How to Choose a Protein Powder

If you’re curious how to choose a protein powder, this post will help you.  When I first started using protein powders years ago, I had no idea what I was doing.  I just picked up whatever protein powder I found at Wally World or wherever.  What I have learned over the years is not all protein powders are created equal; they vary greatly in terms of the protein source, nutrient contents, quality of the ingredients, artificiality, and possible contaminants.

Using these considerations, here are some simple steps you can take how to choose a protein powder.

There are just a "few" protein powders on the market - How to Choose a Protein Powder

There are just a “few” protein powders on the market – How to Choose a Protein Powder

1) Check for soy

You may have heard that soy products like tofu, soy protein shakes, and soymilk are healthy. Unfortunately, this is not true. Unless it is fermented (e.g., in foods like tempeh and miso), this government-subsidized crop can mess with your hormones and inhibit your weight loss. For all the details, read this article. For a deeper knowledge of the subject, read the book referenced in the article.

In the case of how to choose a protein powder, check for any of these ingredients

  • soy protein isolate
  • soy lecithin

If you see either of those ingredients, I wouldn’t buy it.  There are a zillion protein powders on the market – no reason to settle for one that has either of these as there are plenty without.

2) Check for artificial ingredients

By now, you probably know that artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and other food additives aren’t good for you.  In the case of how to choose a protein powder for artificial ingredients, check for any of these:

  • aspartame
  • acesulfame potassium (a.k.a. acesulfame K)
  • sucralose

Acesulfame and sucralose are not as bad as aspartame, but why not pay a few bucks more and choose a protein powder that is sweetened with stevia?  Read more about artificial sweeteners and food additives here.

3) Check for contaminants

In the case of whey protein, massive factory cow farms now rely on growth hormones and antibiotics to turn a profit.  Check that the whey is certified free of both growth hormones and antibiotics.  If you can use a whey protein that comes from grass-fed cows, that’s even better!  Another option is to go with a vegan (non-soy) protein powder instead of a protein powder such as whey that comes from animals.  There is a lot of research out there showing advantages of vegan protein powders over dairy protein powders.

Unfortunately, hormones and antibiotics aren’t the only contaminants about which we need to be concerned. 🙁 Consumer reports performed tests on several protein powders in 2010 and found 4 different heavy metals in them.  You may read about those tests here and here.

4) Evaluate price based on cost per serving or cost per calorie

Not all protein powders contain the same number of servings per container.  You may see one protein powder that is $59.99 for 20 servings and another that is $129.95 for 30 servings.  At a quick glance, it appears that the $59.99 protein powder is half the price of the $129.95 protein powder.  However when you stop for a moment and do the math, you’ll find that the $59.99 protein powder is $3 per serving ($59.99 / 20 servings) and the $129.95 protein powder is $4.33 per serving ($129.95 / 30 servings).  When you evaluate the price this way, you have a true per-serving price comparison and you can then look at the ingredients of each and see if it makes sense to you to pay less money or more money per serving based on the benefits of each protein powder.  Because they contain more ingredients, superfood powders typically cost more than protein powders.

Another gotcha is one shake may appear to be 1/2 the price of another, but the scoop may be half the calories lol. In that case, the cost per calorie is the same. If the more “expensive” shake has better and more natural ingredients, it may behoove you to use that shake but only use half a serving if you want to match the calorie count of the inferior shake.

Additionally, consider how many shakes per day are required.  If the protocol for one shake is 2 shakes per day and the other is one shake per day, take that into consideration.  Evaluate cost per day.

5) Don’t confuse protein powder with superfood powder

Protein powder and superfood powder are two completely different products that serve drastically different purposes, so they should be considered two different supplements.  To help you recognize protein powder vs. superfood powder, below are example labels of each:

Example protein powder label

Example protein powder label


Example superfood powder label

Protein powder is typically used for muscle building whereas superfood powder is used for things like:

  • losing weight
  • fighting cravings
  • feeling energized
  • improving digestion and regularity
  • lowering cholesterol
  • boosting immune system
  • fighting disease
  • improving overall health and wellness

Additionally protein powder contains only the nutrient groups protein and vitamins/minerals, whereas a superfood powder usually contains those plus any number of:

  • Adaptogens
  • Digestive Enzymes
  • Prebiotics and Probiotics
  • Phytonutrients
  • Antioxidants
  • Fiber

Personally I include both protein powder and superfood powder in my supplement regimen.  You may choose one or the other or both, based on the benefits you want and your specific goals.

Yours In Health,


Stewart Forscher, Team Get Super Fit


p.s. I hope you found this post helpful.  Please click one of the social media buttons below and share this article!  If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments section below or contact me.

Note: This post is for information only, and the product(s) mentioned is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.  This post was not approved by the NBA.

4 Responses to “How to Choose a Protein Powder”

  1. March 14, 2013 at 2:22 am #

    Great information! Something to keep in mind when buying somehting…

  2. April 27, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

    The bars you suggest look great but are pretty expensive! Can you suggest perhaps a cheaper alternative or better yet a recipe for making yourown high protein bars??

  3. May 20, 2013 at 11:17 pm #

    Colossal information!!..thanks!!

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