The short answer: protein powders aren’t food.
And by now you know how I feel about the fact that we should be chewing and eating food.
But sometimes, there are exceptions to even my own “rules.” So, I’ll bend just a little here.
Some folks may be “qualified” to consume protein in a non-food/powdered form.
1. Those interested in mass-gain or who are hard-charging athletes.
If you’re looking to gain muscle mass, or you’re a hard-charging athlete who needs extra fuel beyond real meals to maintain your current level of muscle mass and performance, liquid food – protein powders can be useful.
If you find that your recovery after exercise is sluggish despite eating great meals rich in protein and quality carb sources, then a quality protein powder may be a good idea post-workout.
I repeat, consider powder only if you've already adjusted your post-workout food to an appropriate balance that includes dense carb sources.
Note: If you haven't first considered all elements of appropriate mass-gain (including sleep, proper digestive function, and the fact that you should already eating a ton of real food) those need to be primary in your approach. If your sleep and digestion are a problem, protein shakes are not a solution. For many, protein powders may even aggravate digestion even further.
If you’re on a mass-gain mission, sleeping well, digesting well, and are chowing down as much food as you can but still need to get some more calories and protein in your system, some powdered food might be okay for you.
The best types of protein powder are either 100% egg white or non-denatured whey protein from a grass-fed source. Check out some links below.
When you mix a non-denatured whey protein powder into your shakes, use a shaker bottle with a mixer ball and manually blend it or add it at the very end and pulse it just a few times in the blender so that you don’t then denature the protein. That said, these are isolated nutrients and should be viewed as supplementation sources, not food replacements. If you are capable of eating food, you should eat food.
2. Those who have diminished capacity to chew and swallow food.
Protein powder supplementation can be useful for those with diminished capacity to chew and swallow like the elderly or someone suffering from dysphagia (inability to swallow), or a very young child who is struggling to consume enough calories. These folks may benefit from including a high quality protein powder into otherwise clean-ingredient shakes.
Some ingredients that are great to add to 100% grass-fed whey protein powder or 100% egg white protein powder include:
- organic coconut milk
- coconut water (no sugar added)
- fresh or frozen fruit – bananas, berries, mango, pineapple
- egg yolks – from organic pastured eggs only (for calories and fat, not ideal for athletes post-workout refueling but may be helpful for pre-workout or adding calories for adding mass)
- organic almond butter or other nut butter (for calories and fat, not ideal for athletes post-workout refueling but may be helpful for pre-workout or adding calories for adding mass)
Some options if you discover that you “qualify” to consume protein powder:
If you are intolerant to whey, a 100% egg white protein may be okay, but the quality of the eggs from which this is made puts it in the category, in my opinion, of a lesser quality food choice.
NowFoods Egg White Protein
100% egg white protein, unflavored
GEO Organic Egg White Protein
100% egg white protein, unflavored
I also love Great Lakes Gelatin as a supplemental food source for recovery and general health. It isn't an isolated protein powder and, in my opinion, is great for anyone to add to their diet and even post-workout plan.
Great Lakes Gelatin Green Label (dissolves in water, can be added to smoothies or other powders that are shaken)