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The scoop on protein powder

Pignata mixes fresh ingredients in her protein shakes every morning for breakfast. (Marisa Tangeman)
Pignata mixes fresh ingredients in her protein shakes every morning for breakfast. (Marisa Tangeman)

So you’ve been exercising, lifting weights, building that butt or you’re simply interested in changing up your thoughts and routines around food.  Nutrition and exercise work perfectly together to nourish your body and allow you to perform at your optimal levels. Protein is a regular item of discussion in the fitness community.

Protein is one of three essential macronutrients (macros), the others being fats and carbohydrates, found in food. It’s important to identify the amount of macros that you consume regularly to make sure you’re in good health. Everyone’s macro needs are different.

Many people find it difficult to incorporate enough protein in their diets, and this can show itself in characteristics like feeling tired, hungry or not seeing the results wanted in the gym.  It is important to get your protein from natural sources such as meat, dairy, fish or plant sources, like soy and legumes.

However, if you’re looking to increase your protein intake for whatever personal reason, protein powders may be a great addition to your diet. Based on people’s individual dietary needs and preferences, there is a protein powder for everyone. Below are a few of the many variations in protein powders.


Whey protein powder is one of the most common and least expensive options. Whey protein powder is a form of protein that is found in milk, so this is not a vegan or dairy sensitive/friendly option.  Typically, whey protein powders contain 24-30 grams of protein per scoop and vary widely in caloric content from anywhere between an estimated 110 calories to 200 calories.  This is a great option to have right after a workout to improve muscle reparation from lifting weights or exercising in general. Stick with vanilla flavored powder to mix with berries and vegetables for breakfast in the morning as a meal replacement shake.  Or, add peanut butter and banana with a chocolate protein powder and get yourself a Reese’s Cup experience in a shake.

One of the best known and highly ranked brands of whey protein is Optimum Nutrition’s 100% Whey Gold Standard, which comes in a ton of flavors and includes 24 grams of protein at 120 calories per serving.


This option is for anyone who is sensitive to dairy or is looking for a vegetarian/vegan protein powder. Soy protein powder is based from the soybean plant and has been tested to support the growth and development of muscles.  In addition to the increased protein content of this plant-packed powder, there are great nutrient benefits available such as potassium, zinc, iron and essential amino acids for recovery.  The best bang for your buck on soy protein is to pick a powder labeled “Soy Protein Isolate” to achieve the purest form of the soy proteins and less of a soy taste.  Texture and taste depend on the brand, as some of the plant-based powders can be a bit gritty, so make sure to look up reviews for the powder that seem right for you.

Try Universal Nutrition’s Advanced Soy Pro chocolate soy protein isolate (27 grams of protein at 117 calories per serving) with almond milk or water in a shaker cup post-workout to reap all the muscle gains from training.


Hemp protein powder is the best option for our vegan athletes. It is a completely vegan powder form of Edestin, which is the leguminous protein found within the hemp seed.  This powder form of the hemp seed yields a 50 percent concentration of protein.  Similarly to soy, there are additional benefits in the form of over 20 amino acids that are great aids in the reparation of muscles post-workout.

If you’re looking for a plant-based powder to add to your diet, try Manitoba Harvest’s Dark Chocolate Organic Hemp Protein powder.  This brand yields 8 grams of protein at 120 calories per serving, and is a great powder to use post-workout or in addition to a normal meal to increase your general protein intake.

While hemp, soy and whey powders are common and readily available, there are quite a few more out there to fit anyone’s protein needs.  With any change in diet, please consult your doctor or conduct your own product research to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need specific to you.  Get to shaking.