For this review I wanted to get into one of the most basic yet maybe the most fundamental supplement out there for working out – protein powder.
By this point, almost everyone knows that getting enough protein in your diet is an essential part of nutrition for making progress in your workouts. Without adequate protein intake, your body doesn’t have the building blocks necessary to repair itself and grow back stronger. It can be pretty hard to get enough protein if you train really hard, especially if you are on any kind of reduced calorie diet. That’s why a huge amount of athletes decide to supplement their diet with whey protein.
For some people, the subject of plain old protein powder for a supplement review might seem a little boring. It’s not a nootropic that will make you smarter, or a preworkout that will give you crazy energy to tear up the weights. But as I said before, it’s incredibly important and essential to almost any athlete, whether weekend warrior or professional, to get enough protein in the diet to allow the body to heal properly. As a result, I feel it’s absolutely worthwhile to dive into.
Now that most of my friends know that I run a supplement review site, I’m surprised at how many ask me about what kind of protein powder I like the best. There are an incredible amount of options out there for protein – not only in brand, but also in the type of protein itself. That is, where the original source of the protein comes from.
Go to any large supplement store, and you can find protein derived from milk, eggs, beef, and even rice. Before we get into what brand and flavors I like best, I think it’s really important that we cover the different sources of protein and weigh the benefits of each.
The Main Sources of Protein Powder
Perhaps the most common source of protein powder you’ll see on store shelves is whey protein. Whey comes from milk, and is the protein rich part that is often discarded by food manufacturers in making types of cheese. This is not to be confused with casein, which also comes from milk. So which is better, whey or casein? Actually, neither specifically – that’s because they both have certain attributes that make them more useful for certain purposes.
Whey protein tends to be absorbed very fast by your body after ingestion. This is great for right after a workout, when you want to get that important protein to your muscles as quickly as possible to help them recover. However, it’s not as great if you’re taking it right before bed in order to give your body extra protein to heal while your fasting during your sleep. That’s where casein comes in. Casein protein tends to be absorbed a lot slower than whey protein. So if you have a shake right before bedtime, it will slowly absorb into your body, giving your muscles a steady supply of protein throughout the night, rather than a quick burst.
Other animal sources of protein powder include beef and egg protein. For me, I’m not aware of any huge benefits of either of these over whey or casein. I’m not saying anything bad about them at all, just to be clear. It’s just that these types of protein powder tend to be somewhat more expensive than those derived from milk, so I personally wouldn’t want to spend the extra money. But as protein sources, they are definitely legit.
Finally, for vegans or those wanting to stay away from animal products, some manufacturers do offer protein powders derived from plant sources like rice. Again, these are totally legit ways to supplement your protein intake, and will vibe with any vegan diet needs. I find that they also tend to be more expensive than milk protein, plus they don’t necessarily offer any performance benefits over milk protein either, so these will only make sense to buy if you absolutely need to avoid animal products in your diet.
My Personal Favorite Protein Powder
Ok, now that we’ve covered the basic types and advantages of the different protein powder sources out there, we can get into my favorite kind. Personally, I love Optimum Nutrition protein products in general, and their 100% Gold Standard Whey is my favorite specifically. It’s been around for as long as I can remember taking a protein supplement (over 15 years at this point), and it’s as good of a no frills, high quality, good tasting and decent mixing protein that you’ll find out there.
Quick segway – Optimum also makes casein protein, and I believe egg as well, but I only use the whey because I have my protein shake immediately after working out. Like I said before, postworkout you want a fast absorbing protein supplement to get straight to your muscles to help them repair themselves ASAP.
I usually get the French Vanilla flavor, but they have literally dozens of flavors for anyone with a specific taste. I like this flavor best too because it mixes well with almost anything – I’ve put it in smoothies, shakes, muffins, pudding, even bread.
The only possible drawback people might point out about it is the price: at over $50 for a 5 pounder, it’s not the cheapest supplement you’ll buy. But honestly, this is unfortunately the way protein powders are priced nowadays, and compared to many other brands, it’s actually very competitively priced. Any protein priced significantly lower for the same amount I would be very wary of, as you often get what you pay for in this market.
Now here is the point where I would usually do a 30 day review of the supplement. However, for protein powder it almost defeats the purpose, since it’s basically a food supplement that should be a part of any athlete’s supplementation regimen anyway. Besides, I’ve been taking this for the better part of a decade and a half, so it wouldn’t make much sense to start a 30 day review now. But if you work out seriously and you haven’t yet started to take a protein powder supplement, I would highly encourage you to start with this one.