Which Protein Powder is right for you?
By Dr. Crionna Tobin, Phd, Optimum Nutrition, Head of Nutrition & Education
Protein is a key nutrient to support your training goals providing the muscle with the building blocks or amino acids needed to repair and rebuild.
Protein powders are a convenient option to get high quality protein into your diet when food may not be as accessible.
Both whey and plant-based protein powders can provide you with the amino acids you need to support your muscle goals.
Which protein powder is right for you depends on which shake fits your performance, body composition and lifestyle goals.
Don’t underestimate the power of flavour and mixability. Choosing a flavour or flavours you enjoy in both your shaker and in the kitchen can be a key factor to ensuring you never miss your daily protein hit.
Keep reading to learn how our range of Optimum Nutrition protein powders stack up against your training goals.
1. Why take a protein shake?
2. The benefits of the Whey Protein Powder
3. The benefits of Plant Protein Powder
4. Which Optimum Nutrition Protein should you choose?
5. Which protein is the right for you?
There are so many different types of protein shakes out there that it is hard to know which one suits your goals. Each shake has its own unique benefits which are important to understand so you can choose the right one for your lifestyle. This article aims to discuss some of the different types of protein shakes, the unique benefits of each and which ones from the Optimum Nutrition range may be right for you. First, what are the benefits of protein and why should you take a protein shake?
Protein plays an important role in supporting your body to train consistently. Whether your goal is to increase fitness, flexibility or strength, protein provides the body with the building blocks to support your muscle and your training goals. Ideally, you should try to get all your protein from a variety of protein rich foods such as, meat, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes, nuts, seeds and tofu. However, sometimes it can be difficult to include these foods into meals and snacks, because of our habits and how we traditionally eat or our lack of time to prepare and cook the food. In these instances, a protein shake, can be a super convenient way to add a high-quality protein source to meals and snacks. Also, a protein shake after a training session may be a lot more palatable and easier to access than a chicken breast!
Now you understand the why, next you need to understand which protein source best suits your performance and lifestyles goals; a dairy based protein shake, such as a whey protein powder or a plant-based protein option.
Whey protein is one of the most common and longstanding sources of protein in a shaker. This is because it is easily sourced from milk and is a high-quality complete protein. Whey protein is rapidly digested and packed with all the essential amino acids — which are the building blocks of protein. Although there are different types of whey protein, which you can read more about here, they all delivery high quality nutrition to the muscle to support its growth and repair.
Plant proteins are the most recent trend to pack a protein punch! They are formulated entirely from plant-based protein sources such as, brown rice, pea, wheat, fava bean or soybean. In general, these plant protein sources are incomplete or are missing one or more of the essential amino acids. This means they are unable to fully support the body’s muscle goals compared to a complete protein. However, once you combine incomplete plant protein sources, a complete protein source is created, providing all the essential aminos needed to ideally support the muscle. In fact, a study by Hevia-Larraín et al., found similar increases in strength and muscle mass in both a plant and meat-based diet groups after 3 months of regular resistance training and hitting daily protein recommendations of 1.6g per kg.
So now you know the pros of protein and the differences and benefits of both whey and plant protein shakes, but which one should fill your shaker? Let’s examine some of the most popular whey protein powders in the Optimum Nutrition range and which one may be the right choice for you.
Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein is a great choice if you are a performance driven individual, seeking to support your muscle around training or anytime throughout the day. Its blend of more isolate than concentrate, delivers 24g of premium protein to support your muscle’s growth* and repair*. There is a reason it is the World’s bestselling protein powder^, with consistency in quality, taste, and texture for over 35 years.
Gold Standard 100% Isolate is ultra-filtered for exceptional purity. It is perfect for those seeking a protein with a more cutting-edge technology which removes excess fat, cholesterol and sugar, so that 0 grams of total fat and 1 gram of carbohydrates remain. The result is an ultra-pure hydrolysed whey protein isolate designed to get into your body rapidly, so your muscles can rebuild. This is a great choice if you’re looking to add in extra protein to support muscle growth* or repair* whilst keeping the caloric intake at a minimum.
Platinum Hydrowhey, contains a single-source protein composed entirely of hydrolysed whey protein isolates. Isolates are the purest form of whey protein with no excess fat or lactose. This powder is formulated for someone seeking the most advanced and purest whey protein, delivering 30g of fast absorbing hydrolysed whey protein isolate to support serious muscle goals. This is perfect for someone who is looking for a larger serving of protein to support muscle growth* and repair* whilst again keeping the calories at a minimum.
Gold Standard 100% plant protein contains a blend of 24g of high-quality pea and rice protein and all 9 essential amino acids required to support your muscle goals after exercise. All this, plus, it is gluten free, low in sugars, Vegan Society approved and tastes great. Gold Standard 100% plant protein, is perfect for performance driven athletes, whether vegans, vegetarians or those seeking a way to reduce their intake of protein from animal sources and don’t want to compromise on the quality of their protein.
Clear Protein is designed using high quality technology to filter pea- protein isolate into a clear, transparent, and refreshingly fruity protein drink. With 20g of protein, zero sugar and a mere 90 kcal per servings, this is the perfect alternative to the traditional milky protein flavours. If you are looking for a tasty, light, 100% plant-based protein hit to support your daily protein intake and muscle goals, this is for you.
As you have read, there is plenty of variety when choosing a protein shake, from protein source to amount, while also ensuring it delivers on other macronutrient and calorie requirements to suit your body composition and performance goals. Once you have figured out which protein powder to choose in relation to these goals, the next challenge is taste, texture and mixability. To be honest, this is difficult as each of our Optimum Nutrition protein shakes are created to ensure their taste profile and mixability is consistently World class. You should choose based on the flavour you enjoy in your shaker but also one that can add some zing to your recipes in the kitchen. Finally, as each of the protein powders discussed above are high quality and will support your muscle exercise goals, its purely down to you to choose one that you enjoy most and brings the most joy to your palate so you can get more of you from you!
*Protein contributes to the growth and maintenance of muscle mass when used in conjunction with a resistance training program.
^ Source: Euromonitor International Limited; Consumer Health 2023 edition, Sports Protein Powder category, % retail value share, 2022 data
Hevia-Larraín, V., Gualano, B., Longobardi, I., Gil, S., Fernandes, A.L., Costa, L.A., Pereira, R.M., Artioli, G.G., Phillips, S.M. and Roschel, H., 2021. High-protein plant-based diet versus a protein-matched omnivorous diet to support resistance training adaptations: a comparison between habitual vegans and omnivores. Sports Medicine, 51, pp.1317-1330.