How to Choose the Right Protein Shake

The right protein shake could help you reach your fitness goals faster

Your gym mate has some of the protein powder sitting on her shaker, waiting to be gulped down post the workout session. You also see protein shakes not only pop up at the gym, but also on the metro or on the sidewalk in the morning, when you are on your way to work and at work too. Protein shakes seem to be quite popular with anyone who takes fitness seriously.

So why all the buzz? Protein powder is a macronutrient that provides amino acids, which are essential to create and maintain muscle, bone, hormones and skin. Neha Sahaya, a celebrity nutritionist and wellness consultant, says, “Protein powder drinks have become the new go to drink for most people. However, shopping the right protein shake that suits your body can be extremely confusing, with protein powder in plenty of brands, flavours and described in terms you probably don’t know.” However, once you get to know the protein basics, it’s easier to choose one that suits your requirements.  Neha Shares tips to help you pick the right protein powder.

Figure out what your body goals are

It’s important to know that all proteins are not created equal. It’s important for what purpose you are taking the protein powder. Is it to lose weight, build muscle, or just sneak in extra protein in your diet?

If you are using a protein shake as a meal replacement or healthy snack option., it’s better to opt for one that is labelled concentrate. They digest slower, are more filling with the benefits of increased protein. Concentrate powders have high percentage of protein but also have added carbohydrates, minerals, water, and fats. "If weight loss is your goal, avoid mixing with anything but water. An isolate protein powder is good before and after working out because your body will digest it faster. It delivers proper nutrition to fuel your workout and help you recover afterward. That’s why isolates are especially good for toning and building muscles and a low to zero carbs versions also can aid in weight loss," says Neha.

Read the nutrition label

This is the most important aspect of choosing a protein powder. Make sure to read the entire nutrition label. It is important to notice the amount of fat and sugar content. Many powders have various different names of sugar or they use artificial sweeteners, which you’ll see on the ingredient list. "While stevia and monk fruit are safer options, but are sometimes not palatable so it’s often mixed with xylitol and sorbitol, sugar alcohols that may cause gas and bloating. It is preferable for everyone to choose a powder that’s low in fat and sugar. People with gut issues should choose a powder without artificial sweeteners or lactose free. Choose a protein powder that’s ideally unsweetened with as few ingredients as possible, protein as the first listed ingredient. The longer the list of ingredients with names that you don’t understand are the ones you should avoid purchasing.

Know the BCAA Ratio

BCAA stands for branched-chain amino acids, three protein building blocks essential for maintenance and growth. Most labels list BCAAs as a ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine, in that order. "Always opt for a protein powder that has two parts leucine to one part isoleucine to one part valine. This ratio is perfect for muscle building and fat loss," suggests Neha.

The bottom line

If you can’t tolerate dairy, opt for whey-protein isolate or a vegan protein powder.

"Whether your goal is weight loss or gaining muscle, just by consuming excess protein will not give you the results. Its important to first try to meet your daily protein requirements from real food rather than just taking supplements. Don’t exceed more than 20 or 30 grams in one sitting. It’s important to Stick to the serving size and be mindful of how much protein you’re ingesting throughout the day," advises Neha.