What should I look for in a protein supplement?

We live busy lives and this often means meals are skipped or we find ourselves in the fast food lines. I’ve said many times, if you are going more than five hours without eating, then you aren’t doing your metabolism any favors – you’ve got to put fuel in the furnace if you want it to keep it burning.

Protein supplements can be a great option to replace those skipped meals. But with the growing health trends, many people get confused about what is good and what is not. So first, let me give you some basic guidelines, whether you are looking at a protein bar or a drink:

Starting with what I like to call “the rule of 20″:

  • Aim for less than 20 grams of sugar per serving
  • Aim for more than 20 grams of protein per serving

You will avoid candy bars and milkshakes disguised as something healthy by following those two simple rules.

Some of my personal favorites include:

Core Power or Core Power Light: Not a lot of added vitamins, which makes them taste a whole lot better, ranging from 20-26 grams of protein and 10-26 grams of sugar. The Light version is definitely the winner here in nutritional content, but I like them both and they each offer different flavors.

Svelte: ready made protein drinks that are dairy free and again, not a whole lot of added junk to make them taste terrible. They are 180 calories and 11 grams of protein, so when I do choose these ones, I make sure to add a hard boiled egg, greek yogurt, or stick cheese to my meal to make sure I get enough protein. They have some good flavors beyond your typical vanilla and chocolate, so check them out.

Slim and Sassy Trim Shake: I have a personal bias because this is from my company, but it contains all natural ingredients, including stevia as it’s sweetener, and only 70 calories per scoop. I am not a fan of it’s low protein content at 8 grams per scoop, but you have the flexibility to make any kind of shake you want because it is a powder, and that’s the point with protein powders. The best part are the two patented ingredients it contains- EssentraTrim, shown in research to help manage cortisol—a stress hormone associated with fat storage in the abdomen, hips, and thighs (who couldn’t use that?!) And Solathin, a special protein extract from natural food sources that supports an increased feeling of satiety (i.e. it makes you feel full, longer, which can be a common issue for some when using liquid meal replacements). Contact me if you want to know how to get it.

Quest bars: you really can’t beat a good tasting bar with 20 grams or more of protein, 1 gram sugar, and an average of 200 calories. Also one of the highest in fiber of bars I’ve seen. They have no added sugar, which is what you will often see in bars like these. Instead, they’re sweetened with sucralose, stevia and/or erythritol and they are gluten and soy free if that’s a concern for you. One caution: if you are sensitive to sugar alcohols, this one may cause you some stomach upset. It never has for me, though.

Think Thin protein bars: another high protein, low sugar bar that comes in at an average of 200-250 calories with 20 grams protein and 0 grams sugar. They are sweetened with sugar alcohols, so again, not everyone will be able to tolerate these but I have never had an issue, personally. Also, you have to be a chocolate and/or peanut butter lover to appreciate this one as all of their flavors contain at least one of those.

How about types of protein?

When choosing a protein meal replacement, be sure you are choosing a high quality protein source that is easily digested and utilized by the body. In order, these are your top sources:

  1. whey protein
  2. soy protein (most dairy-free options on the market)
  3. pea protein (as in green peas, best soy-free vegan option)

How much do you really need?

Unless you are doing some serious body building, 20-30 grams in a single shake or bar will do. Beyond that, the normal body with healthy functioning kidneys will excrete it out because we can only use so much at a time. So save your money on the super-duper 50+ gram protein powders or, if you  really like them, use half a serving instead.

Have a product you love and it wasn’t mentioned here? Let me know in the comments and why you chose it!

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Jillian McMullen, CSOWM, RDN, LDN

 

Disclaimer: some of these are affiliate links and I may earn a small percentage if you chose to purchase any of the items recommended above. However, I still would be telling you to give them a try without the potential earnings. Feel free to buy them anywhere you wish!