on your age, health and activity level. Yet many don’t get enough clean, nutritious protein through diet alone, while others want more to support their goals. This has led to the desire for high-quality protein supplements. But with an endless array of options using protein from various sources, which protein is right for you? Check out these helpful tips to find the sports protein supplement to complement your lifestyle.
One Whey to Go
Whey is a milk-based protein that’s become one of the most popular sports protein supplements today. That’s because whey is considered a “complete protein,” which means it contains all nine essential amino acids that our bodies need, but can’t produce on their own. As a result, you need to get them through your diet, which isn’t always easy to do.
Whey is high in protein and low in calories, so it helps maintain your muscles, enhances recovery and supports your weight loss goals. Whey is also digested very quickly, which makes it ideal for daily use and one of the best proteins to use after exercise. When shopping for the right whey, look at the labels. You’ll see that some are listed as “whey isolates,” while others are “whey concentrates.” In terms of quality, whey isolates have more muscle because they are less processed than their concentrate counterparts. In fact, whey protein isolates are guaranteed to be at least 90% pure protein, while concentrates contain just a fraction as much protein. You’ll also want to look for grass-fed protein to avoid hormones and antibiotics typically given to cows that are fed grain. While whey protein comes from dairy, whey isolates are typically considered safe for people with lactose intolerance since they only have trace amounts of lactose sugar.
A Fresh Look at Plant-Based Protein
With plant-based diets gathering momentum and fans, many more people are exploring the benefits of plant-based protein in both their meals and their sports protein supplements. Plant-based protein is a vegan-friendly option that can come from a garden of healthy plants, such as peas, garbanzo beans, lentils, brown rice, whole grains, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp and soy.
Grounds for Plant-Based Protein
For years, many have thought that whey protein packs more of a punch because it contains all nine essential amino acids, which makes it a complete protein. After all, the only plant-based protein source that contains all nine essential amino acids is soy. That left vegans, vegetarians and those seeking non-soy vegetarian proteins hungry for a complete plant-based supplement. Luckily, simply combining different plant-based protein sources creates a complete protein and gives your body all nine essential amino acids it needs. That’s why the highest-quality, plant-based supplements are made from a variety of organic plant-based protein sources. And then there's the question of plant collagen and whether there is such a thing.
Different protein supplements offer different benefits. To find the protein supplement that’s right for you, consider your lifestyle and needs, along with these useful protein pointers:
Figure out your health and fitness goals, whether building muscle, losing fat, enhancing athletic performance or simply sneaking in some extra nutrients.
Look for protein supplements made from certified organic protein sources.
Compare labels to find the supplements with short ingredient lists of recognizable ingredients.
Select a supplement that’s low in sugar and carbohydrates, especially if you have diabetes or if weight loss is your goal.
If you’re choosing a whey sports protein supplement, seek out grass-fed whey protein isolate rather than concentrate to get maximum protein.
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, choose plant-based supplements made from a variety of plant-based protein sources to get all nine essential amino acids.
When it comes to choosing the right protein supplement, there is no “right” answer for everyone. But the right one for you will be the one that’s right for your goals, needs and lifestyle.