Protein shakes remain one of the most popular breakfast and snack options, as they can be an ideal way to get needed protein into your diet in a quick and easily digestible form, as well as provide you with a variety of vitamins and minerals through the fruits, veggies, and other superfood ingredients that can be added. They taste delicious, are easily transportable, and can be customized to suit a variety of palates and tastes. But finding the right product among the sea of choices can be daunting. By learning about the available options, benefits, and uses, you’ll be well on your way to finding the best protein shake option for you. Continue reading below in our complete guide to protein shakes.
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What Is the Best Type of Protein Powder?
There are a wide variety of protein powders, ranging from egg whites and whey to collagen or plant-based protein powders. While one is not necessarily superior to another, there are some significant differences between each type. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, animal proteins, for example, are typically harder on the land, requiring greater usage than plant-based proteins such as pea protein powder.1 Animals also require more energy and water. In general, plant-based proteins are a more sustainable choice. And whereas whey protein is also difficult to digest for many who are intolerant or sensitive to milk or milk-based products, pea protein powder’s absence of lectins, low phytates and naturally-derived, single-source ingredient of golden European peas contribute to its 98% digestible rating.
No matter if you choose a plant-based protein or animal-based protein powder, it is important to know what additional ingredients and fillers are in the protein powder. Some of the many additional ingredients include:
- Artificial colors or flavors
- Milk or milk-derived ingredients
- Soy protein or soy derivatives
- Thickeners or stabilizers like guar gum, xanthan gum, and lecithin
- GMO (genetically modified organisms) sources
- Vegetable oils
The key is to understand your own health and remain informed about the company’s products’ ingredient lists. Equally important is to know where a company sources their ingredients, in particular their protein. For instance, the golden peas found in Nuzest’s Clean Lean Protein are sourced from well-established pea farms in Europe. And all their products have been Non-GMO Project Verified.
Whichever type of protein powder you choose, it can also be helpful to understand your reason for making protein shakes in the first place. Are you looking to build muscle? Improve gut health? The pea protein found in Clean Lean Protein can support these types of goals: for example, a large study showed that pea protein was as effective as whey for muscle-building in men.2 Learn more about how whey — and all other proteins such as collagen, hemp, or pumpkin seed — compare with pea protein.
What Are the Benefits of Protein Powders?
As one of the body’s primary building blocks, supporting the bones, muscle, and skin, protein is an essential piece of overall good health. It’s also something we need more of as we age, as most of us aren’t getting our daily requirements. In a 2015 study of older adults published in the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Medicine, those who ate double the amount of recommended protein had greater muscle protein synthesis. They also showed an improvement in net protein balance (the difference between protein synthesis and breakdown.3) The takeaway? Since we lose muscle mass as we age, getting sufficient protein becomes an essential way to help slow that process.
While getting protein from whole-food sources is always ideal, protein powders can also be a viable and beneficial means of obtaining daily protein requirements. And there is definite evidence that they work: whey protein has been studied for its ability to improve body weight,4 and there are studies that have shown that protein-based supplementation, such as a protein powder, can help reduce muscle damage, and enhance recovery.5 In short, protein powders that are created using high-quality sources and ingredients are a great way to add clean protein into your daily routine.
Pros (and Cons) of Using Protein Powder
One of the most obvious pros of using protein powder is its convenience. Whether you’re an athlete looking for a way to get your protein after an intense workout, or an older adult looking to quickly improve your protein intake, protein powders can quickly be mixed with water (or made into a delicious smoothie with fruits, veggies, and other superfoods) at any time of day.
Another pro? They’re filling. For those looking to maintain or lose weight, protein powders can be a way to fill up without maxing out their calorie “budgets”. And protein powders such as Clean Lean Protein also contain the nine essential amino acids that the body cannot make on its own, so you can quickly get these protein building-blocks which are involved in nearly every biological process, from wound healing to muscle growth.6
Can I Use Protein Powder as a Meal Replacement?
While some protein such as whey has been studied for its impact on weight loss, in general, protein powder can be used as part of a holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle, including maintaining or reaching a healthy weight. While some people may use protein shakes as a meal replacement, we recommend using protein powder to complement your meals. From smoothies to oatmeal or plant-based burgers to hearty soups, protein powders can be added to get that extra kick of protein you need. Whatever the palate or mood you’re in, there is a recipe for you! Finding a good source of protein is less about using one particular kind than it is knowing your current health needs, your palate, and the product’s ingredients.
When making a protein shake, you can certainly use water, especially if you’re watching overall calorie counts, since milk can add additional calories. However, using milk can also result in a thicker, creamier consistency for your protein powder shake than water. And if you’re using nut milks, you may also be getting more fiber than you’d find in cow’s milk — along with fewer calories and less fat.7
If you’re a bodybuilder and you’re looking to increase your muscle protein synthesis, there is ample evidence that consuming protein pre or post workout can have such an impact8.
Should I Use Protein Powder Daily?
Given that protein intake over the long term is what plays a larger role in how your body adapts to exercise9, it makes sense to include protein powder as part of a healthy, daily diet. The daily recommended amount of protein is .8 grams per kilogram of body weight, or .36 grams per pound, equally approximately 46 grams for an average sedentary woman and 56 grams for the average man10. The two scoop serving of Clean Lean Protein provides 18-21 grams, helping you to get a jump start on your daily protein requirements.
How to Take Protein Powder
Can you take protein powder by mixing with water in a shaker cup? Absolutely! That method remains one of the simplest — and fastest — ways to drink your protein shake. Not to mention, it’s also one of the easiest ways to enjoy a smooth, lump-free protein shake. But there’s also a whole world of recipes beyond the shaker cup and water method. So start exploring!
Some creative, delicious ways to take Clean Lean Protein powder include:
- Protein Oats Recipes: think PB & J, Chocolate Peppermint, Pumpkin Pie… the list goes on!
- Protein Smoothies: unique twists on familiar favorites such as a Peanut Butter Cookie Shake Smoothie or Pumpkin Pie with cacao nibs and ginger
- Smoothie Bowls
- Savory Meals, Breakfasts and More: from pancakes to burgers, protein powder can add protein and flavor to all your favorite foods
- Cakes: think you can’t have your cake and protein too? Think again!
Are Vegan Protein Powders as Effective as Other Protein Powders?
Many who enjoy protein powders also cannot consume the dairy commonly found in whey protein or whey isolate due to a lactose intolerance or sensitivity. Dairy can also increase insulin levels,11 another reason some may choose to avoid it. And if you’re living on a vegetarian diet, you’ll want to better understand how plant-based protein powders, like pea protein, fit in as part of your overall diet.
Vegan protein powders have many similarities to other kinds of protein such as collagen or whey. They support muscle health, healthy lifestyles, and are a more environmentally-friendly choice overall. A vegan pea protein powder such as Clean Lean Protein, contains 18-21 grams of protein per serving, the same amount as found in most other protein powders. And, in the case of Clean Lean Protein, all nine essential amino acids are present, making it a “complete” protein, similar to meat.
Whether you’re looking for convenience, taste, or nutrition, protein shakes are a great option for bringing variety and versatility to your diet. With flavors like Smooth Vanilla, Wild Strawberry, and Rich Chocolate, Clean Lean Protein combines flavorful and unique tastes with ethically sourced ingredients to create a protein powder that’s as delicious as it is nutritious.