The term “protein powder” is a relatively broad one that encompasses many different products. There are different types of proteins, and each powder has its own blend of ingredients designed to help you boost your strength and musculature. Understanding more about protein powder ingredients can help you make the right choice for your unique personal needs.
The number one ingredient in protein powder is, of course, protein. It’s important to remember that the proteins in these powders come from different sources, which can make a difference on how these products work in your body. There are four main types you’ll find on store shelves and online (though there are now countless others including pea protein, hemp protein and the like).
Of course, amino acids are perhaps the most important protein powder ingredients. They’re the building blocks from which your body creates new muscle tissue. Whey, casein, and soy proteins are considered “complete” because they contain all 22 essential, nonessential, and conditional amino acids your body needs. The exception to this is rice protein, which lacks an essential amino acid called isoleucine as mentioned above. Some of the most important amino acids you should look for in your protein powder include:
Read more about the complete essential amino acids list here.
Creatine isn’t found in all protein powders, but it is a relatively common additive. To put it simply, it’s a compound that forms naturally when your body metabolizes protein and breaks it down into its respective amino acids. In order for your muscles to contract, they need a steady supply of creatine. While some studies show that the body can produce all the creatine it needs for muscle strength and supplementation isn’t necessary, there are other studies listed by the Mayo Clinic to show that athletes who supplement with creatine have more strength, power, and endurance than those who do not.
Vitamins and minerals are also common protein powder ingredients. You’ll find that many of the most popular products out there have been fortified with the equivalent of a multivitamin in an effort to make a shake or smoothie an optimal meal replacement. While many athletes and bodybuilders choose to consume protein powder in addition to their normal diets, those who are in cutting phases and trying to shed body fat will replace meals, instead. The addition of these vitamins and minerals attempts to make up for any nutritional loss that comes from skipping meals, though it’s always best to eat a well-balanced diet. The most common vitamins found in protein powders are B-vitamins, though it’s not uncommon to find A through K and several minerals, as well.
Finally, calcium is one of the most important protein powder ingredients for one very important reason. Your body cannot adequately break down proteins into amino acids without an ample supply of calcium. In some cases, this calcium is added in the form of a “creamer”, which gives these powders their smoothie- or shake-like texture and feel in the mouth. In others, such as in a casein-based protein, the calcium is found naturally in the product. Before purchasing a protein powder, check the nutritional facts to see how much calcium is in that product. If it’s more than 8% of the recommended daily allowance, it’s enough to help your body break down the protein efficiently.
Protein powder ingredients can vary from brand to brand, so it’s important to understand which of these ingredients are most important and how they’ll affect your body. Powders that are fortified with vitamins and minerals are vital for anyone who is using their shakes or smoothies as meal replacement, and you should also look for a powder that contains ample calcium for breaking the proteins down.