With so many protein powders on the market, it can be hard to know which one is best. Here's a guide to protein powders for specific results.

Protein powder low down - Women's Health and Fitness Magazine

 

Fat Burning

Best Protein: For fat burning, nutritionist Rosie Mansfield recommends a low-protein blend of soy isolate and whey protein. 

What to look for: Ingredients such as green tea or acai, which some studies suggest can help optimise calorie burn.

How much and when: Have a protein drink within 30 minutes of finishing hard exercise. If it is an easy walk, wait until your next scheduled meal to refuel. You don’t need to repair and can do without the extra kJs.

 

Meal replacement/Weight Loss

Best Protein: Whey-based protein

Why: “Weight loss is one of the most popular uses of protein powder, even being used as total meal replacement shakes. Proteins have a ‘thermic’ effect, meaning that they create heat in the body through the process of digestion. Since proteins take a lot of energy to digest, you burn more calories after eating a meal high in protein,” says Mansfield.

What to look for: Accredited practising dietitian Duncan Hunter recommends evaluating powders based on protein and carbohydrate content rather than focusing on the type of protein. Many pharmacy programs sell off-the-shelf DIY-style VLCDs (very low calorie diet, less than 800 calories), but not all of them are good quality. Many cheaper programs’ products are high in sugar, so check the labels. Meal replacements used as part of a VLCD should be fortified with added nutrients and you should look for ones with added fibre, higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates and sugars. Also look for ones with a support program either online or face to face.”

How much and when: For weight management, Mansfield recommends choosing whey-based powder containing fewer than three g of carbohydrate and at least 20 g of protein per serve.

 

Everyday protein

Best Protein: 100 per cent whey protein

Why: According to nutritionist Zoe Bingley-Pullin, whey-based proteins are ideal to supplement any eating plan, adding nutrients and curbing hunger and cravings by contributing satiating protein and lowering the GI of foods. 

What to look for: “Look out for synthetic sweeteners and emulsifiers that are often added to protein powders. You want a high-quality protein that is both healthy and delicious and provides you with everything you need,” says Bingley-Pullin.

How much and when: “We should be consuming one gram of protein for every kg of body weight. For example, a 70kg female would require 70 g protein a day,” says Bingley-Pullin. “Taking into consideration that you are consuming a healthy and balanced diet, containing protein and other nutrients, you should aim for 25 to 50 g of protein per serve of protein powder.”

 

Pre- and post-workout recovery 

Muscle gain/bulk

Best Protein: Whey protein

Why: While pea, soy, milk and casein protein powders are good after training, evidence shows that whey protein is best for muscle repair and strength gains, Hunter says. It not only provides the protein needed to rebuild muscle, but it’s also high in an amino acid leucine. Leucine has been shown to turn on protein synthesis, which promotes recovery, repair and growth.”

What to look for: 100 per cent whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate blend post and pre workout (24 g protein per serve).

How much and when: Mansfield recommends a serve of protein pre and post workout. “The pre-workout protein shake will help preserve muscle breakdown and provide a small amount of energy.”  Post workout, consume a whey-based protein immediately. To optimise muscle gain, “have a casein protein shake or meal replacement shake at bedtime,” Mansfield says. 

NEXT: Get your protein fix with these 10 non-powder protein food sources.