Many people trying to lose weight have found themselves on the never-ending quest for protein-rich foods. We know protein can help with weight loss—it is more satisfying than carbs and fat, and will help keep you feeling full. Higher-protein diets are linked with lower BMIs and smaller waists and protein helps build muscle and boost metabolism.
It’s recommended that we get 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight. That translates to 54 grams of protein for a 150-pound woman, or 65 grams for a 180-pound man. It can be hard for some of us to meet our daily protein goal—although it’s certainly not impossible to eat enough protein-rich foods—even on a vegan or vegetarian diet. However, if you’re struggling to get enough or want to add a protein boost finding the best protein powder for weight loss could come in handy.
“Protein powders are a convenient and quality way to add protein to your diet,” says nutrition consultant Chris Mohr, Ph.D., M.D.
You’ve probably been left scratching your head while scouring to find the right protein powder. (Seriously, what is all of this stuff and why are there so many options?) While adding any protein powder to a pancake or smoothie will help fill you up—and squash the need for second breakfast or a morning snack at the office—whey protein powder has an edge when it comes to slimming down.
Whey protein, a protein found naturally in dairy, is the best for weight loss according to science.
People who were given whey protein at breakfast, as a protein shake, lost more weight that people who consumed other types of proteins, including eggs, tuna and soy. Whey protein is also good for trimming your waistline. When researchers gave people a whey protein drink, they lost about 4 pounds more and about an inch more from their waists over 6 months and felt less hungry than people given a carbohydrate shake instead.
“For the best results, protein intake needs to be spread out evenly throughout the day,” Mohr says. “Most protein is eaten at dinnertime, and hardly any is eaten at breakfast.” (He recommends you aim for about 20 grams to 30 grams of protein per meal.)
Whey protein contains high amounts of the amino acid leucine, which is the most potent for building muscles. Building muscle helps you burn more calories.
“Protein powders don’t magically help you build muscle,” says Mohr, explaining you still need strength training for that to happen. Leucine can also help prevent muscle fatigue and soreness—which means less post-workout recovery time and higher odds of you actually returning to the gym.
How to Pick the Right Protein Powder
The good news is that whey protein is tolerated well by most people. If you don’t eat dairy, whey isn’t a good option since it’s derived from cow’s milk. Pea protein, soy protein, hemp protein and egg protein powders are all gaining popularity. We recommend choosing a brand with simple ingredients, such as Bob’s Red Mill protein powders, made with just one or two ingredients, and avoiding flavored protein powders which usually are chockfull of sugar or sweeteners.
The bad news is that the “protein” smoothie you’re whipping up each morning could be working against your weight loss efforts if you try to hard to mask the flavor of protein powder by adding in extra sugar. “You could end up having a smoothie that has more fat and calories than a piece of steak,” says Mohr. Our tip: start adding a little in to your smoothie and add more as you get used to the taste if you don’t love it right away. Also, choose protein-rich ingredients to boost up your smoothie like Greek yogurt, nut butters and a milk (with protein like cow’s or soy) over juice.
While adding a protein powder boost to your morning smoothie won’t hurt, Mohr adds, “These are supplements and not food. So you should be getting protein from food sources, too.” Protein-rich foods, including yogurt, eggs, meats, fish and nuts, add other vitamins and minerals to your diet in addition to protein.