The Scoop on Protein Powders

Protein powders are always a topic of conversation and this blog is going to help break down what they are, what types may be more beneficial for you, and if you should even be taking one. Let’s first talk about what types of protein powders are out there and why they’re different. 

  • Whey – One of the most common protein powders out there, and one of the first powders produced for mass consumption. It’s a complete protein (contains all essential amino acids) and helps with muscle repair and rebuilding post-workout. Whey comes from cow’s milk. It’s the whey that is skimmed off of milk when they make it into a cheese. It’s literally the whey in “curds and whey”. For this reason, some people’s digestive systems don’t take too kindly to it. If you don’t tolerate milk-based products well, this is probably not the powder for you. Whey protein isolate has the highest protein concentration and little fat content which make it desirable for muscle building without fat gain. 
  • Casein – This is another milk-based protein powder but is absorbed much slower and longer than whey protein. This is a great protein powder to have before bed since it will supply the body with protein overnight when you’re sleeping but your body is still recovering. Make sure to look for calcium caseinate to ensure you’re getting the purest and most absorbable form of it. 
  • Soy – Soy based powders are plant-based and are also a complete protein, meaning they provide all the essential amino acids your muscles need. This is a great alternative for those following a vegan/vegetarian diet or who are lactose intolerant. It is more tolerated in the gut, but those who can’t tolerate soy would want to look at alternatives. 
  • Brown Rice – Another plant-based protein option, but it is not considered complete. You want to make sure you pair it with other plant based protein so you do meet the essential amino acid profile your body requires. Some other protein you could pair it with include hemp or pea powder. Brown rice is also hypoallergenic and very easily digestible. 
  • Pea – A great protein powder that is plant-based and should be paired with other plant proteins like hemp or brown rice. It is also highly digestible and would blend well in smoothies. 
  • Hemp – A high-fiber plant-based protein powder that also offers up healthy fats as well. This is a great choice for a vegan or vegetarian diet, but again should be paired with one or two other plant-based proteins so you get the best protein absorption. 

Dairy-based proteins like whey and casein are great choices for their muscle building benefits as well as availability of zinc and iron if you’re not vegan or suffer from allergies. However, there is a strong case for integrating plant based proteins into your diet as they are easily digestible and have been proven to fight inflammation and reduce muscle soreness more effectively than dairy proteins. 

Since one plant based protein powder alone won’t offer a complete protein, look for a product that combines several to create a full amino acid profile. Some brands that offer this include Orgain, Plant Fusion or Vega One. They provide complete proteins, omega-3s, probiotics, greens, and antioxidants all in one serving.

Protein powders can be easy, affordable, and clean; you just need to know how to pick them. Start with figuring out what protein powder would be the best for YOUR body. One powder that works for someone else won’t necessarily work for you as well. Then figure out where it fits in your schedule. It could be easier to throw it in your morning smoothie, having it with milk or water right after a workout, or right before bed if you’re taking casein. It isn’t always about paying the highest price for a powder, it’s more about what your body likes most, and keeping the ingredients clean. Watch out for ingredients like corn syrup solids, brown rice syrup, hydrogenated oils, or hidden sugars like dextrose, glucose, or palm sugar. You still want to be able to recognize and understand what the ingredients are regardless of how much protein and fiber is in a supplement. 

If you’re ever unsure about what protein powder works for you, you should always talk to a professional about it. The best way to figure out which one works best for you is to try it. Head to a local supplement store and try to get samples of products before you invest and buy one. If you’re going to spend the money, you want to make sure it’s the right product for you. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us!

Multivitamins: are they necessary and do you need one?

Should you be taking a multivitamin?

Before you can answer this question, you need to first take a look at your diet and any health conditions you are currently experiencing.  

  1. Are you eating a well-rounded diet? Have you cut out any food groups?

It is important to first get your vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat. You will get more nutrition from the diversity of the foods and more fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidants that you cannot get from supplementation. These elements of whole foods prevent diseases and improve bowel movements. However, no one person’s diet is perfect. Many people cut out certain food groups, such as dairy, for health reasons.  If this is true for you, a multivitamin may be beneficial to fill in the gaps. 

  1. Do you have a health condition that may cause you to not be able to absorb certain nutrients, or cause you to need more of a certain nutrient?

Many digestive complications such as Crohn’s disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease can lead to malabsorption of certain nutrients. Over a period of time, nutrient deficiencies can develop and cause various symptoms. Talking to a dietitian and your doctor about your disease and possible nutrient deficiencies that may result can help you decide which vitamins you should be focusing on.  Getting your vitamin and mineral levels checked can reveal if you need more than what a multivitamin can offer. If this is the case, you may be recommended to take individual supplements that have higher doses for what you need. In some situations, like being pregnant, you may need more of certain nutrients such as folic acid and iron. Pregnant women should take a prenatal vitamin.

You can never go wrong with talking to your dietitian and doctor about taking a multivitamin or a specific vitamin/mineral supplement. Explain your current diet and any health conditions you are experiencing. Above all, focusing on eating more foods in their whole and natural forms will always benefit you. You cannot overdose on nutrients when eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, and grains. However, you can reach a toxicity level from popping a higher dose of vitamins/minerals than you need. 

Above all, if you are eating a balanced diet and are not experiencing any health conditions that require you to need more of certain nutrients, you may be better off saving your money and continuing to focus on your diet!

–Tara Greenwood Penn State University Dietetics Student

Edible No-Bake Cookie Dough

Serving size: 1 piece; Makes about 15 pieces

  • ​1 cup oat flour (process oats in food processer until ground to a powder)
  • 1 cup protein powder of choice (I used chocolate plant-based powder)
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (and 1-2 tbsp for topping)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Mix oat flour, protein powder, peanut butter, honey, coconut oil, and vanilla in a large bowl.
  2. Add chocolate chips and stir to mix.
  3. Dump cookie dough in 9×13 pan lined with parchment paper and sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips.
  4. Press down to flatten and put in fridge for about 30 minutes.
  5. Take out of the fridge, chop into bite-sized pieces and store in air-tight container. Throw back in the fridge to keep them fresh or store in the freezer for up to 6 months.
  6. Enjoy bites of cookie dough for that afternoon pick-me-up or an on-the-go snack!

KP’s Tip: Adding protein powder is a great way to boost protein. Use whatever flavor you have. You could also use 2c oat flour if you don’t want to use a protein powder. Get creative and use different toppings as you see fit!

Recipe adapted from: https://www.mealswithmaggie.com/no-bake-cookie-dough-bars/#tasty-recipes-3743

Original & Maple Brown Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Serves 4-6 from each flavor

  • ​Pumpkin Seeds (extracted from 3 pumpkins)
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp maple extract
  1. Separate pumpkin seeds from what I call “pumpkin guts” and rinse well in cool water in a colander. Make sure most of the pumpkin is off the seeds. 
  2. Preheat oven to 300⁰ and line cookie sheet with parchment paper, separated in the middle for both flavors. 
  3. Lay out a dish drying mat and lay pumpkin seeds in a single layer on mat. 
  4. Pat dry with paper towels and try to get as much moisture out of the seeds as possible. 
  5. In a bowl, combine olive oil, salt, pepper, half the amount of seeds, and mix. 
  6. In a separate bowl, combine brown sugar, maple extract, and the other half of the seeds and mix. 
  7. Lay out pumpkin seeds on cookie sheet, in a single layer. 
  8. Roast in oven for 45 minutes or until crispy. 
  9. Take out of oven and serve immediately!

KP’s Tip: Pumpkin seeds are a great snack since they offer up a great deal of protein fiber, and healthy fats. Sure, you can buy store-bought pumpkin seeds, but the sodium content in them is extremely high. Making them yourself allows you to control the sodium content.