Whether you are trying to lose some weight, gain lean muscle, improve your strength or a combination of all 3, using the right protein powder will always be an important component to achieving success.

Looking through the various research studies online has shown that supplementing can help you reach your goals. The obvious question then becomes, with so many protein powders and shakes in the marketplace, which one is right for you?

Would you like increased energy throughout your day?

Have you ever had a morning where it went all wrong? Let’s see if this sounds familiar? You woke up late, had to rush around the house trying to get yourself and your kids ready for school, while at the same time, trying to figure out what to make for breakfast. The only problem, you don’t have time to make a wholesome breakfast, opting instead to feed your kids some junk cereal.

No longer will you need to feed yourself or your kids some sort of junk food, only to have one of those mid-morning energy crashes.

Yes, it would be ideal to make a wholesome and nutritious breakfast. However, most of us simply lack the time in the morning because we are just in too much of rush to get to work and/or school on time. This is why having a plan b can come in real handy, especially if it’s quick, yet healthy for us.

I remember looking back to the 1980’s when I tried my first protein shake. I couldn’t believe how horrible the taste was. It was like licking my tongue against a chalk board. Yes, it really was that awful. Fortunately, as time has progressed, so to have the quality of the ingredients and the technology used to make the modern day protein shakes.

The challenge today is not lack of diversity in the marketplace, rather it’s which one should you buy? The fact is, many taste great, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are good for you either. According to a Consumer’s Report in July 2010, 3 of 15 protein drinks that were tested from the New York area, showed higher than acceptable levels of lead, cadmium and arsenic according to the USP recommendations.

What is protein and why do you need it?

Proteins are one of your body’s main building blocks for bone, muscle, skin and other tissues. It performs a variety of other functions, including, replicating DNA, metabolic reactions, and responding to stimuli (1). However, many people don’t always get the right amount or right kind of protein to fuel the body, especially with the “fast food” mentality in today’s world.

One popular method to ensure you get enough quality protein in your diet today, especially people that are looking to lose some weight or exercising regular, including high performance athletes, is adding in protein shakes. So, let’s take a closer look at the various protein sources.

What are the various types of protein sources used?

Let’s first take a look at some of the main ingredients that shakes are made from. Here is a list of some of the main protein sources that you will find in various brands.

  • Egg
  • Casein
  • Soy
  • Milk
  • Rice
  • Pea
  • Hemp seed
  • Flax seed
  • Whey

You will usually find a combination of several together in your favorite shake. Of course, if you are vegetarian, then you will find only those ingredients like pea, hemp and rice. Some sources are certainly better than other sources as you will learn more about later on in this article. In addition, you will typically find a combination of proteins, carbs and fats mixed together, along with a variety of other nutrients and digestive enzymes for maximum absorption.

Of course, I’m not suggesting you only get your protein from a shake. Rather, it can be used in combination with the other food you consume during your normal day.

How Much Protein Should You Be Consuming?

Depending on what your overall fitness goals are, this will vary. According to the CDC website, it recommended you get 10-35% of your daily calories should be protein based. For adults 19 – 70 years, the RDA is 46 grams per day for women and 56 grams of protein for men.

However, if you are exercising regularly, according to the ISSN, they recommend you 1.4 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For example, if you are doing strength training, they recommend a range of 1.6 to 2 grams of protein/kilogram of body weight. If you are doing endurance training, then your target range should be 1 to 1.6 grams. However, these are guidelines only because it depends on the intensity of your workouts, the quality of the protein source, and your carbohydrate intake and overall energy level.

Why Should You Consider Supplementing Your Diet With Whey Protein?

  • Supports Weight Loss and Lean Muscle Mass – This is particularly important because having the right whey protein can actually help you lose weight.
  • Boosts fat burning and metabolism
  • Supports your immune system
  • Helps to support muscle and joint health
  • Increases your energy and recovery
  • Undenatured Whey helps with the production of glutathione production

As you can see from the above points, including some whey protein in your active lifestyle can be a positive step for overall health.

My typical morning includes either a vanilla or chocolate shake first thing in the morning. Looking back over the years, there were many mornings where I would just have a cup of coffee with cream and sugar, plus eat some store bought muffin or worse – grab a coffee and donut at the local coffee house.

What I realized later on as I got older, this was a terrible way to start and fuel your body first thing in the morning. You need a high quality protein to start your day off the right way.

Meal Replacement Shakes: Not all Protein Shakes are made Equal

As you do some of your own research, you will quickly realize that finding high quality and organic whey protein can be more challenging than you think. Many brands use only the cheapest sources of protein and could care less if they use organic or from cows that have had steroids and growth hormones injected into them. As well, many of the brands out there contain artificial flavors, sweeteners, and other low quality ingredients.

Of all the sources of protein used in shakes, whey provides the best source overall because it’s a complete amino acid profile.

When it comes to whey protein, it has very high levels of branched chain amino acids (BCAAS). For example, Valine, Leucine, and Isoleucine are 3 essential amino acids known as BCAAS. These amino acids play a key role in protein synthesis and energy production in the body.

Best Protein Shakes for Weight Loss and Muscle Gain: Here’s a list of essentials to look for before buying your next can of whey:

  • All natural – free grazing cows that are not treated with any hormones or antibiotics and milked according to their natural season
  • Is your whey denatured or undenatured? Hint – choose undenatured
  • GMO free
  • Ensure product is Cold Processed to retain maximum nutrients
  • Sweetened naturally – no artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners
  • High biological value – you want to ensure you consume only the highest quality whey
  • Digestibility – you want a product that is easy to digest and absorb into your body
  • Acid free Processing – How do they process it? This is critical because it retains the quality of the whey
  • Backed by science
  • Low lactose levels and active enzymes to make digestion easier
  • Safety and Quality – do you even know the source of the whey? Most companies will not divulge where they source their whey. Isagenix – they only get it from one source – New Zealand grass fed cows because it’s the cleanest and highest quality whey you will find – period. As well, they exceed USDA organic standards.

OK, if your fist thought is, that’s a lot to expect from a can of whey protein and you would be right.

However, I truly believe it is well worth your time and due diligence to check out your current brand and some of the other brands in the market place today.