Your Guide to Choosing the Best Protein Powder

Your Guide to Choosing the Best Protein Powder


Protein is an essential element in any meal, particularly if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain or gain muscle. Our bodies use protein to build and repair muscles, organs, skin, tendons, hormones, and more, so you don’t have to be into bodybuilding to benefit from upping your intake. One of the best ways to increase your protein intake is to eat or drink protein powder.

There are hundreds of different types, brands, and flavors of protein powder on the market, but all are certainly not made equal. To help you choose the right protein powder for your body and your goals, we’ve answered all the most frequently asked questions about protein powder.


What are the benefits of using protein powder?

  • It’s protein-efficient: Protein powder allows us to increase our protein intake without having to consume bigger meals. Good protein powders contain protein and little else, so you don’t have to increase your fat or carbohydrate intake to consume more protein.

  • You can use it as a meal replacement: Protein powder supplements can help us lose weight when we consume them as a meal replacement. The protein content in protein powders can help us feel satiated and full, while the low carb count means we’re consuming fewer calories. It’s a win-win! Just make sure you don’t use other ingredients that make them less beneficial. For example, don’t mix your protein shakes with fruit juice as you’ll ramp up the carbs and sugar with all that concentrated fruit juice.

  • You can maintain and increase your muscle mass: Alongside aiding with weight loss, protein powder can help increase our muscle-building potential. Muscle is composed of muscle fibers that are made up of amino acids. When increasing the number of amino acids circulating in the bloodstream through protein powder, we increase our bodies’ muscle-building potential. This is a great way to not only build more lean muscle but maintain your muscle mass when dieting so you can keep your metabolism high.


What’s the best way to incorporate protein powder into my routine?

  1. Pick a pure product with as few added ingredients as possible. Look for a powder without added ingredients that’s as close to pure protein as possible. Avoid consuming pre-mixed shakes and protein bars, as you’ll consume unnecessary added sugar.  

  2. No more than 1-2g of sugar. Seek out a protein powder that does not have more than 1-2 grams of sugar to avoid spiking your insulin levels, and keep this sugar content in mind when you’re considering your daily macros.

  3. Look for around 20g of protein per serving. Make sure you compare serving sizes to see how much protein is included per serving and don’t forget to check what size serving they’re using. Many companies will try to manipulate the nutritional label by making the serving size bigger or smaller than what’s normal to make their product look better.

  4. Find a protein powder that has a GMP label, which ensures that it has been screened and has passed the Good Manufacturing Practice.

  5. Consider what type of protein powder will work best for your body. Whey protein powder is made from cow's milk, while soy is made from (you guessed it!) soy. Choose what’s best for you and your stomach, and be willing to swap to a plant-based protein powder if you find your body does not agree with whey protein. Some people experience bloating after having whey protein and may feel better with a pea protein substitute.

  6. Too much protein won’t help you. Too much protein can stall weight loss because you’ll simply be eating additional calories. To facilitate weight loss, it is important to view your protein shakes as a substitute, rather than an additional snack.

  7. Consume protein shortly after your workouts. Following a workout session, the muscle tissue will have endured some wear and tear (that’s good, that’s how it grows!). In the process of healing the muscle, the body will use circulating amino acids to aid in the repair of the muscle which may result in increased muscle mass, so drinking a shake after a workout is a great time to get the best benefits from your protein powder.

  8. Calculate how much protein you really need. The best way to know how much protein is good for you is to do a body composition analysis. This will tell you how much of your weight is lean muscle mass. Ideally, you’re looking for one gram of protein for each lb of lean body mass.


What pitfalls should I avoid when buying a protein powder?

Don’t buy your protein powder purely based on marketing or what tastes good. You’re taking protein powder for the nutritional benefits, so make sure you know what all the ingredients are. Many supplements may have other vitamins and minerals alongside the main labeled ingredient, so keep an eye out for any inactive ingredients or fillers within the supplement. You’ll also want to make sure that it has been tested for purity and quality. Look for “Non-GMO” labels and a “dairy-free” or “gluten-free” label if that’s relevant to you. 

Certain supplements can be taken in excess and lead to toxicity if accidentally overdosed. Many protein powders include added vitamins such as A, D, E, or K, which can harm the body if consumed in excess. These vitamins are not water-soluble, but fat-soluble, so when taken in high amounts, they will not be excreted in the urine but will be stored in fat. When taken as a supplement, these vitamins should be monitored by occasional blood tests, or when you suspect you may have ingested too much.

Additionally, iron can be taken in excess and may lead to toxicity when taken unnecessarily by those who are not anemic. Such issues are common in those who menstruate, those with problems absorbing iron from the gut, and those who don’t get enough dietary iron, so make sure you check which vitamins and minerals are in a potential protein powder and how much of each.


You should always look to get the majority of your protein intake from your balanced meals, but it’s not always possible, especially if you’re on a diet or following a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. The right protein powder is a great way to do this. Now that you know how to pick up the right protein powder for you, all you have to do is choose your flavor and get shaking! 


Dr. Nancy Rahnama, MD, ABOM, ABIM, is a medical doctor board certified by both the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Internal Medicine. Her specialty is Clinical Nutrition, that is, the use of nutrition by a medical doctor to diagnose and treat disease. Dr. Rahnama has helped thousands of people achieve their goals of weight loss, gut health, improved mood and sleep, and managing chronic disease. 

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