Protein Powders — The Breakdown

Meat(less) Monday: Recipes, nutrition tips and advice on food your body will thank you for. OK, maybe not completely meatless, but healthy, for sure. 

By: Olivia Langdon

So, you walk into the nutrition shop wanting to buy protein powder.

You look down and around the seemingly endless aisles of options. Crap, now what? 

The guy who works there asks if you need help. He’s jacked and vascular; he must know what he’s talking about.

“Sure,” you reply nonchalantly pretending you semi-know what you’re looking for.

The muscular employee starts talking really fast using big words he probably doesn’t even know the meanings of, and then, it happens — you zone out.

You black back in at the register when he looks at you with a deceiving grin and says, “That’ll be $278.”

“Wait, WHAT?”

You have two options:

  1. Run away, fast! And you go eat a cheeseburger, because you’re over this.
  2. Close your eyes, hand over the money and think to yourself, “What the heck did I just buy?”

Choose the option 3: Be informed!

When it comes to supplementing your diet with protein powders, there are quite a few (infinite) questions you may ask yourself: What is this for? When do I take it? How do I use this? Which one is the best? Wait, can you explain that agin?

This is the beginner’s guide to protein powder supplements.

How much do I need? 

According to BornFitness, “The amount of protein needed for everyone else is more debatable, as it depends on both your body weight and activity level. Although there is no set of perfect guidelines, it seems that the scientific consensus has currently landed in the following approximate ranges:

  • The base level (assuming no activity and no desire to change body composition) is around 0.8g per kilogram body weight (50g for a 137.5lb person) or above. More is not harmful, but this seems to be the bare minimum.
  • An athlete or highly active person, or a person who is sedentary and looking to lose body fat would do well with a range between 1-1.5g per kilogram. For a 200lb person, this equates to 91-136g daily.
  • An athlete or active person who wishes to beneficially influence their body composition (lose fat and/or gain muscle) or a very highly active endurance athlete should be consuming in the range of 1.5-2.2g per kilogram daily (for our 200lb person, this equates to 136-200g daily)”



“Whey protein is the perfect ‘fitness food’ as it contains not only high quality protein, but also extremely high amounts of leucine,” according to Dr. Mercola.

Derived from milk, whey is the most popular supplemental protein. It contains all essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of muslce, and it is absorbed rapidly by the body. This is especially important for post-workout fuel and muscle recovery.


Whey concentrate is anywhere from 35 to 80 percent protein by volume.

Generally speaking, whey concentrate is cheaper than other forms of protein because it is easy to procure. It is important to buy a high-quality product because there are numerous brands on the market that are overpriced without the optimal health benefits.  


Whey isolate means 90 percent of the powder is protein. Because they go through more chemical processing to make this type more “pure,” isolates tend to be more expensive.

According to Dr.Mercola, whey isolates should be avoided. “All whey protein isolates are devoid of nutritional co-factors including alkalizing minerals, naturally occurring vitamins, and lipids, which are lost in the processing. This renders them deficient and overly acidifying...I would strongly avoid ALL whey protein isolates just as you would avoid trans fats as they contain putrid proteins that some experts believe to be worse than trans fat.” 

Follow this guide for choosing a high-quality protein powder:



“Casein protein refers to water insoluble proteins derived from dairy sources…so if you are not consuming whey, you are consuming casein.”

This type has gel forming properties which labels it “slow absorbing.” It is often taken by athletes or bodybuilders before bed in order for it to continue to feed the muscles and metabloism while your body is sleeping (think 8 hours of fasting).

People with milk allergies should stay away from casein.

Acrroding to Dr.Mercola, “industrial casein, a common ingredient in protein powders…is one of the worst proteins for your muscles and is often drenched with toxic residues.” On the other hand, “whole casein such as in raw milk, milk protein concentrate and aged cheese, has a very effective nutrient delivery…and is one of the best proteins for your muslces.” Try cottage cheese at night as an alternative option. 

Other options

There are additional sources of protein powders on the market including: soy, egg, hemp, pea, rice and even beef (yes, powdered beef exists). To read more on these other options, visit Born Fitness' best protein powders.



Photos courtesy of and