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Variety of measuring cups filled with different protein powders

Protein Powders: A Quick Guide to Choosing the Right One for You

Whether you’re a triathlete in training or hitting the gym a few times a week for good health, protein is important to building and maintaining muscle and keeping your metabolism firing. Nutritionists agree it’s best to get as much of the protein you need from whole foods, but with today’s busy lifestyles, that’s not always easy to do. Adding protein powder to a smoothie as a meal replacement, or to other foods as a booster, can help you get the protein you need. Wondering how to choose the right protein powder from the endless options lining store shelves? Here’s a guide to help you find the one to fit your needs.


Whey comes from cow’s milk and digests easily (unless you’re lactose intolerant). Whey is a complete protein, which means it has all of the amino acids your body needs. The whey isolate version tends to cost a little more than whey concentrate, but it has the highest concentration of protein and also mixes easily.


Another milk-based, complete protein, casein digests more slowly, helping you stay full longer. That makes it a good meal replacement or a good bedtime choice. It thickens when it’s mixed with water or other liquids, which makes it a good option for protein-rich treats like puddings and muffins.

Collagen peptides

This protein comes from cows, fish, pigs and chickens. It’s a complete protein that’s tasteless and dissolves easily in any liquid.


If you’re vegan or lactose intolerant, soy protein is a complete, plant-based protein option. Like its milk-based friend, whey, the isolate version has more protein, as well as isoflavones, which have been shown to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. Use soy in moderation. Some studies have linked an excess of soy consumption to an increased risk of breast cancer in women and a lowering of hormone levels in men.


This dairy-free protein comes from the yellow split pea and is cholesterol- and fat-free. It’s just shy of being a complete protein so combining it with other vegan proteins like brown rice or hemp will give you a complete option.

Brown rice

This protein is gluten free and easily digested. It’s a good option if you have a sensitive stomach or allergies to soy or dairy. It’s not a complete protein, so pair it with other plant-based proteins.


This high-fiber option is made from hemp seeds and digests easily. Hemp boasts high amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which fight inflammation. With lower levels of lynsine, one of the amino acids, hemp falls short of being a complete protein.

Anytime is the Right Time

Unless you’re vegan or have food allergies, choosing the right protein powder is mostly a matter of taste. If you’re using protein powder to supplement workouts, knowing the best time to use protein powders can be as confusing as choosing the right one. It’s easier than you think.

Generally, getting enough protein throughout the day is what matters more than worrying about how to time getting your protein in around your workout.

Want to learn more about eating right? Join us at an OhioHealth nutrition class!