ClickCease Protein Powder--Confused? Danielle S., Registered Dietitian
Protein Powder

Protein Powder — Too many choices! What to Do? Danielle Sikorski, Registered Dietitian

 Navigating the Protein Powder Aisle

If you walk into any health food store or fitness center, you’re likely to pass by several shelves stocked with various protein powders. What’s the best option? How do you know what is right for you? I’m going to dissect the options available to give you the knowledge to make informed decisions as you navigate those aisles.

First, let’s talk about the importance of protein.

Aside from water, proteins are the most abundant molecules in our bodies: Our muscles, skin, hair, bones, and organs are made mostly of protein. Your body needs protein for survival. Amino acids — the building blocks of protein — are necessary for everything from immune function, metabolism and weight management to muscle repair, growth, development and performance. There’s also research that shows protein helps you feel alert and keeps you full for a longer period of time.

The amount of protein you need varies according to your body size, activity level, weight loss and fitness goals.  According to Jim LaValle, RPh, CCN, MS, founder of the LaValle Metabolic Institute, “the average person is working out a lot harder than people once did, and you need protein to replenish muscle tissue after you exercise.”

Active adults have a greater daily protein requirement than someone with a more sedentary lifestyle.

Protein Powder

Protein Powder

The ISSN and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) give the following guidelines:

Sedentary adults: 0.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. This works out to 60 grams of protein daily for a 150-pound person.

Adults seeking to improve their endurance: 0.5 to 0.6 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. This equates to 75 to 90 grams of protein daily for a 150-pound person.

Adults looking to build muscle and strength: 0.6 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. This works out to 90 to 135 grams of protein daily for a 150-pound person.

While,  you can satisfy your protein needs with a piece of grilled chicken, veggie-filled omelet, or a hearty  chili, not all of us have the time to prepare meals as often as we’d like. Protein powder and a protein supplement are great for convenience, but are not necessary, even for elite athletic performance. Whole foods are always best, but for some, it is more realistic to make a convenient shake.

There are two different categories of proteins :  Animal-based and Plant-based:

Animal- based proteins:

Whey Protein – Whey protein is derived from milk. Most protein products are made with whey, which is a “complete” protein and contains the highest branched chain amino acid (BCAA) content found in nature. Exercise depletes our amino acid pools and they need to be replaced for the maintenance of muscle tissue. Whey protein is believed to be digested faster than casein and more completely than soy protein. It does contain small amounts of lactose. For those without a dairy intolerance, whey is an excellent option.

Casein Protein– Like whey protein, casein is another milk protein derivative. It isn’t recommended for those with milk allergies or lactose intolerance. Since most of the protein (80%) in milk is casein, the terms “milk protein” and “casein protein” are used interchangeably. The key difference between whey and casein is that whey is absorbed in the digestive system quickly, whereas casein is absorbed slowly and steadily. For this reason, some athletes choose to consume casein before bed due to its potential to supply amino acids throughout the evening.

Beef Protein– Beef protein is beneficial for those looking for a non-dairy, non-plant protein. Many bodybuilders and athletes consume beef to help build muscle and increase strength. It is an excellent source of creatine.

Egg white protein– It is a complete protein made by separating out the yolks and dehydrating the egg whites. Egg white protein is cholesterol-free and an excellent choice for those who wish to avoid dairy products. Egg protein powders are rich in vitamins and minerals that can contribute to a healthy diet. Egg white is also naturally very low in fat and carbohydrate.

Plant- based proteins: Plant-based proteins are excellent options for those with dairy allergies/lactose intolerance or egg allergies.

Soy Protein– Soy is said to be a “heart healthy” source of protein, as eating 25 grams a day (in addition to a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet) can reduce the risk of heart disease. It contains all 8 essential amino acids. It is important to note that anyone with thyroid disease or a predisposition to thyroid dysfunction should limit the intake of soy-based protein food, due to its potential to affect hormone balance.

Pea Protein– This contains no saturated fat or cholesterol, is highly digestible, hypo-allergenic, and economical. Pea Protein is also rich in lysine, arginine and glutamine.

Rice Protein– This is beneficial because it is Hypo-allergenic, gluten-free, neutral in taste, and economical. Beware that it may be derived from genetically modified rice. Rice protein is not a complete protein because it lacks one of the essential amino acids, isoleucine. However, it can be combined with other protein sources to provide all the essential amino acids needed in your diet.

Hemp Protein– This unique protein provides omega-3 fats and fiber. It is high in arginine and histidine. This also contains all 8 essential amino acids.

When choosing a protein powder, you might have to experiment a bit before finding the “perfect fit.” Some yield themselves better to a blender than a shaker bottle.

As with most things, you do get what you pay for. By choosing a “cheap” protein powder, you increase the likelihood of getting higher amounts of lactose, fat, fillers, and so on not removed during the isolation process. Also, be aware that the more frequently you consume a food product, the more likely you are to develop sensitivities. Therefore, if you regularly use protein powder, rotating varieties every 2-4 weeks might help prevent the development of intolerances.

Keep in mind that protein powder, like other nutritional supplements, aren’t regulated like food. Therefore you’ll need to be your own advocate by doing a little research and reading the ingredients label. When purchasing whey or casein proteins, make sure that the protein is sourced from Grassfed cows not treated with artificial growth hormones. If the protein comes from a plant source, find out whether it’s organic or genetically modified. Lastly, avoid powders that contain artificial sweeteners and preservatives or are high in sugar.

Wow, is your brain about to explode? That was a lot of information to digest.


Key take-aways:

  • Protein is essential for metabolic function.
  • You CAN get enough protein by eating whole foods (chicken, eggs, beans, etc).
  • Protein powders are excellent options for those with busy schedules to ensure you’re getting adequate protein throughout the day.
  • READ LABELS to make sure you’re getting quality ingredients.


Tips for the busy bee:

  • Keep protein powder and a shaker bottle in your office or car for emergency situations.
  • Instead of grabbing a “healthy” muffin at Starbucks, start your day off right with a Protein Powder Shake loaded with fiber-rich berries.
  • Avoid the afternoon trip to the vending machine by having a rich, chocolately, high protein powder shake!


Give these recipes a try!

Nut Butter Cup Protein Powder Shake

1 Serving Vanilla Protein Powder

8 oz milk or dairy free milk

2 TBSP Nut Butter (Peanut, Cashew, Almond or Sunflower Butter)

1.5 TBSP Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

Crushed Ice

Blend to desired consistency


Chocolate Avocado Protein Powder Shake

1 Serving Vanilla Protein Powder

12 oz (or 1 ½ cups) milk or dairy free milk

1TBSP Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

½ Avocado

Stevia to taste

Crushed Ice

Blend to desired consistency


Very Berry Protein Powder Shake

1 Serving Vanilla Protein Powder

¼ cup each strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries

(OR  1 cup frozen mixed berries)

4 oz water (more for a thinner shake, less for a thicker shake)

Crushed ice

Blend to desired consistency








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Danielle Crumble Smith

Danielle is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist currently living in Colorado though she is originally from TN and has lived in AK, CA, and NV. She and her husband, Colton, have two crazy dogs and are expecting twins in August. She received her degree in Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Science from California State University at Northridge and has since worked in a variety of roles as Dietitian over the past 7 years. Danielle has experience working in both clinical inpatient settings as well as outpatient. Her client/patient population has spanned from individuals with Food Allergies, Gastrointestinal Disorders, Eating Disorders, Autoimmune conditions, Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Sports Performance and Weight Management. In her free time, Danielle loves hiking with her husband, having FaceTime dates with family and doing anything outside!




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