Protein Powder 101: Which one is right for you + how much protein we really need

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Get the Skinny with Molly on the many different types of protein powders and how to determine which one is right for you – plus, how much protein do you really need?


PROTEIN: How much do we need?

Molly’s general rule of thumb for active, healthy individuals: 0.75 to 1 gram per pound of healthy body weight

Example:  If 150 pounds is your healthy weight, aim for 112 to 150 grams protein daily.



The Skinny on Protein Powder:

  • Proteins powders can be convenient and versatile way to add more protein into diet.
  • Look for protein powders with not more than 3-4 grams sugar per 20 grams protein
  • Frame of reference: 20 grams protein = approximately 3 ounces of lean meat


How to incorporate protein powders:

  • Protein shakes & smoothies
  • In cereal or oatmeal (dissolve in a bit of milk or milk alternative first, then add to cereal)
  • In baked goods (can use in place of flour) + sauces & soups (typically recommend unflavored)


Choosing the right protein powder for you:

  • Taste. One of the most important factors is that you actually like the way it tastes.


  • Experiment first if possible. Ideally, buy a single-serve packet first, to sample a new product. And keep your receipt: some stores will exchange or refund, even if product has been opened.


  • Protein concentrate vs. protein isolate? Protein isolates are a purer source of the protein, containing at least 90 percent protein, while protein concentrates contain less protein, and more carbs and fat.


  • Digestibility: Wide variation in how different types of proteins are digested and assimilated by the body. The Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) ranks protein quality from zero to one.




The Skinny on various types of protein powders:



  • 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 of whey protein. ‘Pre-digested’ for body to utilize. Can be pricey.
  • Whey isolate & hydrolysate are low lactose; often tolerated by those with lactose intolerance

Top pick for Whey Isolate:  ISOPURE Whey Protein Isolate (“natural” has no artificial sweeteners)

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




  • 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

Top pick for Casein blend:  Optimum Nutrition’s Natural 100% Casein




Hemp protein (PDCAAS – 0.46), rice protein (PDCAAS – 0.47), and pea protein (PDCAAS – 0.69).

  • Beneficial for people with milk or soy allergies, as well as those looking for vegan options
  • Often higher in carbs, with less protein (hemp protein powder is often just 50 percent protein), so more protein powder needs to be consumed in order to get the same amount of protein

Top picks for plant-based protein powder: Amazing Grass Protein Superfood and Protein + Kale. Sun Warrior Protein Classic Plus.




  • Egg white protein is a medium-digested protein
  • A good fit for those who can’t consume soy or dairy
  • Client feedback: Most don’t like the taste of egg protein as much as whey or soy.






Want more from Molly?  Click here to sign up for Nutrition Bites, her weekly e-newsletter with links to her Get the Skinny TV segments here on WGNO, and her weekly column in|The Times-Picayune!   And you can follow Molly on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram:  @MollyKimballRD


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