Before I recommend the best protein powder for weight loss, I highly recommend that you check out the post, Meal Replacement Shakes for Weight Loss. In that post, I give you the secrets to supercharging the fat loss effects of all meal replacements, independent of which protein powder you use.
Choosing a protein powder in the sea of options can be a daunting task, so let’s get into my recommendations for choosing the perfect protein powder for weight loss…
Here’s the truth in a nutshell….
Most protein powders will get the job done, as it pertains to fat loss, as long as the product isn’t loaded with sugar, carbs, and chemicals. You could literally stop reading now and just choose any high quality whey, casein, or plant-sourced protein powder, use it in your meal replacement, and get 90% of the fat loss benefits.
Some experts claim that if your goal is burning fat, slow-absorbing proteins, such as casein or soy are superior to fast absorbing proteins such as whey. The thought process is that slow absorbing proteins will better impact appetite and metabolism better than fast absorbing proteins. There’s also some concern about fast absorbing proteins causing insulin production, which can theoretically slow fat loss.
Here’s the truth…if you choose a good quality brand of protein, whether that protein is whey, casein, or plant protein, there’s probably little difference in fat loss.
It’s true that casein does result in a small increase in fat burning over whey, however, we’re talking the kind of difference that scientists may get excited about, not significant enough though to mean anything in the real world.1
Let’s talk brands…
Although I believe that brands do matter, base your decision on reputation of quality, not just popularity.
In the health food industry, marketing can often beat quality. So be careful and choose a product that focuses on quality not brand-building.
Avoid brands that contain synthetic ingredients that you can’t pronounce. Seriously, some brands can contain 30 different ingredients…
I’m not adverse to a weight loss shake containing fiber, whole food extracts, and some vitamins and minerals, but sometimes the products can go overboard with synthetic chemicals! Most of the time the unwanted ingredients are designed to make the powder taste better but, my experience, they just end up making them taste more chemical or synthetic…
My advice is to be okay with a protein that tastes good rather than great as long as the formula doesn’t have a bunch of added sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Try to avoid protein powders that use artificial sweeteners and colors. Many companies make supplemental shakes that taste good without the need for these foreign substances.
Always check the ingredients, don’t trust the front of the label. There should be no more than 1-5 ingredients, I even sway away from protein powders that include a ton of vitamins and minerals. Just keep your protein powder as simple as possible.
Some protein powders contain a mix of different protein sources, such as whey, casein, pea, rice, etc. Although it makes it appear fancy, I’ve found the “blends” to be unnecessary.
It’s true that many protein manufacturers will add a ton of unnecessary ingredients, often they add miniscule amounts of popular supplements with no therapeutic advantage. Avoid these items like the plague. Always choose higher quality sources of protein, such as organic, or milk from pasture-fed cattle, over formulas that add a bunch of ingredients.
Look for companies that spend the money on quality, rather than ingredients. Some companies are not recognized brands because they spend their money on producing a quality product rather than expensive ads. Buy these products!
This brings us to the less expensive products…
Occasionally, you’ll find a good brand product that’s half the price of the bigger brands and twice the quality. Generally, these are standard protein powders without the bells and whistles. These products are good choices for weight loss.
Personally, I gravitate towards whey protein isolate.Whey protein is generally low in lactose, has a great texture, mixes easy, and absorbs very well. Although many people suggest that concentrates are inferior to whey isolates, I’m not so sure…
The only time that I would recommend against using protein concentrates is in people who are sensitive to lactose. Isolates contain less lactose, but are more refined. Concentrates contain more lactose, but are less refined. I’m ok with either.
I keep to simple products that contain whey, stevia, FOS, fiber, and possibly some natural flavors like cocoa or vanilla. Unflavored whey proteins are great if you prefer to mix it with berries or other foods, like oats. You can also blend whey with berries and even add spinach, I can’t even taste it when I do!
I have a tendency to use protein powders as adjuvants, rather than meal replacements, and you get bonus points for timing them pre and/or post workout. Whey protein can cause a bit of insulin to be produced, which, theoretically, can stall fat burning, unless the muscles are itching to bind that insulin, which happens after a workout.
Whey protein, especially unflavored whey, takes on the flavor of the food that you mix it with and adds a creamy consistency, so don’t be afraid to experiment with adding it to foods.
What types of protein do you use and how do you add it to your lifestyle? Comment below!
Dr. Ray Hinish is a nutritional pharmacist, certified personal trainer, & certified Lifestyle & Weight Management Coach. He currently practices in Baltimore, MD, where he owns and operates a wellness center and natural foods restaurant. His mission is to help folks to live their health potential so that they can pursue their passions with confidence and endless supplies of energy!