There are three rules I stick to when choosing supplements regardless of what kind.


Rule # 1:

If it states “supplement facts” on the back and not “nutritional facts”, then I make sure that it is 3rd party tested by a reliable source. The two reliable sources I trust are:

  • NSF
  • Trusted for sport


The supplement industry has no governing body to ensure that what is on the label is actually inside the product. Scary thought, right? Rule #1 is all about safety. Along with being safe to use you also want to take a product that will actually give you the results you want. If your protein powder is actually rice powder then you won’t be making those gains!

Rule # 2:

No artificial (chemical) sweeteners.


As a general rule I avoid artificial sweeteners in my diet. They are an unnecessary chemical being absorbed into your body.  Additionally, they are teaching your body to like sweeter and sweeter things. Artificial sweeteners gram for gram are usually 200-500 times sweeter than sugar it self. Yes, that is written correctly and not a typo. Even if you use 1/3 less of amount, your tongue gets used to sweeter things and your body gets used to craving sugar.


I usually stick to protein powders sweetened with actual sugars including cane sugar, dexatrose, stevia, or monk fruit extract. Things to avoid are: 

  • Aspartame (Blues)
  • Saccharin (pinks)
  • Sucralose (yellows)
  • Acesulfame potassium
  • Advantame
  • Neotame
  • Sorbitol
  • Erythritol
  • Maltitol.



Rule # 3:

No artificial dyes.


Again, they are an unnecessary chemical being absorbed into your body. Dyes do affect your body’s natural processes. A good rule of thumb –  don’t fuck with your body’s natural processes.  Artificial dyes potentially increase your risk of cancer, cause skin reactions, migraines, and anxiety.  They are most commonly seen in BCAAs, electrolyte products, and pre-workouts.


Now that we have some ground rules lets look at types of proteins.


Whey Protein

  • Fastest absorbing protein. It quickly gets into your bloodstream, and raises your insulin levels.
  • It has about 2.3g/leucine per serving, an important amino acid.
  • Leucine is what tells your body to start building muscle when taken in doses over 2 grams.
  • Leucine is also a branch chain amino acid (BCAA), which are what your muscles break down into if your body is using muscle tissue as fuel.
  • Due to it’s fast rate of absorption, whey is a great type of protein for first thing in the morning, and post workout. 


Plant Based Protein

  • Great alternative for individuals that have allergies to milk proteins (casein and whey), which can be very common.
  • Plant based protein only has about 1.7g/leucine per serving, and will not put you over your leucine threshold, unless you take in more than 30g of protein at a time.
  • It is a slower protein to absorb because due to the additional fiber and the fat. A lot of plant based proteins are up to 40% fat content.
  • Due to the fact that fiber and fats decrease absorption rates they are not ideal for first thing in the morning or right after a workout.


Beef Protein

  • Beef protein isolate is becoming much more common and easier to find.
  • In many cases, beef proteins are technically a food and regulated by the FDA and do not need to be third party tested.
  • It is a common alternative for those that cannot absorb whey or casein.
  • Beef protein is slower absorbing than whey, but still faster than plant-based proteins.


Casein Protein

  • Casein is one of the slowest absorbing protein powders. This makes it optimal for a good bedtime snack.
  • For anybody with a composition goal, besides getting fatter, I suggest having a protein shake or serving of protein before bed.
  • As a nighttime snack Casein protein helps keep you regenerating muscle throughout the night and setting up your hormones for the next day.



Overall, if you are just going to get one protein powder, I would suggest getting a whey protein. If you can’t use whey, I suggest a beef protein. Casein protein can make things easier for at night, but a large glass of milk or some Greek yogurt can be just as good.


Written by Carla Nowicki, Registered Dietician and competitive USAW Olympic Weightlifter

  • Ross Renken

    I’m dying lol… You guys are hilarious, “For anybody with a composition goal, besides getting fatter, I suggest …”

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