Food For Thought Sundays: Protein Powder

Hellohello! Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. Even better if it was a long weekend for you!

I am coming off a weekend of working Thu-Sun straight. Well, technically a week of Mon-Sun. But that is neither here nor there. I’m here to talk about food!

Well, in our case today, “food like substances.”

As a personal trainer, I get a lot of questions about protein powders. Should people be using them, what kinds to get, how to eat them.

I always respond by telling people that I’m a bit of a hippie in the sense that I think nutrients should come from unprocessed natural foods. Not in powder form!

Of course, I’m also realistic and realize the diet of the average person could use a little boost. Especially the average active person! Long-time readers of my blog will know I’m a regular user of protein powder. I just try to use it wisely and sparingly.

First and foremost protein powder will not make you gain weight. That is, if you swap it out with other foods in your diet. For example, you can’t eat your regular daily foods and add a 300 calorie protein shake on top of that. Then you will gain weight. Rather, swap out one of your meals or snacks with the shake and you’re replacing rather than adding calories.


So why would someone want to use protein powder? A number of reasons. Some people like to drink a protein shake after weight lifting or intense activity to help in muscle repair. This just means the muscle tissues damaged during the workout build back up better, which helps you get that lean look you’re after. Some say it helps with soreness as well. Although, I personally have never noticed a difference.

Protein powder is also a way to get protein without additional fat or carbohydrates. It’s pretty easy to find a food that’s straight up carbohydrate (sugar) or fat (oil). But natural proteins usually come with additional macronutrients. Some are better than others, like egg whites or white fish, but protein powder is a way to get your protein straight-up!

There are tons of different kinds of protein powders out there. Here are the most common:



Whey protein is the most common kind. It’s a protein found in milk. It’s known as being quick digesting and best for right after a workout when you want protein asap.



Casein also comes from milk, but is a little slower digesting. People who use casein usually have it before bed to help muscle repair overnight (when breakdown of the muscles can occasionally occur). Casein is also a popular dairy allergen, so careful with this one if you have sensitivities!



The protein found in soy beans. This is a much finer powder and great for baking with. You can sub out some of the flour in a recipe with soy protein without too much of a texture difference. A lot of people are now careful of their soy consumption these days because of its estrogen content (which can mean breast cancer for women). I say take it in moderation just like anything else.



Hemp is actually a whole protein, containing all the essential amino acids. One of the few vegan sources that does besides soy. Hemp is typically a very fine powder and has an “earthy” taste. Some people dig it, I think it takes some getting used to.


Brown Rice

I have honestly never tried brown rice protein. Mostly because the carb-protein ratio is close to equal on this stuff and I prefer a powder that’s mostly protein.


Egg Protein

Another powder I haven’t tried. Mostly because egg whites have a great percentage of protein to begin with, so I have no need for it isolated in powder form!


Speaking of isolation, that’s a word you will hear a lot. Protein isolate means that the protein has been isolated from the source so the powder is essentially pure protein. Protein concentrate means it’s still mixed with a little carb, fat and other ingredients.


Because there are so many brands and flavours out there, I’m not going to go through them all. Different people have different tastes. But here are some things to look for:

  • Sweetener. I try to use unflavoured powders or ones sweetened with stevia. Artificial sweeteners include sucralose or acesulfame potassium. I usually stay away from them because too much gives me digestive issues.
  • Serving size. Some powders list one scoop as 20g, others list one as 45g. Before you get excited about how many grams of protein there are, make sure you double check the calories and serving size that are listed as well.
  • Weird ingredients. The isolate/concentrate protein should be at the top, followed be a sweetener, perhaps a gum thickening agent, and a flavouring. Anything else is unnecessary.


The last question I get asked all the time is how do I use it?

Well, in smoothie form is most common. Usually with a juice or milk and some fruit. I personally don’t like to drink my calories, so I eat my protein powders in solid form! Here are some of my favourite recipes featuring protein powder:

Stove-top Chocolate Chip Breakfast Oatcakes
Dairy-Free(ish) Protein Pancakes
The Best Bowl of Oatmeal Ever
Black Bean Burgers
Protein Cakes
Apple Cinnamon Protein Bars
Homemade Maple Cinnamon Oat Bran Protein Bars

And my all-time favourite, chocolate “brownie batter”

So there you have it! The down-low on protein powders. Not necessary but a welcome addition to what used to be my carb-heavy diet. As an active person, my body loves the protein boost. As mentioned above, I do use protein powders sparingly and never have more than one serving a day. The hippie in me still wants real food that doesn’t come in powder form ;)


Question of the Day: Do you use protein powder? What kind?


Posted on November 28, 2010, in Food For Thought Sundays and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. You know I loves me some protein powder. I have really just taken it down to the most basic form of unflavored whey protein isolate and that is all I buy now. I actually will drink it plain with milk because I am used to it. That is often what I have before a strength workout. I found most powders to be overly sweet for me or with funky flavors.

  2. I still have a large tub of vanilla soy protein powder that you recommended on your blog about a year ago. I mostly use it in baked goods or waffles. I like that it adds a bit of staying powder to an otherwise quickly digested, carby food. I also like the crunch it gives the outside layer of waffles!

  3. I use sun warrior brown rice powder and I add it to my oats most mornings. I had trouble digesting the soy and whey varieties but the brown rice is easy on my stomach. I have a few health problems and many docs have recommended an increase in protein (it aids in healing!), and with my carb/fat-centric diet, protein powder definitely helps me out!

  4. Another great informative post! I’ve been using Jay Robb’s and Sun Warrior’s brown rice protein powders, but every now and then I’ll use a BSN Lean Dessert PP too (whey.) I probably have about…4-5 scoops per week on average?

  5. I used to be all about protein powder.

    To be honest, I probably abused protein powder when I was at my thinnest, bc it was safe and I could make things low calorie with lots of protein–just what I wanted.

    Now, Protein Powder grosses me out. I think I OD’d on it at some point. I will use it in smoothies from time to time–and sometimes a meal replacement shake is good, but I just don’t use it as much as I used to.

  6. I love using Jay Robb’s Pina Colada whey protein in fruit smoothies. It’s so delicious and not chalky tasting at all which is what usually turns me off from protein powders.

  7. I will add a scoop of whey protein powder to my smoothies. I do not use it often as a giant canister of it has lasted me almost 2 years :) I just like to add the extra protein to my smoothies, I find it fills me up longer!

  8. That post was so helpful!
    Thanks for sharing, Susan!
    Just a little question: I’m 15 years old. Is it bad/risky for me to include protein powders in my diet? I never really used it, but I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while, specially because I’m signing up to the gym once again (because I found a gym that’s closer to my house).
    Have a great week!

  9. I just learned so much. I really, really didn’t know the differances! I personally don’t use protein powders, but if I ever considered it I would reference this post!

  10. The only protein powder I have used was the free Vega sample we got from Healthy Living Summit. I actually really liked it! I have never bought my own. I believe, like you do, that I get enough protein from my everyday eats and I try to be aware of how much I take it.
    Thanks for the info!

  11. wow susan great concise post on a veryyyyy long and tricky topic. with more opinions from the peanut gallery than you ever wanted to know about!

    even when i did my fitness show, i barely used prot powds. I know some ppl love them. And i did a huge post on vegan protein sources and faq’s and talked about the metabolic needs of diff people. I am a slow oxidizer, I just know this based on quizzes i have taken and life experiences and that translates to me not “needing” as much protein as some people, i.e. rapid metabolic oxidizers. I have this post linked in my right hand sidebar called vegan protein faq’s, dont wanna link drop on ya here :)

    anyway tho, even if i felt i needed more, even the vegan brown rice gives me GI issues in any real quantity. and also the too “earthy” for me.

    soy, allergic
    dairy, same

    so…that leaves real, whole foods. back to basics for me. But i actually wish i could tolerate prot powds better, but oh well…


  12. I’ve never heard of soy contributing to breast cancer, i’m lactose intolerant and eat alot of soy! Is that dangerous?! x

  13. great post susan!
    I only use the Bob’s Red Mill plain whey powder. its unflavored so its way cheaper and only has one ingredient in it and I can add my own flavorings. I only will mayke protein pancakes or something with it. But in all honesty, I rarely use powders because I eat a fair amount of meat and fish. I find that protein powder also make me terribly gassy! must be all the artificial sweeteners!

  14. I love my protein powder :)
    for me it is really less about needing or wanting the protein (I do get enough from whole food) but the fact I LOVE MY PROTEIN SHAKE.

    make it
    add a dash of cold decaf for taste
    freeze for 2 hrs

  15. Really helpful post, Susan! :)
    The soy comment intrigued me though…could drinking soy milk in coffee/preparing oatmeal with it daily be too much estrogen? :\

  16. Like you, I like to get most of my protein from real foods. However, I am a big fan of protein powder for situations when I don’t have time to cook up other proteins. I love the Optimum Nutrition casein proteins – mainly because they have a thicker consistency and work well in recipes like Pumpkin Protein Pudding ( Since the protein is casein, it also takes longer to digest so I feel full for longer. I also like Whey Gourmet for a post-workout, quick recovery shake. I usually have vanilla whey mixed into my green monsters in the morning right after I get home from the gym. Great post!

  17. I have used whey in my smoothies in the past – although I find they usually ruin the flavor for me. I have to fine-tune my recipes, I guess. Recently, I’ve been getting enough from food, so I haven’t really bothered. I have been wanting to make these protein cakes for a while though, I feel like they would make an awesome mid-afternoon snack for the office.

  18. I’ve got the hippie feelings too but do occasionally add hemp protein powder to shakes, pancakes or muffins.

    Thanks for all the info, it’s great all together as a reference.

  19. I’ve been wanting to try casein protein but I did some internet research and it claims that kind of protein can cause cancer. While I’m not usually a worrier or panic-driven from things on the internet it gave me pause…

  20. I use the Jay Robb Whey though I was thinking of moving to the Egg just for a change of pace. I may or may not be allergic to eggs (I was told from a blood test that I was but I’ve never had any reaction that I’m aware of) so I’m holding off on the switch. I used to use the Fat Flush pp just decided I’d rather drive to Super Supplements than pay shipping.

    PS. I mailed off your book today. I forgot about the whole customs thing. Do they make you come pick it up? Hopefully you won’t owe anything on it.

    • Yayyyy! Thanks Tiff!! Canada Post will take care of it once it gets to Canada. They home deliver unless I’m not home, otherwise I’m pretty close to a post office.

  21. You know I love this post! And I love my powders. Tera’s Whey is a favorite right now.

  22. very informative ms. susan! i will say i think hemp protein tastes like dirt :)

  23. Excellent describe intensive of protein powder and whey should we take in our daily diet….I reading all recipe which you sharing here and I most like chocolate “brownie batter”. Yesterday I tried it according to your recipe which was delicious taste…..Please sharing which powder is the best for kinds…Thanks for sharing…….

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