There are so many protein powder choices these days, it can be overwhelming. Please read below the benefits to each one to discover which would suit you best. You can also view my insights on the subject in SHAPE.

411 on the Different Types of Protein Powders

Whey protein is derived from milk and there are three different types. Whey protein concentrate (WPC) is the most commonly found and contains low levels of fat and carbohydrates, and is made up of 30%-90% protein. Due to the quick digestion it makes for a great protein to assist with muscle recovery after a workout. Whey also contains immunoglobulins that can boost your immune system.

Casein is derived from milk. It digests slower than whey. Unlike whey proteins that are better post workout, casein is great before bed to assist in overnight muscle recovery. It’s slower digestion rate lets it function as a “slow drip” protein source as you sleep.

Soy is a plant based protein and can be helpful for those who are sensitive or intolerant to dairy. Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 25 g soy protein per day may reduce the risk of heart disease. However, many vegans and vegetarians caution against processed soy products. Soy is also a common allergen.

Pea is my preferred plant-based protein powder because it is environmentally sustainable, high in protein, as well as a good source of many nutrients. It is affordable, somewhat mild in taste, and contains phytochemicals and flavonoids. Peas are also a rich source of the essential amino acid lysine. Many vegans lack a sufficient source of lysine in the diet, making it a wise choice. It is also a great choice for those who are allergic or avoid soy and dairy.

Brown Rice is also a plant-based protein. Although rice protein contains all of the essential amino acids, it is too low in lysine to be considered a complete protein. Like pea, it can be helpful for those who are allergic or avoid dairy and soy.

Hemp is another plant-based protein source and its nutrients include magnesium, phytosterols, calcium, fiber, iron, and potassium. Additionally, hemp protein doesn’t contain phytates, which are enzyme inhibitors found in some soy protein that can interfere with absorption of essential minerals. However, hemp protein has a strong flavor that is not as easily masked in blended smoothies like the previous protein sources mentioned.

Shakeology uses whey for it’s original formula and a blend of plant-based proteins for the vegan flavors.

Which is the best kind of protein powder if you’re trying to lose weight?

Whey is one of the most efficient and nutrient dense protein sources that is suitable for people who are fitness focused and seeking weight loss. It is a complete protein, easy to find, high in protein, low in calories, and blends well in different smoothie recipes. Yet, if someone is seeking a plant- based alternative, I would recommend choosing a vegan protein powder that includes a blend of pea and rice. Including both in one formula can enhance the amino acid profile and create a more neutral flavor profile as well.

What are some general tips about what you need to know if you’re using protein powder and want to lose weight?

1. Read the nutrition panel to see if there are added vitamins and minerals in the formula. If your protein powder already contains 100% DV of multiple vitamins and minerals, you may not want to also take a daily multivitamin.

2. Be mindful about your add-ins. Protein powders may be low in calories, high in protein, and a healthy way to start the day but not if you add an excessive amount of extra ingredients. If seeking weight loss, people should be moderate when adding in nut butters, coconut shreds, honey, agave, oils, avocado, and frozen fruit. Getting in a habit of measuring those ingredients carefully is key to getting the most from the meal.

3. Protein powders can supplement a meal, not necessarily replace a meal. It can be used as a snack or as part of a larger meal like fruit and yogurt or high fiber toast and a veggie egg scramble.