With more supplement companies starting up all the time, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to know the difference between all the different options. If you were to step into any supplement store you will be greeted by walls of different sized tubs, brightly coloured packaging and a wide variety of prices.
But what makes one 2kg tub of protein powder twice the price of another? There are many factors such as taste and mixability that are just too personal to you to know whether you will like it without buying.
This article was written to provide a bit more clarity on choosing the best protein supplements for your goals. We also have a number of comparison tools if you already have a couple of options in mind and just want to know the differences before buying.
It’s worth mentioning that whether you are buying protein powder, protein bars or ready to drink protein shakes, these are all meant as supplements to a healthy diet and you shouldn’t be relying on these for the majority of your daily meals.
Why is it important to compare protein powders?
Even though many supplement stores are improving the range of products they stock, if you want to compare a wide range of protein powders quickly then there is really no better way than the internet.
Our comparison tools to compare protein products have been created to allow you to compare everything from serving size to grams of protein to make the differences clearer.
With all the advertising budgets that come with some of the bigger supplement companies, it’s easy to get distracted by the high quality packaging and place less importance on the actual ingredients. If you are buying protein powder the chances are it is to increase your daily protein or caloric intake to support aerobic exercise or weightlifting.
Being able to see the protein, carbohydrates, fats and other ingredients per serving makes it easier to calculate how much one of the protein shakes would add to your daily diet.
What to look for when choosing a protein powder
With so many different protein powders to compare, it can help to make a checklist before you start looking to make sure you don’t get distracted by a higher priced product just because it has an extra few ingredients you don’t even need.
It can be useful to note down answers to the following points before you start the comparison:
If you are in a rush and need to be able to bring protein powder and a shaker with you, it can be easier to look for a protein powder that’s more of a meal replacement that comes in a sachet so you can put it in your bag and mix it up later.
The answers to the questions in the checklist above will largely be dependent on what your goal is. For example if you are training for fat loss you need to be sure that your protein powder is higher in protein and lower in carbs than a protein powder designed for bulking.
In that case you might also be more worried about whether it contained ingredients that are known to assist in fat loss such as CLA, rather than making sure it contains creatine which is more likely to increase water retention.
For anyone that competes in natural bodybuilding competitions it may even be important that there are no ingredients in a protein powder that could be considered banned, so it’s important to know you are buying from a reputable protein powder company.
Protein powders for bulking
When it comes to choosing a protein powder company with a proven track record for high quality supplements, some of the better known companies include Maximuscle, BSN, PhD Nutrition and Reflex. We currently include protein powders from all of these companies in our comparison tool for you to take a look at.
Maximuscle protein powders are good because they often offer you a choice of a lower priced version of the powder with less protein, as well as a powder that is slightly higher priced with more protein. If you are looking to buy Maximuscle a good place to start is with their Promax and Progain products.
When you compare protein powders for bulking you usually just need to make sure it has plenty of calories and a relatively even ratio of protein to carbs.
Protein powders for dieting
If you are looking for protein powders for dieting then you will probably be looking for a product with much more protein and much less carbs per serving. Added ingredients are much more prolific with dieting protein powders so it’s important to research which ingredients you actually need.
Some of the more popular and effective ingredients to look out for are conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), L-Carnitine and Green Tea Extract.
A couple of high quality protein powders that include these ingredients and can be found in our comparison tool are PhD Nutrition’s Diet Whey and Maximuscle Promax Lean.
What to look for when choosing a protein bar
The main attraction of protein bars is their convenience. It’s not just supplement stores that now stock these, and you can walk into almost any major supermarket and find protein bars available to buy.
Although these are a more convenient option than protein powders, they often include high levels of sugars and should only be consumed on occasion and not part of a fixed meal plan.
The easiest way to tell a high quality protein bar from a low quality one is by looking at the ratio of carbs to protein. A good quality protein bar will usually have more than 15-20g of protein and a low amount of sugar.
This is particularly important to look for if you are dieting and want to avoid insulin spikes.
When looking through the ingredients list try to make sure you buy a bar that uses higher quality protein sources such as casein, whey isolates and hydrolyzed whey.
What to look for when choosing a ready to drink protein shake
Mixing a whey protein powder shake and immediately drinking it is much better than drinking a ready to drink shake due to all the preservatives and extra ingredients that have to be added to try to keep it fresh for long periods of time. If you have a busy day ahead then it’s worth keeping a few as a backup in case you can’t find somewhere to mix up your protein shake in a shaker.
This type of protein shake is often characterised by a blended combination of proteins rather than the powder variety that will usually be whey isolate or casein.
A couple of products worth looking at using our ready to drink protein shake comparison page are the USN Diet Fuel 330ml drinks if you are dieting, or the Maximuscle Maxi Milk 330ml if you are bulking due to the high carbs, protein and calories.