A Quality Protein shake buying guide

What’s going on everyone? Gather ’round the flat bench like it’s Monday because we’re about to have a good old chat about the Clark Kent of the gym world – the humble protein shake. Yeah, that right there is (one of) your secret weapon(s). What you do post-workout is more important than what you do during your workout, so this is going to be a protein shake buying guide that you can use to help guide your choices.

But why do I need a protein shake?“, I hear you cry, over the clanking of all that weight you are moving. Well, it all comes down to energy balance and recovery.

When you workout, you’re pushing your muscles to their max and creating all sorts of micro-tears. They need to be repaired if you have any hope of growing. A high quality protein shake will quickly shuffle amino acids and energy to your muscles, helping them repair and recover.

“So, what’s the deal with this article?” Well, we are going to venture into the enigmatic world of protein and post-workout shakes to really get to know them. We’re talking protein content, ingredients, quality testing, customer reviews, etc. Kind of like speed-dating for protein shakes, minus the awkward small talk, to help you weed out the nonsense before you spend your hard earned dollars on garbage. With the way the economy is we should all be a little bit more stiff with where we give our money.

Protein Content – The Prime Factor

You’ve probably heard it a million times, “You need protein after workouts, dude!” And you’re thinking, “Yeah, yeah, whatever.” But hold up, because it’s actually really important. Here’s why:

Imagine your muscles are like little worker bees. They need energy to work, and when you exercise you not only deplete your energy reserves but you also damage them while they contract. Protein contains all the amino acids we need to repair them, and a protein shake contains very easily digesting aminos which are quickly shuffled to muscles and kick starts the repair and recovery process.

The faster you get the recovery process into gear, the less sore you are, the faster you recover, and the better you grow.

Recommended Daily Protein Intake

Now don’t go guzzling down protein shakes like there’s no tomorrow. That’s a waste of money. And protein. There’s a method to the madness. First, we need to figure out how much protein you need daily.

Typically, you will see recommendations that you should be consuming at least 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight daily. For those of us who don’t have a PhD in math (almost all of us), let’s break that down. If you weigh 150 pounds (68 kg), then you’ll need about 54 grams of protein per day. But remember, that’s just the basic daily requirement to survive. If you’re hitting the gym, you will need more. A lot more.

One gram per bodyweight pound is what I always tell people to shoot for. Why? That’s a lot! Well, that’s because it’s easy to calculate and remember. But also because if you miss that by, say, 10%, you are still in the right zone for growth.

With all that said, some bodybuilders and professional athletes go up to 2.2g per pound of bodyweight. If you are not in either of those categories don’t do that. You don’t need it, and you will just be tossing money down the drain.

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Ideal Amount of Protein in a Post-Workout Shake

Now, how much protein should your post-workout pack is the million-dollar question. In general, aim for 20-25 grams of protein in your shake. That’s a sweet spot after a workout to help those muscles recover. Of course, you can go with two scoops and hit up to 40g without issue but I would say that anything more than that is, likewise, just flushing money down the toilet.

You do not want all of your daily protein coming from shakes. You just want your shake to kickstart your recovery and nothing more. The vast majority of your protein should come from whole foods like chicken breast, steak, fish, beans, and legumes.

Ingredient Quality – What To Look Out For

Every powder is going to have good and bad ingredients. Here are some things to consider when picking a protein off the shelf or ordering it from a website.

Complete vs. Incomplete Proteins

Think of complete proteins as having all the ‘essential amino acids’ (the building blocks of protein!) your body needs. There nine of them considered ‘essential’ which means that our bodies cannot make them. Usually, complete proteins are found in animal products. Foods like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy are great sources of complete proteins. Since most powders are whey based you will get the entire amino profile in a serving, but there are also beef and egg-based powders available.

Incomplete proteins, on the other hand, are good but something’s missing. They lack some of the essential amino acids. We’ve got foods like nuts, seeds, and some veggies that are incomplete proteins. When combined in a balanced diet, they can help provide all the essential amino acids you need. However, when it comes to protein powder you will be missing something somewhere that will help you recover properly. A pea / rice combination is a great way to get close to a complete protein if you are searching for a vegan protein but stay away from singular plant source powders.

Natural vs Artificial Ingredients

Just like how no one likes fake people, no one wants a product full of fake ingredients. Stay as natural as possible. Experienced gym folks, nutritionists, and dieticians keep our eyes peeled for sneaky, artificial ingredients in protein shakes that sound trickier than a tongue twister (propylene glycol alginate, anyone?). Stick to protein shakes with as many natural ingredients as possible. It’s like choosing homemade guacamole over some mystery green goo or a spiral ham over something you pull out of a can. Remember, cleaner labels equal cleaner gains! Plus, the fewer chemicals you ingest the better overall health you will have.

Other Beneficial Ingredients Like Muscle Recovery Blends, Vitamins, Probiotics

Finally, let’s talk about the extra brownie points – muscle recovery blends, vitamins, probiotics (Oh my!). Some protein shakes added these extras to help speed up recovery, add a nutrient punch, and even boost gut health. It’s a better version of a combo meal while out to eat. More bang (pow, zap, boom) for your buck!

So next time you’re picking out a protein shake, don’t be dazzled by the shiny packaging or big words. Look beneath the surface, and make sure what you’re getting is of top-notch ingredient quality.

Quality Testing and Food Safety Labels

Let’s be real – when it comes to labels, the ones we’re most interested in are the ones with price. But here’s the thing: nutrition labels on your protein shakes are just as crucial.

These are the unsung heroes that ensure our soon-to-be-devoured protein shake is quality. Just think of every shake without a quality testing label as suspicious. If the product is quality and manufacturer claims are true, why don’t they get it tested in some way to prove it?

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Decoding Labels & Certs: The ‘Non-GMO’, ‘Organic’, ‘NSF’ Shenanigans

Are you confused between Non-GMO, Organic, NSF, etc. labels? No worries. They are confusing. Here is a high level, quick rundown of what each claim means, but make sure you go research deeper if you want more information on them.

“Non-GMO” is pretty much saying, “We’re not into any weird science-y stuff”. No Genetically Modified Organisms in your shake – all natural, baby! These can be anything from crops that had genes spliced into them to salmon genetically modified to grow faster.

Seeing “Organic” on your shake? That means the product has passed strict requirements about soil quality, animal raising practices, weed control, etc. It is natural as you can get, as a general rule.

Now we’ve got “NSF” – this little label is like having the Rock on your security team. If it’s NSF-certified, it promises to be safe and uphold certain standards. So take a deep breath, and pick a shake that needs your individual needs.

Food Safety Labels: The Last Line of Defense

Lastly, but surely not least, are food safety labels. Believe me, they’re more important than remembering not to get into the mosh pit at a Guar concert unprepared. They help to ensure that your protein shake meets all the food safety regulations. Because who wants a side of food poisoning with their gains?

Bottom line? Always. Check. The. Label. It’s like scrolling through your date’s Insta before the first meetup – you gotta know what you’re getting into so you can save a LOT of money and headaches later down the line.

Knowledge is power, my friend. Arm yourself and become the protein shake connoisseur of your gym!

Taste and Flavor Profiles

Look, we’re not asking our protein shakes to be dessert. But it would be nice if they didn’t taste like blended kale and gym socks. We also don’t want a powder that tastes like sucralose with an after taste that lingers for years. We can’t pretend that flavor doesn’t matter when it comes to your protein shakes.

The truth is, if your shake tastes like a liquid Fyre Festival, you’re not gonna drink it. And if you don’t drink it, well, it’s a waste of money.

Well, Hello, Popular Flavors!

As much as I love trying to guess which “natural flavoring” I’m experiencing, knowing popular flavor profiles gives you the chance to pick a winner. So, what’s on the top hits list? Classics like chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, of course! They’re the timeless, beloved, and always there for you flavors.

But wait, there’s more! Companies these days are mixin’ things up. You’ve got options like cookies & cream, mocha, birthday cake (yes, really), root beer float, orange dreamsicle, and more! There’s something for everyone, ensuring you don’t end up standing in the corner alone with a flavor no one wants to dance with.

Taste Shouldn’t Wreck Your Nutrition

Hold up, though – don’t let a good flavor lead you down a dark, nutrition-less path. This ain’t a Milkshake Hall of Fame; we’re still looking for a quality protein to help us make gains. Taste shouldn’t compromise the nutritional content of your shake, so stay cautious. Look for a shake that fits as many boxes as possible, including flavor, but flavor should not be the main deciding factor.

Dietary Preferences & Restrictions

Vegan & Vegetarian Vibe

So you’re a vegan, vegetarian, or maybe even an omnivore? Doesn’t matter, friends! Vegan shakes don’t discriminate. Protein works just as wellin plant form, provided you go for a full amino profile.

Occasionally, swap out your regular protein shake for a greener, animal-friendlier option.

Food Intolerances: Who Says “No” to Lactose & Gluten?

Lactose, gluten, and other food intolerances shouldn’t hold your gains hostage.

Heartbroken after dumping lactose? Your flexing future doesn’t have to be a sad story. Swap that whey or casein protein powder for some plant-based rebound (hello, pea protein!) or an egg white protein option that won’t have you running to the bathroom. Maybe even some beef-based protein. Stay away from the whey and you still have a whole world of protein powder to explore.

And gluten-averse people. Keep your shelves stocked with gluten-free powders like rice protein.

Low-Sugar & Sugar-Free: Let’s Hold the Sweet Stuff

Diabetics and sugar-phobes there is still hope for you as well. There are plenty of low-sugar and sugar-free protein shakes!

These shakes give you all the protein goodness without sending your blood sugar into space. Just remember to double-check the ingredients list. Sugar alcohols and added sugars, we’re looking at you.

Consider Customer Reviews & Ratings

You don’t go to a new restaurant without checking reviews, right? So why would you do that with protein shakes? Don’t be that person who grabs the first shiny tub they see on the shelf.

Customer reviews are the ultimate cheat codes for finding a protein shake that doesn’t make you want to cry when you taste it. We have some on this website, but there are plenty if you Google the brand you are looking at.

A high overall rating means there’s a busload of happy, protein-fueled humans out there who know what’s up. They’ll happily tell you all about the flavor, effectiveness, cost, and anything else. People do enjoy complaining after all, so a review search will let you know everything you ever wanted to know about what you are looking at.

Price and Value for Money

Protein shake prices run the gamut. Some are incredibly cheap, but they are probably not very good. Some are incredibly expensive, but that doesn’t mean they are quality. Price is important and you generally get what you pay for, but price should be one of the last things you consider when searching for a powder.

Determining if a shake is worth its price tag is like trying to figure out if it’s worth paying to see yet another remade movie.

Consider stuff like quality, ingredients, and if it works with your dietary needs. Is it a 5-star Michelin chef in the protein world or a sad, soggy burger from the fast-food joint down the street based on reviews?

Breaking Up the Bill: Cost per Serving

Split the servings in a tub down into a price per serving. Is the product .99 per serving? $1.99 per serving? $4.99 per serving? Somewhere in between? Most powders fall somewhere in that range.

Here’s why it’s key: you could spot a super-size me protein tub that seems pricier than buying a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But if there’s enough in there to feed an army of bodybuilders for a month, your cost per serving might be impressively low. So, grab a calculator, do a little number crunching, and you might just find a gem!

Conclusion: Time to Make Your Shake-tastic Dreams Come True!

Alright, fellow fitness nerds. Let’s sum it all up from this protein shake buying guide.

  • Protein Type: Remember that protein powders come in many forms. Keep your eye out for whey, soy, and plant-based varieties to find the best one for you.
  • Flavors & Tastes: Don’t let your shakes make you sad. Tons of flavors out there, so it really all depends on what you want, but flavor isn’t always the first consideration. A good flavor with top tier ingredients will beat out a unicorn flavor with garbage ingredients, or at least it should.
  • Dietary Preferences & Restrictions: Vegans, vegetarians, gluten-intolerant, lactose-intolerant, and diabetics. Your protein shake is out there!
  • Customer Reviews & Ratings: Use the advice of the people who’ve been there!
  • Pricing & Value: Know the value, make the call, and don’t forget about cost-per-serving.

The takeaway here is that eyeballing the protein shake aisle doesn’t have to feel like you’re on a doomed treasure hunt. There’s a winning recipe for every gym goer, no matter who you are or what you crave!

Let Us help You Out

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Personal trainers, like those found here, can help guide you on your pathway towards reaching your fitness goals, whether that is getting bigger, stronger, faster, more lean, or just generally feeling better.

We can get you setup with a periodized workout plan, supplement information, and advice on nutrition to help you reach your goals.

The only thing you need is some motivation and a willingness to change some old habits.

Get into contact with us to find out what membership is right for you. In a CONDITIONerd program, you’ll be surrounded by others who can help you to get where you want to be.

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Author Pic: Brandon

Brandon's Approach to Training

I'm not just any fitness coach. I'm the engine behind CONDITIONerd. My history is packed with sports from my school days, nearly a decade serving as a Marine, and over 17 years tackling every challenge the fitness world could throw at me.
I'm certified in everything that counts—personal training, sports nutrition, bodybuilding, and even corrective exercises to keep you injury-free. At CONDITIONerd, I'm all about setting down the challenge for you to break your limits. No taking the easy way out.

This is your adventure, but remember, I've got your back every step of the way. Are you ready to boost your game? Let’s do this, and let’s do it right

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