NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — If you’re looking to incorporate a protein powder into your diet, the sheer number of options on shelves can be overwhelming, to say the least.  In today’s FUELED Wellness + Nutrition, Molly has the rundown on key differences between protein powders and how to determine which one is right for you.

The 411 on Protein Powder:

  • Proteins powders aren’t an essential part of a healthful nutrition plan, but they can be a convenient and versatile way to add more protein into your diet.
  • Look for protein powders with less than about 3-4 grams sugar per 20 grams protein; sweetened with natural plant-based sweeteners (e.g. monk fruit, stevia, erythritol), steering clear of artificial sweeteners aspartame, acesulfame potassium and sucralose.   
  • Frame of reference:  20 grams protein = approximately 3 ounces of lean meat

How to incorporate:

  • Protein shakes & smoothies
  • Cereal or oatmeal (dissolve in a bit of milk or milk alternative first, then add to cereal)
  • Baked goods – can use in place of flour in products like brownies, cookies, muffins
  • Breakfast items like pancakes, waffles, granola
  • Sauces, soups

Top Picks by Category

A note about PDCAAS: There’s significant variation in how proteins are digested and assimilated.  The Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) ranks protein quality on a scale of zero to one.

WHEY PROTEIN (milk-based; PDCAAS 1.00): 

Top pick for Whey Isolate:  Garden of Life Sport Grass Fed Whey  

Top pick for Whey Concentrate:  Designer Whey Natural (blend of Whey Concentrate + Isolate)

  • Whey isolate & hydrolysate are low lactose; often tolerated by those with lactose intolerance
  • Quickly + easily digested & absorbed; excellent pre- and post-workout
    • Whey protein concentrate: 70 to 90% protein
    • Whey protein isolate: >90% protein
    • Whey protein hydrolysate: Purest form. ‘Pre-digested’ for body to utilize. Typically more pricey.

CASEIN PROTEIN (milk-based; PDCAAS 1.00):

Top pick for Casein blendGNC Pro Performance 100% Casein

  • A slow-digesting protein, resulting in a slow release of amino acids
  • Molly typically recommends casein before bedtime to minimize muscle losses through the night
  • Can also be useful anytime for those looking for a protein source to keep them fuller, longer

PLANT-BASED PROTEIN POWDER:

Top picks [vegan, soy-free, dairy-free]:  Orgain Organic Plant Protein & RAW Protein by Garden of Life

  • PDCAAS varies by protein source: Hemp protein (0.46), rice protein (0.47), and pea protein (0.69)
  • Beneficial for people with milk or soy allergies, as well as those looking for vegan options

PROTEIN POWDER FOR BAKING + COOKING:

Top pick:  simply tera’s organic whey protein, plain unsweetened

  • Plain, unflavored protein powder can be used in place of ingredients like cake mix or brownie mix; in savory dishes, it can provide bulk and texture of flour with minimal carbs.

COLLAGEN PEPTIDES

Top picks [bovine-based]: Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides and Orgain Grass Fed Collagen Peptides

  • PDCAAS is less relevant for collagen peptides. The PDCAAS score is 0, primarily because collagen lacks the essential amino acid tryptophan. However, collagen is still a good option for protein powders, knowing that we can easily incorporate tryptophan via other protein sources.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24401291 

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FUELED Wellness + Nutrition is powered by Smoothie King. Learn about Eat Fit at Smoothie King; click here for the full list of Eat Fit options available at Smoothie King, proud sponsor of FUELED Wellness + Nutrition with Molly on WGNO. 

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Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD is a registered dietitian + nutrition journalist in New Orleans, and founder of Ochsner Eat Fit nonprofit restaurant initiative. Tune in to her podcast, FUELED | Wellness + Nutrition and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @MollyKimballRD. See more of Molly’s articles + TV segments at www.mollykimball.com, and sign up for Eat Fit Wellness Bites weekly newsletter, here.

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