Choosing the Protein Powder to Fit Your Lifestyle
by Dean Stattmann
Whether you’re new to fitness or know the weight room layout like the back of your hand, you’re probably familiar with the importance of making sure you’re consuming enough protein throughout your day. Either way, it’s worth a reminder.
First and foremost, protein supports muscle building* and recovery. That’s especially important if your goal is to add or even just maintain muscle mass.* Of course, protein has benefits beyond muscle, too. Protein can help keep you feeling full between meals. It can also support muscle health as we age.
However, getting enough protein into your diet through meals alone can be challenging, and that’s where protein powder comes in. As a dietary supplement, whether added to shakes, smoothies, or even snacks and other recipes, protein powder can be an excellent way to fill the protein gaps in your diet.
When it comes to picking out a protein powder, you have more than a few options—each formulated to support specific goals, dietary preferences, and other factors that might be important to you.
“When you’re looking for the protein powder that will best suit your lifestyle, it can feel like the options are endless,” says Derek Howes, a certified personal trainer, author, culinary expert, and founder of The Protein Chef.
“While one kind of protein powder might fit one person’s lifestyle the best, you may find that something completely different is the better fit for yours,” Howes says. “The best protein powder is the one that works with your personal preferences.”
To help you find the protein powder that’s right for you, we asked Howes to walk us through some of the most popular varieties.
*When taken over time with regular resistance training.
Whey Protein Powder
Whey protein is the most common type of protein powder you’ll find in stores and online. Whey is a natural byproduct of the cheesemaking process and can be found almost anywhere around the world. “It is fast digesting, compared with casein protein; supports muscle protein synthesis; and naturally contains branched-chain amino acids,” says Howes.
But not all whey protein powder is created equal. Notably, there are two main varieties: whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate. “Whey protein isolate is whey protein concentrate that has gone through a sophisticated filtration process where some of the lactose, fat, cholesterol, and sugar that is naturally occurring in milk is removed,” Howes says. (Check out Isopure Whey Protein Isolate.)
That said, whey protein concentrate is a great go-to option, and it is also typically less expensive than isolate.
Casein Protein Powder
“Another common protein powder would definitely be casein,” says Howes.
Casein is a milk protein. It’s a more slow-digesting protein powder than whey, which is the key to its popularity as that means it delivers amino acids over several hours, and supports muscle recovery.
As a result, casein is the variety that many athletes prefer at night. “This powder would be my choice before bed—or between meals,” Howes says.
Plant-Based Protein Powder
“Plant-based protein powder is great for those with plant-based dietary preferences, or vegetarians looking for an affordable protein option,” says Howes.
Dietary restrictions aside, the demand for plant-based protein powders has been increasing for years as more and more people move towards including more plant-based foods into their diets. Isopure Plant-Based Protein Powder even includes ingredients like organic pea and brown rice protein.
“Popular varieties of plant-based protein powder derive their protein from sources including hemp, pea, soy, and rice, and come in various flavors that continue to expand as plant-based lifestyles get more popular,” says Howes.
Low-Carb Protein Powder
Choosing a protein powder shouldn’t mean having to settle for additional ingredients that don’t align with your goals. For instance, you might be looking for a high-quality protein powder to help you maintain muscle, but you may also be trying to keep your carb intake low.
Fortunately, there are low-carb protein powders made for this exact scenario. In fact, if you’d prefer to eliminate carbs from your protein supplement entirely, there are even zero-carb options available!
“If you’re on a low-carb diet or are looking to save your carbs for other things, you’ll want something like Isopure Zero Carb Protein Powder, made with whey protein isolate,” says Howes. “A zero- or low-carb whey protein like this will provide you with the high-quality protein you need, while also containing less than 1–2 grams of carbohydrates per serving.”
Unflavored Protein Powder
Whether you’re trying to keep ingredients to a minimum or simply can’t find a protein powder with the specific flavor you want, unflavored protein powder is a great choice.
“Outside of being able to make an unflavored protein powder blend with any flavor you want, another benefit is that it’s great for baking,” says Howes. “The culprit of most baking issues with protein powder is almost always the added ingredients, and with a product like Isopure Whey Protein Isolate Unflavored you just don’t have those issues.”
Similarly, if you prefer to blend your protein powder into smoothies, an unflavored option will provide you with increased flexibility and freedom to create a more diverse range of recipes.
Caffeine-Boosted Protein Powder
While many varieties of protein powder are focused on what they don’t contain—for example, carbs, whey, or flavor—others can offer you a little something extra!
“For instance, try a protein powder with some caffeine in it,” says Howes. “Each serving of Isopure Coffee is made with 25 grams of whey protein isolate, along with 30–40mg of caffeine from real coffee.”
Better yet, each serving also packs 5.5 grams of naturally occurring branched-chain amino acids and four grams of naturally occurring L-Glutamine.