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Summary: What You Need to Know About Protein Powders, Shakes and Drinks
Do they help? Extra protein (typically about 30 grams to 50 grams per day) from a powder or drink can help athletes build muscle, and help older people prevent or reverse age-related loss of muscle and strength when used in conjunction with resistance-type exercise. It may also help people with diabetes maintain blood sugar levels and even reverse diabetes if taken as part of low calorie diet. (See What It Does).
What type? Protein products vary based on the source of protein (e.g., whey, casein, soy, rice, pea, egg, hemp, and cricket). All can help build muscle, but, in general, whey is most popular as it is a complete protein and rather quickly digested. Casein is digested more slowly — which is why it is sometimes taken in the evening — to counter loss of muscle at night. Vegans may be more interested in plant sources, such soy, pea, rice, and hemp. See ConsumerTips, Protein for more about each type of protein.
Which brand? Among the protein products that ConsumerLab.com selected for review, 23.5% failed to pass tests. (See What CL Found). Among products that were Approved, the lowest cost to obtain an equivalent amount (20 grams) of protein was 37 cents from a pea protein powder while it was over $5 for some products with many additional ingredients or offering more of a meal-replacement profile. For most products, the cost to obtain 20 grams of protein fell within 80 cents to $1.50. See which products were CL's Top Picks based on a combination of quality, value, and taste. You can also compare all of the products in the Results Table.
How to use? Protein taken after, rather than before, exercise may be more beneficial (See What It Does). Protein powders are typically mixed with water or other liquids such as milk or juice, but be aware that these can add calories (See What to Consider When Using). Also be aware that taste of powders varies by protein type, flavorings, and the addition of sugar or other sweeteners, and that and some powders mix more easily into liquids than others (see the taste and mixability comments in the Results Table).
Cautions: Protein supplements may cause gastrointestinal discomfort in some people, and individuals with lactose intolerance may want to avoid certain milk-based proteins. People with kidney disease should consult with their physician before taking protein supplements (see Concerns and Cautions).
You must be a member to get the full test results, along with ConsumerLab's recommendations. You'll get results for 26 protein supplements -- 17 selected by ConsumerLab and nine that passed the same testing through our voluntary Quality Certification Program.
In this comprehensive review, you'll discover:
Which protein products failed testing, which passed, and which are CL's Top Picks
How protein powders and drinks compare on taste, mixability, ingredients and price
The pros and cons of different types of protein (whey, casein, soy, rice, pea, egg, hemp, bone broth, and cricket) and different forms of protein (concentrates, isolates, and hydrolysates)
When to take protein for the best results
Ingredients you may want to avoid in protein powders and drinks
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