If you’re looking to build muscle, lose fat, or just improve your overall level of fitness, you’ve probably been told about the importance protein plays in achieving those goals. You may have also been advised to purchase Protein Powder.
However, there are many different types of protein powder, which can make the process of choosing the best protein powder to maximize your results a bit confusing.
That’s where this guide comes in.
We’ll help you navigate the ins and outs of protein powder as well as explain what we consider to be some of the best ones on the market.
What is Protein Powder?
Protein powder is one of the most popular nutritional supplements that contain highly concentrated sources of protein from animal or plant foods, including:
- Brown rice
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Chia seeds
How Does Protein Powder Work?
The way protein powder works are pretty simple, it supplies your muscles with a highly bioavailable source of dietary protein, rich in all of the essential amino acids (particularly leucine -- the “anabolic-trigger” of muscle growth) required to synthesize muscle protein.
You see, our bodies are in a constant state of breaking down and building themselves back up. Increased physical activity, stress, and illness also increase the rate of protein breakdown, making our daily protein needs even greater.
Protein powder provides an extremely efficient source of protein the body can use as it is packed with amino acids, which serve as the “building blocks” the body uses to create new tissue in the body.
But there’s more.
Protein powder is also digested more rapidly than whole food meals, which means the amino acids contained within protein powder are shuttled to your muscle fibers faster, allowing for faster, more efficient growth and recovery.
Additionally, certain types of protein, such as whey protein concentrate, contain nutrients (such as immunoglobulins) that bolster the function of the immune system, which helps you avoid sickness, thereby allowing you to train more frequently.
What are the Benefits of Protein Powders?
Protein powders offer several advantages over whole food based meals:
- Shelf-stable -- meaning they do not need to be refrigerated.
- Cost-efficient -- compared to other whole food protein sources, protein powders offer a better price per gram of protein. This makes protein powder an ideal option for those dealing with a tight budget.
- Convenience -- protein powder allows you the opportunity to get in a quick high-protein meal when you don’t have time to cook a meal, or you’re not in the mood for whole food.
- Diversity -- muscle-building and fat loss diets tend to involve a lot of the same foods over and over again, which can lead to palate fatigue and increase the likelihood you’ll veer from your nutrition plan. Protein powder provides a tasty, indulgent high-protein, treat that makes you feel like you’re having something “naughty”.
- Diet-friendly -- protein powders tend to be low in both carbs and fat, which means they can be used by individuals following reduced-calorie diets who are seeking weight loss.
- Versatile -- while protein powder is most commonly consumed in the form of a shake, it can also be used to create pancakes, waffles, muffins, smoothies, cookies, bars, brownies, puddings, and bread.
- Body composition -- protein powder has been shown in research trials to support muscle gain and fat loss
Why Do You Need Protein Powder?
Consuming enough dietary protein is absolutely essential to getting your results, but due to increasing demands for our time, energy, and effort many of us forego our nutrition for the sake of “hustling.” And, when your nutrition suffers, so too do your results.
In those times when we’re pressed for time, or just too exhausted from our hectic day to prep, cook, clean, and eat a healthy, high protein meal, having a high-quality protein powder can be a godsend.
Protein powder affords us the convenience of being able to get in a quick, affordable, and delicious-tasting, high-protein meal whenever we need to.
How To Use Protein Powder Effectively
As we just stated, protein powder can really be used anytime, anywhere to help make sure you stay on track with your nutrition plan and hit your daily protein requirements.
That being said, there are a few “choice” times you would want to mix up a delicious, easy-mixing protein shake and knock it back:
Post Workout: Intense exercise places considerable strain on your muscles, creating micro-tears in the fibers. To repair this damage and support growth, your muscles require amino acids. Consuming a protein shake immediately after training supplies them with a highly bioavailable source of amino acids that are digested and absorbed much more quickly than a whole food meal, which supports quicker recovery due to the accelerated pace with which the amino acids are shuttled into your muscles.
- Pre Workout: Not all of us have time to eat a complete meal before training, and for those of us that work out first thing in the morning or don’t like having the sensation of a full belly during our workout, having a protein shake 30-45 minutes before training ensures that our muscles have an ample supply of amino acids to support growth and recovery.
- Meal Replacement: Running low on time? Protein shake is a perfect meal replacement.
Most popular Types of Protein Powder
Far and away, the most commonly used protein powder is whey protein.
Whey is naturally-occurring in cow’s milk and is derived from a by-product of the cheese-making process (curds and whey are separated, with the cards being used to make the cheese). The thin, milky liquid left over after the separation is then dehydrated and filtered and the end result is the whey protein powder we’ve all come to know and love.
Whey accounts for 20% of the protein content in milk with casein accounting for the remaining 80%. It is a complete protein source, containing all of the essential amino acids (particularly leucine, one of the BCAAs) the body requires to support protein synthesis.
Whey is also incredibly fast-digesting, much more so than casein, which makes it ideal as either a pre-workout or post-workout shake.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that consuming whey protein in conjunction with resistance-training can help build muscle, preserve lean mass while dieting, increase strength, and improve recovery following exercise.[2,3,4,5]
Additional research also documents that whey protein may support fat loss as it helps reduce appetite comparable to other types of protein.[6,7]
All that being said, there isn’t just one type of whey protein available for purchase, there’s actually three different forms of whey protein.
What are the differences between each?
Whey Protein Concentrate
Whey protein concentrate (WPC) is a less filtered form of whey protein. Different types of WPC can contain anywhere between 60-80% protein by mass.
WPC-60 = per 100 gram 60% is protein
WPC-70 = per 100 gram 70% is protein
WPC-80 = per 100 gram 80% is protein
This means that if you were to consume 100 grams of whey protein by mass, it provides you with anywhere between 60-80 grams of protein.
What are the remaining 20-40 grams made of?
The remaining percentage is composed of a mix of carbohydrates (lactose) and fat.
1UP uses the highest quality whey protein concentrate that is WPC-80, which contains 80% protein by mass with lower amounts of carbohydrates, lactose, fat, and calories than other grades of whey protein concentrate, such as WPC-60 or WPC-70
The advantage concentrates have in being less refined than other forms of whey protein is that they retain higher amounts of beneficial fractions such as lactoferrin and ɑ-lactalbumin, which support immune function.
But the biggest advantage of concentrates protein is it tastes way better, also tend to have way better mouthfeel, texture than other forms of whey protein due to their slightly higher carb and fat contents.
Whey Protein Isolate
Whey protein isolate (WPI) undergoes a further bit of filtration to remove even more carbohydrates and lactose, creating a protein powder that must contain a minimum of 90% protein by mass. This means WPI contains a higher amount of protein and fewer carbs, lactose and milk fat than concentrates, making it an ideal choice for those with lactose sensitivities.
The tradeoff with the increased processing WPIs undergo is that they may lose more of the immune-boosting fractions naturally-occurring in concentrates, and they may also have a thinner-tasting texture.
Hydrolyzed Whey Protein
Hydrolyzed whey protein (whey hydrolysate) is the most refined form of whey protein, containing little to no fats, carbs, or lactose. It’s also the fastest digesting of the three forms of whey protein.
The reason hydrolyzed whey is so rapidly digested has to do with the hydrolysis process used to create it.
Hydrolysis serves as a sort of “pre-digestion” as it is a chemical process where enzymes are added to the protein to partial breakdown the peptide bonds linking the proteins together. This creates a protein powder that is extremely fast digesting and rapidly absorbed by the body.
Plant-Based Protein Powder
Plant-based protein powders are extremely popular with vegetarians, vegans, and individuals with allergies or sensitivities to dairy or eggs as well those looking to diversify their protein sources and reduce their consumption of animal-based products.
Similar to whey protein, not all plant protein powders are the same. In fact, plant-based protein powders can be derived from a number of whole-food sources including
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Brown Rice
- Hemp Protein
Now, it’s important to realize that plant-based protein powders do tend to come with a bit of a “drawback” in that most plant-derived protein (brown rice, for example) are lacking or deficient in one or more of the essential amino acids. This makes them an “incomplete” protein since they do not supply sufficient amounts of all the essential amino acids required to support protein synthesis.
Due to this, plant protein powders typically contain a mix of different plant protein sources to fill in any amino acid gaps present within each plant protein, thereby creating a complete protein.
However, there are a few complete plant protein sources, including pea protein, which you’ll find as the highest dosed protein powder in our Organic Vegan Protein.
Which Protein Powder is Best for YOU?
1UP Nutrition understands the importance protein serves in your ability to get the results you want from your diet and training program. That’s why we’ve created a diverse line of protein supplements to satisfy any and all needs you may have.
1UP Whey Protein
1UP Whey Protein supplies 25 grams of highly bioavailable protein from a combination of cross-flow ultra & nano-filtered, cold processed whey protein concentrate and hydrolyzed whey protein isolate.
Now, most of the whey protein blends you’ll find on the market use a proprietary blend of proteins. We’re not most whey protein blends though.
Unlike other protein supplements, 1UP Whey Protein tells customers exactly how much of each protein source they’re getting in every scoop. Every serving of 1UP Whey Protein supplies 22.91 g (delivering 17.5 g complete protein) whey protein concentrate and 8.72 g (yielding 7.5 g complete protein) hydrolyzed whey protein isolate.
Our fully transparent protein blend gives a “best of both worlds approach” as you get the luxurious taste and texture of concentrate with the incredibly high protein (and minimal carb and fat content) of hydrolyzed whey protein isolate.
1UP Whey Protein mixes easily (no clumping!), digests rapidly, and comes in 6 unique, delicious flavors, including:
- Coconut Ice Cream
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Blast
- Banana Caramel
- Cinnamon French Toast
- Pumpkin Spice Cake
- White Chocolate Mint
1UP ISO Protein
1UP ISO Protein delivers 25 grams of high-quality whey protein isolate, considered by many to be the “purest” form of whey protein.
Similar to our 1UP Whey protein blend, ISO Protein touts a fully transparent whey formula, with each scoop supplying 25g complete protein from 27.78g of WPI.
ISO Protein is fast-digesting, yet easy on the stomach and offers a lighter texture compared to the thicker tasting Whey Protein Blend. This is ideal for those times following a tough workout when you’re drenched in sweat and need something that doesn’t feel too thick or heavy.
Even better, ISO Protein is very low in calories, as each scoop only contains 109 calories and one gram of carbohydrates. Furthermore, ISO protein also contains NO fat or sugar, making ideal for those on reduced calorie diets who need to maximize their protein to calorie ratio.
In terms of flavors, ISO Protein comes in three all-time classic flavors in:
- Chocolate Milkshake
- Vanilla Ice Cream
- Strawberry Milkshake (coming soon)
Organic Vegan Plant Protein
For those following a vegan diet as well as those looking to incorporate more plant protein into their diets, we’ve also created an Organic Vegan Protein powder.
Our vegan protein blend is non-GMO and contains a mix of:
- Organic Pea Protein Isolate
- Organic Sunflower Seed Protein
- Organic Pumpkin Seed Protein
- Organic Natural Cocoa
- Organic Coconut Oil
- Organic Stevia Extract
It should be mentioned that not all vegan protein powders are created the same. As we mentioned above, some plant proteins (such as brown rice protein) do not provide sufficient amounts of all of the essential amino acids required to synthesize muscle protein. We include a complete protein source in pea protein also with two other plant proteins to further bolster the amino acid content of our vegan protein.
Additionally, our vegan protein powder is certified organic. Most other plant proteins on the market are not.
What does “Organic” mean?
The USDA organic label means:
A product has been produced using approved methods and meets the specific requirements that must be vetted by a USDA-accredited certifying agent before products can be labeled USDA organic.
In general, this means organic products are produced by operations documented to help protect natural resources, conserve biodiversity, and contain only approved substances.
The USDA certified organic logo can be used only after a certifying agency like EcoCert verifies each ingredient within the product and then the USDA grants the access to their logo to be used on the product and in its marketing.
What is EcoCert?
EcoCert is a USDA Organic certification company that verifies all of the natural ingredient sources used to make our product.
1UP Organic Vegan Protein is also vegan certified.
To become vegan certified, a product must contain only plant-based vegan natural ingredient sources.
As you can see, a considerable amount of time and effort go into bringing a top-tier USDA-certified Organic Vegan Protein to market. Most companies just produce a regular plant-based protein without any certifications. Sure, it’s cheaper to go the non-certified route, but at what cost. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for,
Finally, 1UP Organic Vegan Protein is Non-GMO, Gluten-Free, Soy Free, and Sucralose Free. It also contains NO synthetic or artificial Ingredients or added sugar.
1UP Organic Vegan Protein is available in three delicious, classic flavors, including:
- Peanut Butter
There are times when you’re just not in the mood for a protein shake, or you might want something that has a bit more texture.
That’s where protein bars come in handy.
Protein bars provide the sensation of eating something indulgent while at the same time providing your muscles with a robust dose of high-quality protein.
1UP Nutrition Protein Bars are the ultimate on-the-go protein snack as each bar supplies 20 grams of fast-digesting whey protein.
Unlike other bars on the market, ours contain no GMOs, trans fats, sucralose or added preservatives.
Additionally, our bars are cold-pressed, not baked, meaning the protein in the bars does not become denatured due to the heat applied during the baking process.
Every batch made of 1UP Protein Bars is produced in micro batches (i.e. limited quantities). By creating these small, handcrafted batches, we help ensure peak freshness of your protein bars.
Other bars manufactured in a mass-production facility often sit on store shelves for months on end, meaning you get a protein bar with inferior taste, texture, and chew.
Yes it takes more labor and time to micro-batch process our bars. But it allows for a higher level precision, which benefits you the consumer in both a better quality bar, and a better tasting one too!
1UP Protein Bars are available in five palate-pleasing flavors, including:
- Chocolate (gluten-free)
- Chocolate Peanut Butter (gluten-free)
- Strawberry Cream (gluten-free)
- Blueberry (gluten-free)
- Cookies & Cream
- Hoffman JR, Falvo MJ. Protein - Which is Best?. J Sports Sci Med. 2004;3(3):118–130. Published 2004 Sep 1.
- Pennings, B., Boirie, Y., Senden, J. M. G., Gijsen, A. P., Kuipers, H., & van Loon, L. J. C. (2011). Whey protein stimulates postprandial muscle protein accretion more effectively than do casein and casein hydrolysate in older men. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 93(5), 997–1005.https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.110.008102
- Cribb, P. J., Williams, A. D., Carey, M. F., & Hayes, A. (2006). The effect of whey isolate and resistance training on strength, body composition, and plasma glutamine. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 16(5), 494–509.
- Buckley, J. D., Thomson, R. L., Coates, A. M., Howe, P. R. C., DeNichilo, M. O., & Rowney, M. K. (2010). Supplementation with a whey protein hydrolysate enhances recovery of muscle force-generating capacity following eccentric exercise. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 13(1), 178–181.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2008.06.007
- Tipton, K. D., Elliott, T. A., Cree, M. G., Wolf, S. E., Sanford, A. P., & Wolfe, R. R. (2004). Ingestion of casein and whey proteins result in muscle anabolism after resistance exercise. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 36(12), 2073–2081.
- Bendtsen, L. Q., Lorenzen, J. K., Gomes, S., Liaset, B., Holst, J. J., Ritz, C., … Astrup, A. (2014). Effects of hydrolysed casein, intact casein and intact whey protein on energy expenditure and appetite regulation: a randomised, controlled, cross-over study. The British Journal of Nutrition, 112(8), 1412–1422.https://doi.org/10.1017/S000711451400213X
- Veldhorst, M. A. B., Nieuwenhuizen, A. G., Hochstenbach-Waelen, A., van Vught, A. J. A. H., Westerterp, K. R., Engelen, M. P. K. J., Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S. (2009). Dose-dependent satiating effect of whey relative to casein or soy. Physiology & Behavior, 96(4–5), 675–682.
- Geiser M. (2003) The wonders of whey protein. NSCA’s Performance Training Journal 2, 13-15
- Tang, J. E., Moore, D. R., Kujbida, G. W., Tarnopolsky, M. A., & Phillips, S. M. (2009). Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men. Journal of Applied Physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985), 107(3), 987–992.https://doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.00076.2009
- Banaszek A, Townsend JR, Bender D, Vantrease WC, Marshall AC, Johnson KD. The Effects of Whey vs. Pea Protein on Physical Adaptations Following 8-Weeks of High-Intensity Functional Training (HIFT): A Pilot Study. Sports (Basel). 2019;7(1):12. Published 2019 Jan 4. doi:10.3390/sports7010012
- Babault N, Païzis C, Deley G, et al. Pea proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: a double-blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled clinical trial vs. Whey protein. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12(1):3. Published 2015 Jan 21. doi:10.1186/s12970-014-0064-5