Are you looking for the best protein powder for weight loss? Protein powders are becoming popular in the general population and are no longer exclusively used by bodybuilders and serious athletes. As the benefits of protein powders are becoming more commonly known, it’s understandable that people hope to take advantage of them.
Protein powders are used for a variety of reasons. These supplements are ideal for building muscle, but can also offer incredible advantages for weight loss. But, how? And if you do decide to take a protein powder, which one should you take? This article will explain how protein powders can help you shed a few pounds, explore which is the best protein powder for weight loss, how you should take the powder and how to incorporate it into your overall weight loss plan.
How Does Weight Loss Work?
To understand how protein powders can help you lose weight, you need to understand how weight loss functions in general. With this understanding, you’ll be able to identify the role protein powders will play in your overall weight loss plan. Unfortunately, there’s no magic pill for losing weight. So, you can’t just start adding a protein shake to your routine and wait for the pounds to melt right off.
Weight loss is really about simple math. You need to use up more calories than the ones you’re consuming in the food you eat. Successful weight loss usually involves two elements as a result: diet and exercise. You can start losing weight by reducing the number of calories you consume each day. Then, if you add exercise, you’ll use up more calories, also creating a net calorie loss.
How Many Calories Do You Need to Cut Out to Lose Weight?
To lose one pound of body fat, you need to burn or eliminate 3,500 calories. That’s a lot! The average woman should consume 2000 calories a day to maintain her weight while the average man should consume 2500 calories per day (1). Of course, this depends on your activity level, size, age and a number of other factors. However, this puts things in perspective. No wonder losing weight is so tough!
Even if you cut out 250 calories per day in your diet and also walk 2 miles each day, burning an additional 200 calories, it would still take a full eight days to lose one pound (2).
What Other Factors Play a Role in Weight Loss?
You’ve probably heard about your metabolism and how some people have “slow” or “fast” metabolisms. This is a factor in weight loss, but luckily you have more control over it than you might think. Your metabolism is essentially a measure that shows how many calories your body consumes when at rest. Some people have high metabolisms that consume lots of calories at rest, while other people don’t consume as many calories at rest.
You can improve your metabolism by building muscle. The more muscle in your body, the more calories your body consumes at rest. Specifically, 10 pounds of muscle can burn 50 calories a day when resting, while 10 pounds of fat only burns 20 calories under the same conditions (3). It may not seem like much, but if you consider the overall effects of increasing your muscle mass, over time, it starts to add up.
Before continuing, it’s important to remember that weight loss isn’t the holy grail of health. Yes, it’s important to keep your weight in check, but you should be paying attention to more than just the numbers on the scale. You can be thin, or have an acceptable BMI, but still have high body fat content. This is not ideal. For optimum health, you should have low body fat content and higher lean body mass, which basically refers to muscle.
Studies show that body composition, or how much fat or muscle you have in your body, is a better indicator of health than just BMI. A factor in this is also visceral fat, or the fat around your midsection. Fat in this area is bad news for your health. But, through a general weight loss plan, you can slim down and improve your health outcomes (4).
Why You Should Take Protein to Lose Weight
Have you ever heard of the Atkins diet, a low carb diet, the boiled egg diet or the Keto diet? These diets are all high in protein. Using similar principles, these diets take advantage of the benefits protein can have on your body to help make weight loss easier, and even more effective. So, what does protein do?
Benefits of Protein for Weight Loss
- Helps You Meet Daily Protein Intake Goals: The average man should consume 98 grams of protein, while the average woman should consume 68 grams of protein per day. However, if you’re hoping to lose weight, you should up your consumption to make protein represent 25% of your daily calorie intake. This means that on a diet of 1800 calories, you should consume 113 grams of protein (5). A 4 oz serving of chicken breast offers 35 grams of protein, but many other protein sources are much more modest in content. One large boiled egg offers 6 g of protein while a half a cup of boiled black beans contains about 7.5 g of protein. This means that you may struggle to meet your protein intake goals. That’s where the best protein powder for weight loss comes in! A quality protein powder can help you get enough protein.
- Helps Build Muscle: One of the reasons you should be taking the best protein powder for weight loss while dieting is that it can help you build muscle. As discussed in the previous section, muscle is better for your metabolism than fat. If you can improve your body composition, which is also good for your health in general, you’ll make your metabolism work for you.
- Avoids Loss of Muscle: Weight loss generally doesn’t discriminate. When you lose weight, you lose fat and muscle. However, studies show that individuals who consume a high protein diet versus a high carbohydrate diet lose more fat mass than muscle mass when trying to lose weight. You want to avoid muscle loss for a number of reasons, but principally because having greater muscle content in your diet is good for your metabolism. This also improves your body composition, since you’ll lose more fat, which is considered unhealthy.
- Helps You Feel Full: Studies show that eating a diet high in protein can improve satiety. In other words, you’ll feel fuller when eating a protein-heavy diet, meaning you won’t be as tempted to snack outside your meals. So, if you struggle with portion control, eating a larger percentage of your daily calories in the form of protein may really help you reduce the urge to snack.
Protein powders can form part of a healthy diet that promotes weight loss. Getting enough protein in your diet can really be a struggle even if you eat plenty of low-fat, high-protein foods like chicken breast, legumes and low-fat dairy. Boosting a meal using the best protein powder for weight loss or adding in a shake as a protein-intensive snack can really make the difference. Not only might the addition of protein powder in your diet help you lose weight, but as you can see it may also improve your overall health outcomes. When you improve your body composition, not just through weight loss, but by increasing your muscle mass and decreasing the fat content in your body, you become healthier and reduce your chances of an early death. This finding was published in a study that showed that high body fat percentages are associated with mortality, even when a low BMI is present.
It’s also very important to note that as we age, our protein requirements simply increase. Studies suggest that we become less efficient at absorbing and using protein over time, resulting in muscle mass loss and losses in strength as well. By doubling your protein intake and aiming to get 1.5 grams of protein per kg of body weight, you can improve your health and stave off muscle loss.
By now you’re probably sold on taking protein to promote healthy weight loss. But, what is the best protein powder for weight loss? The next section delves into the details of what protein powders are best.
The Best Protein Powder for Weight Loss: Your Detailed Guide to Buying Protein Powder
Type in protein powder into a search engine and you’ll be bombarded with hundreds of brands and types of powders to purchase. You’ll see they list certain amino acids, boast their excellent flavor, and are available in GMO free, gluten free, dairy free, organic and an infinite number of other formulas. What do you buy? The best protein powder for weight loss may not be the first one to appear on the list.
First, you need a basic understanding of proteins. Our bodies need protein, which is made of amino acids. Some of these amino acids are produced right within our bodies themselves. However, 9 amino acids, which are known as the “essential amino acids” must be sourced from food. Complete proteins are foods that contain all of the essential amino acids. Proteins that come from meat, dairy, eggs and some plant sources such as hemp, quinoa, buckwheat and soybeans are all examples of complete proteins. This is good news for vegetarians and vegans! You can get complete proteins from plant sources. (6)
When searching for the best protein powder for weight loss, seek out a product that meets these requirements:
- It tastes good: You’ll be consuming this on a daily basis. If you don’t like it, you won’t stick with it.
- It’s a complete protein: Give your body the best by making sure your protein powder contains all essential amino acids.
- High protein content: To get the best bang for your buck, you’ll want at least 20 g of protein per serving. The best protein powder for weight loss will meet this requirement.
- It’s low in carbohydrates: Since you’re on a weight loss plan, you want to avoid excess calories that aren’t dedicated to protein. The most common sources of carbohydrates in protein powders is sugar! So beware of ingredients like dextrins and maltodextrins. At a max, the best protein powder for weight loss will include 5 grams of carbohydrates per serving. Also, beware of protein powders that are focused on helping people gain weight, as these are also popular on the market.
When viewing carbohydrate content, don’t forget to check if any of it is in the form of fiber. So, if a product has a high carbohydrate content, but it’s also high in fiber, it might be ok. However, if the carbohydrates are all sugars and other carbs, take a pass. Fiber can help with weight loss, as has been proven in this study. How does it work? Fiber makes you feel fuller without adding calories (7). Basically, fiber usually just passes through your digestive system, which is why it’s also recommended for improving symptoms of constipation.
In addition to these considerations, there are many types of protein powder to consider. Take a look at the options below:
Whey Protein Powder for Weight Loss
One of the most popular protein powders on the market, whey protein is a dairy protein that is a byproduct of the process of cheesemaking. It’s the watery portion of milk that’s drained away from the forming curds (8).
The use of whey protein powder for weight loss has actually been documented in studies. In the mentioned study, subjects taking whey protein lost slightly more weight than the control group but lost significantly more body fat than those in the control group. In addition, Professor Paul Arciero, the director of the Human Nutrition and Metabolism Lab at Skidmore says that whey protein is an ideal source of protein for weight loss because it causes you to burn calories after you eat it. This means it could well be the best protein powder for weight loss.
The only downside of whey protein is that it’s made from dairy, which means it’s not ideal for those with lactose intolerance or vegans.
So, what are some of the best brands to try?
This protein powder packs in 24 grams of protein into each serving (32g). Each scoop has a varying number of calories depending on the flavor you choose. But, most seem to contain 120 to 130 calories. In addition, carbohydrates are kept to a minimum of 5 g or less depending on the flavor you select. Speaking of flavors, there are many to choose from! Whether you like chocolate, vanilla, coffee, strawberry, banana or even watermelon, there’s something here for you.
The BPI Sports formula of whey protein powder is also a great option. Packing in 25 grams of protein in every 38 g scoop, you’ll get your protein. The best part is that calories are kept on the low side for most flavors. Vanilla Caramel, for example, has 126 calories per serving. Carbohydrates are also kept to a minimum at 5 g or less, depending on the flavor. It’s also important to know that a portion of the carbohydrates are actually fiber, which is a plus for digestive health and weight loss.
Casein Protein Powder for Weight Loss
This protein is slightly different from whey protein but is also a dairy based protein. Casein powder actually comes straight from milk. However, it is different from whey in that it is absorbed more slowly than whey (n). When you’re hoping to weight loss, what this essentially means is that you may be able to feel fuller for longer when taking casein than when taking whey. Do keep in mind though, that all proteins, in general, promote satiety.
If you do plan on using your protein powder as a meal replacement instead of a snack or as a part of your meal, casien may be the best protein powder for weight loss for you. Here are some of the best options out there:
With this protein powder, you’ll get 24 grams of carbohydrates in just 120 calories of protein. The serving size is 34 g. Carbohydrates are low, around 3 g depending on the flavor you choose. A bonus? You’ll also get about 50% of your daily calcium in every serving! That’s a definite plus, especially for women who are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis (9). This could make it the best protein powder for women for weight loss.
This protein powder isn’t 100% casein, rather it’s a blend of whey, casein and egg white proteins. In each serving of 34 grams, there are 125 calories, 25 g of protein and 4 g of carbohydrates (of which 2.5 grams is fiber). It’s great as far as the macronutrient distribution is concerned and gives you the benefits of proteins that are absorbed over a shorter and longer period of time.
Best Plant-Based Protein Powder for Weight Loss
If you’re lactose intolerant or you are a vegan, you need protein sources that aren’t dairy-based. If you’re searching for the best vegan protein powder for weight loss, don’t worry, there are plenty of alternatives!
There is a wide range of plant-based protein powders available such as rice, soy, pea and hemp. Of these, soy creates some concern because of the effects it can have on hormones (especially for men) and the fact that it may stimulate the growth of cancer cells. Furthermore, soy is also very commonly genetically modified, which is not ideal. However, the other options have few drawbacks and are also powerful proteins:
- Rice Protein
This protein offers a great amino acid profile, although the levels of these proteins are about 30% lower than what you’d get with whey protein. However, all of the essential amino acids are present, you’ll just have to consume a bit more of the product to get the same levels you would get taking whey protein. People also report that rice protein powders have a nice texture and taste.
- Pea Protein
This protein also offers a great amino acid profile, only about 20% away from reaching 100% in protein content possible. Rich in nearly all of the essential amino acids, it has a great profile.
Hemp protein is an acceptable source of protein but doesn’t pack in the protein as well as other plant-sourced protein powders. While through a serving of rice or pea protein, you can still get about 20 g of protein, with hemp you’ll get more like 12 g. In addition, hemp is heavier in carbohydrate content, although it’s important to remember that some of this is fiber.
Pro Tip: Dr. Jager from the University of Tampa has reportedly recommended that pea and rice proteins be combined to achieve an amino acid profile that rivals that of whey protein. It works because rice protein is low in the amino acid lysine, but pea protein is rich in this amino acid as well as a number of others. This means that when combined, these two proteins produce optimal results. (10)
Here are some great plant-based protein powders to try:
With two servings (15 g each), you get 24 g of protein, 120 calories and about 4 g of carbohydrates, 2 of which are fiber. This particular product is organic and free of pesticides, herbicides, GMOs and PCBs.
This product is unflavored, which means there is very little in the formula other than protein. In each scoop, you’ll get 24 g of protein that contains 120 calories. There’s only 1 gram of carbohydrates in each serving.
For a product that combines different plant-based proteins, try the following:
This blend includes pea protein, brown rice protein and a range of other plant-based protein sources such as amaranth, buckwheat and garbanzos, among others. It offers a great amount of protein, 22 g, per serving. At only 110 calories, it’s a great deal! The carbohydrate content is also quite low, only 2 g per serving and 1 of those is fiber. Choose from four flavors: chocolate, unflavored, vanilla and vanilla chai.
Best Tasting Protein Powder for Weight Loss
It’s understandable if you’re number one requirement for your protein powder is that it tastes good. After all, who’s going to take a supplement they can’t stand the taste of day after day? Here, you have a few options. Go for the options that pack in lots of different flavors, or choose an unflavored variety and doctor it up yourself. With a bit of sugar or stevia and natural vanilla or cocoa powder, you can make your own version of a flavored protein. Or, add fruit and honey to the mix and you’ll have your own natural flavoring. Just be careful about how much you add – you’ll also be adding calories!
If you want to be able to just shake up the powder in some water and down it, these are among the favorites of reviewers in terms of flavor:
How to Use Protein Powder for Weight Loss
When it comes to weight loss, you’ll want a broader plan that includes exercise and a healthy diet. As mentioned earlier in the article, it’s best if you can reduce your calorie intake, which may require counting calories while you get used to your new diet. But, where does protein powder for weight loss fit in? Once you’ve found the best protein powder for weight loss for your needs and preferences, you can use it in a number of ways:
- Use it in meals. Add protein powder to your healthy, whole-grain pancake, diet-friendly oatmeal and muffin batter to make these foods more filling. You can often substitute about 1/3 of the flour in these types of recipes with protein powder. Avoid adding any more, as it can really affect the texture of baked goods. With the punch of protein in your meals, you’ll feel satiated for longer, which will make it easier for you to cut down on your calories overall.
- As meal replacements. Use a serving of protein powder in water, milk or a delicious smoothie to serve as a meal replacement. You should really opt for casein over whey when using your powder as a meal replacement. Because casein protein is absorbed slowly, you won’t feel like you’re starving before you plan to have your next meal. When making smoothies, be sure to count your calories with care so that you don’t end up with something that includes even more calories than your meal would have.
- As snacks. You can cut down on calories in your meals by eating healthy snacks to get you through the day. Have a quick protein shake using your best protein powder for weight loss in water mid-morning to give yourself a burst of energy and keep you full while only adding about 120 calories. This will also help you control your portion size at lunch as you won’t be famished when it’s time to eat.
Remember, for best results, you also have to exercise! Muscle is built when your muscles have been stressed through exercise. If you aren’t exercising, your body won’t really build muscle, it will simply retain the muscle you already have. You want to build muscle to increase your lean body mass, which is not only healthier but will give your metabolism a boost, helping you continue to lose weight.
Including protein powder as a part of a larger plan to reduce calories and get exercise will help you achieve your weight loss goals. Remember to make your protein account for about 25% of your overall calories. As mentioned before, on a diet of 1800 calories, you would need to consume 113 grams of protein (5). That means if you include two servings of your protein powder a day, you’ll probably get in about 50 grams of protein. The remaining 63 grams can be gotten by eating 4 oz of skinless, boneless chicken breast, which will give you about 35 grams of protein and a few other protein-heavy foods like black beans, eggs, cheese, fish and milk.
Protein Shakes for Weight Loss: Fantastic Recipes that Taste Good
Whether you’ll be having a shake as a meal replacement or a healthy snack, it can get boring to simply have a scoop of your powder mixed with milk or water. It works for when you’re tight on time, but when you can, it’s nice to indulge in a really great shake. These protein shakes for weight loss include lots of fruit which will give you a boost in fiber. In addition, they’ll help satisfy your cravings for dessert! Just always remember to use the best protein powder for weight loss that meets the requirements outlined above for the best results. Here are some great recipes to try:
Apple Pie Smoothie from Blender Happy
This smoothie tastes just like apple pie in a glass! Here are the ingredients and a rough estimate of how many calories you’d get from this shake:
- 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk – 15 calories
- 1 apple – core and seeds removed (leave the skin for extra fiber!) – 95 calories
- 3/4 cup fat-free greek yogurt – 100 calories
- 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (use the best protein powder for weight loss for best results!) – 120 calories
- 1/8 tsp of nutmeg- 0 calories
- 1/8 tsp of cinnamon – 0 calories
- 1 cup of ice – 0 calories
TOTAL CALORIES: About 330 calories, give or take depending on the exact ingredients used. As a breakfast, this could be a great, protein-heavy choice!
Banana Blackberry Protein Smoothie from Fitty Foodies
This delicious smoothie sneaks in some vegetables as well! A boost in fiber is always good for your diet.
- ⅓ cup rolled oats (uncooked) – 100 calories
- ½ cup unsweetened almond milk – 15 calories
- 1 large banana – 105 calories
- 1 cup raw cauliflower – 25 calories
- 1 scoop vanilla protein (use the best protein powder for weight loss for best results!) – 120 calories
- ½ cup Blackberries – 30 calories
- Handful of ice cubes – 0 calories
TOTAL CALORIES: About 395 calories. Skip the rolled oats to reduce the calorie count a bit. Either way, this smoothie is a great way to get your fiber from the fruit and vegetables while also getting a great dose of protein. Ideal for a meal replacement, this shake is sure to keep you going.
Generic Fruit Smoothie
Use this recipe with any of your favorite frozen or fresh fruits such as peaches, berries or bananas and your favorite protein powder. You’ll notice that vanilla is a popular flavor for adding to fruity shakes. However, banana pairs nicely with chocolate flavors too!
- 1/2 cup milk (almond or non-fat regular milk) – 15 – 40 calories
- 1/2 cup water – 0 calories
- 1 cup mixed fruit – 50 – 100 calories depending on fruit
- 1 scoop of protein powder (use the best protein powder for weight loss for best results!) – 120 calories
- 4-5 ice cubes – 0 calories
TOTAL CALORIES: 185 – 260 calories depending on the milk, fruit and protein powder type. This makes for a great healthy snack or even a meal replacement.
Take control of your weight with the best protein powder for weight loss! Eating right and getting the proper amount of protein can make a world of difference in ensuring your weight loss is focused on eliminating fat, while preserving your lean body mass. This way, your weight loss will work for you, helping you maintain a great metabolism.
Weight loss is hard, but it can be easier when you’re not starved and your metabolism is working in your favor. Protein powder can make this happen.
Do you have a favorite protein powder for weight loss? Tell us all about it in the comments!