Gone are the days when protein shakes were considered the domain of gym rats with necks thicker than the average torso. Now, it’s common knowledge that if you want to make gains at the gym, you need to fuel your body with enough protein.
While you could go home and eat a steak or have one of these protein-rich snacks, a protein shake is by far the most convenient option. It’s easily transportable and you can scoff it down immediately after your workout.
But there are so many different protein powder varieties on the market, it can be hard to know which one to go for! That’s why we’ve compiled a guide to the most common types and their benefits. Scroll through the gallery to find out which protein powder is right for you.
1. Whey protein
Best for: If you want to gain muscle or boost your strength before a workout
Whey is the protein powder of choice of many gym buffs for a good reason — it’s a fast-acting protein that contains all the essential amino acids for muscle growth. As it digests so quickly, you can use it to fuel your muscles before, during or after your workout. It’s derived from milk (or cheese, specifically!), so if you’re lactose intolerant you may find it upsets your stomach.
2. Pea protein
Best for: If you’re vegan, vegetarian, paleo or lactose intolerant
If you’re on the lookout for a more natural, plant-based option, a pea protein is a great choice. This is sometimes used on its own or blended with brown rice protein. While it may not be as fast-acting as whey, it’s more sustainable, easier to digest, has a better nutritional profile and will still assist with fat loss and muscle gain.
When you get protein and other nutrients from a wholefood plant source, you also get the naturally-occurring phytonutrients, co-nutrients and enzymes that help your body use the macronutrient optimally. Not only that, plant-based proteins are gentle and easy to digest, minimising the risk of digestive issues that some people experience with whey (dairy) protein.
-Blair Norfolk, wellness advocate and founder of Activated Nutrients
3. Casein protein
Best for: Losing fat while maintaining muscle
Casein and whey protein are both derived from milk products. So, what’s the difference? While whey is fast-digesting, casein is more of a slow-burner. In fact, it can take up to 6 hours to be fully digested and absorbed by the body. This provides a more sustained amino acid delivery, which can prevent the breakdown of muscles. For this reason, casein is a great option if you’re doing a lot of cardio to burn fat but you don’t want to lose muscle. Because of its slow-digesting properties, many people recommend drinking it before bed for overnight recovery.
4. Cricket protein
Best for: If you’re paleo, if you’re avoiding sugar, if you’re up for trying new things!
Yes, cricket protein powder is a thing! It also happens to be extremely efficient for promoting muscle gain, as contains three times as much protein as steak! It also contains all of the amino acids needed for muscle development and is loaded with nutrients like iron, Omega 3, calcium and B12. Many varieties, like this one from Grilo Protein are sugar-free, too. You wouldn’t know you were drinking crickets, as they come in yummy flavours like cacao. Still, it’s not for the faint of heart!
5. Egg protein
Best for: If you’re paleo, if you’re dairy-free, if you’re on a low carb diet
Egg white protein is a surprisingly lesser-known option, considering it has a 100% biological value score. Translation: It’s really good for you! It’s sky-high in protein, contains all of the essential amino acids needed for protein synthesis, is super low carb and is easily digested by the body.