Protein powder has been a hot topic of late and it’s something I’m often asked about by my clients. Once you’ve figured out whether you actually need it or not, there are so many different protein powders out there that choosing one can be a real minefield.
SportStylist to the rescue – we’ve pulled together this ultimate guide of whey and vegan protein powders so whatever your goals or nutrition habits, there’ll be one to suit you.
Why use protein powder?
Protein powders are a great way to reach your daily protein quota, especially when you have a busy lifestyle or spend a lot of time travelling. Protein is essential if you want a healthy balanced diet, and supping on a protein shake – if you opt for one of the powders below – is a much healthier option than many of the sugar-loaded snacks on offer to grab and go.
Although you can get sufficient protein by cooking an extra chicken breast for lunch or making sure you have poached eggs instead of cereal in the mornings, life often gets in the way and you can find yourself stuck without many protein-rich options for snacks or mealtimes. If you’re following a strict diet it can also be difficult to get enough protein in, especially if you’re active.
This is where protein powder is so useful. You can make up a shake in advance or carry the powder with you to add to some water if you’re commuting or stuck in meetings all day. I add protein to my morning spinach and mango smoothie to get an easy blast of vitamins, protein and hydration before I’ve even got to my desk, which helps me get enough protein to support my daily CrossFit sessions.
If you’re trying to lose weight, gain muscle or tone up, these protein powders are going to become your new BFF.
Photo Credit – foodspring®
How do I choose the right protein?
It’s important to choose the right protein powder for you. Lots of powders have added thickeners and loads of sweetener which are no good for your healthy diet. You also really need to know if you can tolerate lactose and dairy products or not: most powders are made from a whey or whey isolate so if you are intolerant or allergic to lactose or dairy, check out our alternative vegan protein powders instead.
Whey Isolate Protein Powders – Top Picks
Bio Synergy is my go-to source for protein powders because they have a really short ingredients list (no thickeners or unnecessary added gluten) and have a straightforward, easy-to-navigate website.
Whey Better, in 10 delicious flavours, is their primary range of protein and with over 90% protein per 100g, is the UK’s highest quality protein powder. It also contains BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids) which help your muscles to repair. Use it added to water or milk before or after training. Also delicious added to porridge or your homemade flex bowl!
We started using Coconut Whey Hey late last year in our Tutti Frutti and Hulk Smash smoothies for Fit Missions clients, and the feedback has been so positive I had to include it in our top picks. With a tiny ingredients list, you know you’re getting a quality whey concentrate with 21g of protein and 4.8g of BCAAs with each scoop. I’d recommend Whey Hey as a post-workout protein boost or adding it to your pancake or muffin mix if you’re feeling adventurous…
Vegan protein powders
Foodspring do my absolute favourite vegan protein powder, suitable if you’re lactose- or gluten-free with none of that horrible grainy texture so often associated with vegan powders! I discovered them at the Reebok CrossFit Regional in Madrid, and if I could have taken home a suitcase-full I would have done. I’ve tried their Chocolate, Vanilla and Strawberry flavours and like them all; there’s a full 20g of protein in each and it’s a blend of organic pea isolate, hemp, sunflower and rice protein with another really short ingredients list. I can highly recommend Foodspring’s proteins, and while you’re getting it, add some of their incredible ‘Crunchy Fruits’ to your order. I challenge you not to eat the entire bag in one sitting!
I would include other brands in here, but I’ve tried loads of different ones over the years and the mainstream offerings, particularly for vegan proteins, is really disappointing whereas Bio Synergy always delight me! Chocolate Mint is on my list to try next, but I use the Butterscotch flavour in my morning Hulk Smash smoothie. This one is purely pea and rice protein so is a good option if you can’t have hemp, or don’t want too strong a flavour to add to your smoothies.
Gluten, Dairy and Nut-Free Snacks
Although I’m not a fan of Prana’s protein range, their High Protein Bars in Chia & Goji Berry or Cacao & Vanilla are great snack bars, particularly if you’re intolerant to nuts (they may contain traces of peanuts and sesame so are not suitable for allergy-sufferers). Currently on offer on Groupon, these are a good option to stash in your bag if you need a quick pick-me-up.
Photo Credit – foodspring®
We’ve already established how big a fan I am of these. Get your sweet tooth fix without inhaling a load of sugar. Crunchy Veggies also available, which I’ll be trying out with my next order!
Obviously not nut free, but these cashew bars live in my work bag and are particularly useful when I’m travelling. Also available in Brazil Nut & Cherry and Macadamia & Coconut (my favourite). Four ingredients and a total bargain.
Main Photo Credit – Bio Synergy